October 22

Stephen Parsons was a Congregationalist from Middletown, Connecticut. He was ordained into the ministry of that denomination in 1788, becoming one of the rising stars. During the next seven years his fame and influence grew. But then in 1795, after a careful study of the scriptures, he rejected infant baptism. Parson Parsons was dismissed from his church. But as he left, seven members of the congregation followed him.

Abel Palmer, pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Colchester, Connecticut, immersed Parsons that August and less than three months later, on this day (October 22) in 1795, Isaac Backus was visiting the Baptist church in Whiteboro, New York where Parsons was ministering. Backus wrote in his journal that the “much esteemed” Parsons preached an excellent message.

During that period in New England, many Congregationalists left their denomination over the doctrines of the church and its ordinances, becoming “Separates” or “New Lights,” Backus included. Soon, the persecution which had been falling on the Baptists fell on them as well. But men like Stephen Parsons remained true to what they had learned from the scriptures. And as historian C.C. Coen stated, it became quite common to hear that Congregational preachers and common citizens had “Gone to the Baptists.”