The first Unitarian meeting place in Padiham was founded in 1806 by two local weavers, James Pollard and John Robinson (pictured above in the Chapel window) – in a small house in East Street. They were followers of Joseph Cooke, a disaffected Methodist preacher in East Lancashire, who became known as a ‘Methodist Unitarian’.
As the Unitarian cause in Padiham grew, the congregation built its first Chapel in 1823 – which was replaced in 1874 by the larger present Chapel. The schoolrooms were added in 1905 (and officially opened in the centenary year of 1906) – education being an important part of Chapel life until the 1944 Education Act.
The Unitarian denomination in Britain traces its origins to the Act of Uniformity of 1662, when 2,000 clergy were forced from the Established Church after refusing to accept the entire contents of the Book of Common Prayer. Many of the Non-Conformist congregations formed as a result of this developed in a Unitarian direction during the 18th Century. The first avowedly Unitarian congregation in England was formed at Essex Street Church, off the Strand, in 1774 – although the preaching of Unitarian doctrines was still illegal at this time .
Above the door of the Old Chapel in Padiham were the words: ‘To us there is but one God, even the Father’ (1 Cor 8:6), which expresses well the Unitarian belief that God is One – rather than the Trinity of mainstream Christianity. While Unitarians saw Jesus as ‘the great Exemplar’, they did not view him as ‘fully God’ as in the Christian creeds.
While Padiham Unitarian Chapel is self-governing, it is affiliated to the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches. It should be stressed that our denomination never adopted Unitarian theology as a required belief, but rather emphasises individual freedom in matters of faith.
While based in the liberal Christian tradition, Unitarians at Padiham draw on wisdom from a wide variety of sources, including from other faiths.
Unitarians have played a role disproportionate to our size in progress and social change. Charles Darwin, for example, came from a Unitarian family, while the inventor of the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, is a Unitarian Universalist in America.
The message round our pulpit declares: ‘God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in Spirit and in Truth’.
Organisation & Principles
Nazareth Unitarian Chapel is an independent and autonomously governed congregation, affiliated with the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches. The General Assembly was formed in 1928 to bring together avowedly Unitarian and other independent and non-creedal congregations throughout Britain, Ireland and overseas. There are now approximately 200 member congregations and fellowships.
Membership is open to anyone in sympathy with the ethos and principles of the congregation. No creedal test is required. Those who become formal members undertake, to the best of their ability, to:
participate in worship and other congregational events;
nurture their own faith;
participate in the work of social justice:
For further information, please contact the Secretary at
Nazareth Unitarian Church
Knight Hill, Padiham
Lancashire BB12 8JH
Tel: 01282 773184