It was here that Newton and Cowper, Sutcliff and Scott exerted great influence on William as a young Christian. Visit the Baptist Church which he joined and which commissioned him to be a Minister. Nearby is a museum dedicated to Cowper amd Newton.
The second half of the 18th century was a very important period in the life of the churches at Olney. Anglicans, Congregationalists and Baptists worked remarkably well together and their leaders all belonged to the Evangelical tradition. John Newton at the Parish Church and his friend William Cowper produced their Olney Hymns. John Sutcliff also got on well with Newton's successor, Thomas Scott. The influence of these men and of the Christian community at Olney was widespread. Carey owed a great deal to them: to Newton he no doubt owed his life-long passion to end slavery; of Thomas Scott he said, 'I owe much to Mr. Scott's preaching, when I first set out in the ways of the Lord'; Sutcliff was to prove a mentor, friend and life-long support.
When Carey was converted at Hackleton in 1779 it was Thomas Chater of Olney who preached. He attended the Northamptonshire Association meetings at Olney in 1782, fasting all day because he had no money to buy food. These meetings were memorable for Carey as here he first met Sutcliff and Fuller. At Chater's suggestion Earls Barton invited Carey to preach. It was in 1784 Sutcliff issued a Call to Prayer 'for revival of real religion and the extension of Christ's Kingdom in the world'. This was clearly of enormous significance in developing Carey's vision.
When Carey moved to Moulton in 1785 he was soon invited to become minister at both Moulton and Earls Barton and he turned to Sutcliff for advice. Sutcliff urged him to join Olney to put the call to ministry to the test of the church's judgement. The earliest church record book has a number of entries mentioning Carey for the years, 1785-87.
Carey's first trial sermon resulted in them advising him to keep on with his lay preaching and try again next year. The next year they were more impressed and commissioned him to preach 'wherever God in his providence might call him'. Moulton secured him as their minister.
- Carey's new-found faith was nurtured by outstanding men.
- The ecumenical Call to Prayer fuelled thoughts of mission and later, prayer for the missionary society.
- His call to be a Baptist minister was confirmed.
- Sutcliff took a leading role in the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society as a donor and a member of the executive.
- A farewell service was held here before Carey left for India.
- Olney became a centre for supporting the work of the Mission with Sutcliff travelling far and wide to promote it and raise funds.
- Sutcliff opened a seminary to train ministers and missionaries.
- After the fire that destroyed the printing press in Serampore, it was Olney that sent the most generous gift for its restoration.
- Seeds sent from here included a wild geranium and gave great delight to Carey.
- When Carey lost his hair, an Olney barber made his wig. It was described as 'odious and stiff' and was thrown overboard on the voyage to India!
Church AddressOlney Baptist Church