New Book on Newport SDB Church Coming Soon!

New Book on Newport SDB Church Coming Soon!

Sep 22, 2016

by Rev. Nicholas J. Kersten

Director of Education and History


One of the greatest pleasures I have had in doing the Historical work of our Conference is the aid we are able to provide researchers of various kinds in their inquiries about Seventh Day Baptists. Many requests are about our earliest churches in North America and Europe, and thanks to the work of many historians and researchers before me, I am glad to be able to have something substantive to give to them. I have regular opportunities to be thankful for the hard work of my predecessors. Still, I regularly find myself wishing there were more researchers and writers documenting SDB history — because there is undoubtedly more information out there, if only someone were to go and find for it.

After General Conference in 2009, the Historical Society was approached by the renowned Baptist historian Dr. William Brackney about the availability of the Records of the Newport SDB Church, our first church in North America, founded in 1671. This was an exciting request: first, because it was another opportunity for us to dispense information; and second, because of Dr. Brackney’s stature in the Baptist history community. After answering his initial inquiry, Dr. Brackney made it clear that he was looking for a Seventh Day Baptist to tackle writing a book for a series he was editing on Colonial North American Baptist records. He wanted a volume about the Newport SDB church, and was looking for an author to undertake the project.

Happily, we had someone who was more than capable of writing such a volume: Janet Thorngate, who was at that time the President of the Historical Society. Janet, more than any other contemporary SDB, has spent significant time in the records of the Rhode Island churches and the surrounding material, and was capable of doing the hard research and writing work necessary to prepare the volume. She agreed to take on the task and has been working diligently since 2009 on the book.

The good news for us is that the long wait to see the finished product is nearly over. Janet’s contribution to Dr. Brackney’s series, Baptists in Early North America, Volume III: Newport, Rhode Island Seventh Day Baptists, is completed and scheduled for release from Mercer University Press ( in January! Mercer’s catalog description of the book indicates more about the content of the book:

“[the book] covers the period 1664 to 1808, from the date some members of Newport’s first Baptist church began meeting for worship on the seventh-day Sabbath (Saturday) through the first 137 years of their life as the Newport Seventh Day Baptist Church. Transcriptions of the church’s first three record books (1692-1808) are preceded by extensive excerpts from the manuscripts and letters of Samuel Hubbard, one of the founding members; these document the origins in John Clarke’s Newport Baptist church and the influences from Sabbathkeeping Baptists in mid-seventeenth century England. The record follows the covenant community, nurtured in colonial Rhode Island’s unique religious freedom, from Newport’s pioneer period through its Golden Age as a major colonial seaport and its devastation during the Revolutionary War… This congregation had involvement with other Baptists in founding Rhode Island College (Brown University) and…then joined with daughter congregations and others to form the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference in 1802.”

The book will undoubtedly be invaluable to researchers of early SDB history, and to Seventh Day Baptists as we continue to seek understanding about our rich heritage. Thank you, Janet, for your great work on this book and for your service in adding to the legacy of important SDB research!

You can order your copy from Mercer University Press or other booksellers, including Amazon!

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