After waiting and praying for nearly eight years, we rejoiced to see the beginning of our anticipation realized. We finally received our building permit and broke ground today for our new building on Route 53. Pastor Ken Brooks spoke at the ceremony, recounting the site’s historical significance and the debt of honor we owe for our religious liberties. Notes from the ceremony are included below.
Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
I would like to talk this afternoon about hope deferred.
We as a church have been through a long time of deferred hope. Since 2002, we have hoped to build on this land. We have hoped and prayed, drawn and designed, and every step of the way has brought some new and often unexpected delay. We as a church have lived with hope deferred.
After a while, you kind of get sick of it. Just like the Bible says, Hope deferred maketh the heart sick
But before we go feeling too sorry for ourselves, we should stop and think about others.
This day is a day of deferred hopes. Today is December 7. It is Pearl Harbor Day. Think of the young men whose lives were cut down by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. Those soldiers and sailors had hopes. They had wives and sweethearts and hopes for a better life. But those hopes were deferred, for many of them forever, as World War II began.
We certainly aren’t the only ones who have had hope deferred.
And there is more. Not only is this day a day of deferred hopes, but also this very land is a land of deferred hope. We are standing today on a piece of land that has seen a lot of deferred hope.
We as a church may think of that. With the signal help of God, the church bought this land in 2002, eight years ago. Immediately, we started planning and designing. Right away, we started hoping for a meeting-house on this good land where a road runs by and people could hear the good news of Jesus Christ.
For eight long years, through twists and turns, we have had our hope deferred. For some of us, just as Scripture says, it has made the heart sick.
It appears we are about to see the desire come. We begin to know what the rest of the verse means: when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
But before we sink the shovel into the ground, please let us take a moment to understand our long wait is not the first long wait associated with this land. No, when it comes to this property, hope deferred goes a long way back
It goes back at least three hundred years. It goes back at least as far as the 1700’s.
On August 19, 1743, when his father was twenty-eight years old, Daniel Chapman came into this world. He was the first of nine children that would be born to Phineas Chapman and his wife Sarah.
Sadly, Phineas would outlive his firstborn son by five years.
Phineas himself had been born in 1715 and lived in Westport. There he married Sarah Ketchum, and the two of them started life together. No doubt when Daniel was born, Phineas and Sarah had great hopes.
The country was young. Land could be had. Every man could become a farmer, a respectable occupation denied the common man back in England. Connecticut was a good colony, a fine place to live with great rivers and good shoreline, and along that shoreline lay the town of Westport, home to Phineas and Sarah.
And to the north of Westport, where dirt roads followed old Indian trails, villages were springing up. Among them was Redding, Redding with thousands of acres of ledge and loam.
Daniel grew apace. When he reached the age of twenty-five in 1768, Daniel bought forty of those Redding acres. It was prime bottom land, well-watered, some of the best in the entire town.
It lay between soft hills with a stream running through it and a good dirt road as well, and four years from when he bought it, to that lovely farm in the winter of 1773, on January 12, to be exact, when he was scarcely twenty-nine, Daniel brought his fair young wife, Mary Andrews, now Mary Chapman, to build a life with him.
No doubt Daniel and Mary had great hope. They had to. They had land. They had each other. They had their future together. And they must have had their health, for in just ten months from when they were married, they had their firstborn son and named him Daniel Chapman, Jr.
He was born the fall of the first year they were married, on November 28, 1773.
1773 was a good year. The colonies were having their struggles, it is true, but life here for Englishmen was far better than life back in Britain. For a man to farm, to work with his hands, to provide by the sweat of his brow for wife and infant son – these were good things. In the evening, around the fire, with some good Connecticut bread and some good Connecticut beef before him, Daniel could look at his wife tending their infant son and be glad. Daniel, like his father before him, could have hope for his son.
But he would never see that son grow to the age of four.
For war was brewing. Across the Atlantic, Parliament and Lord North and others advising the king were starting to exploit the colonies. That is what colonies were for – weren’t they? – for the good of the mother country? And those royal subjects there, so far away they could not be represented in Parliament, should be sending more and more back to repay England for the expenses of defending them in the war with the French and with the Indians.
There needed to be taxes. There needed to be revenue. Stamps, those were the thing, and a stamp on this and a tax on that would bring in the shillings and pounds to the royal treasury.
But there were those who would have none of it, and Daniel was among them. We don’t know all his political thinking, but we do know that by the end of 1776 he had joined the militia. He took the side of independence. Like many here and in Boston, he believed these colonies of right ought to be free and independent states. That was Daniel’s hope.
But he never lived to see it.
He was well known around town. Even as far away as Redding Ridge, Daniel was known to some as a patriot, to others as a rebel.
To the Tories clustered around the meeting-house on Redding Ridge, the Episcopal church there, Daniel was a rebel. And they were keeping their eye on men like him.
And so it was when General Tryon landed his men on Compo Beach and marched them north to burn Danbury, that as he passed along the eastward edge of town, along the track now known as Route 58, he rested his men in the shade of that same Anglican meeting-house and asked a few questions. It was safe there. Folks thereabout were loyal to the crown, and it didn’t take much trying for Tryon to find out who in town were not.
Among them was good Mary Chapman’s husband Dan.
So the redcoats came for him. They came for him and seventeen other men and boys. Marched them off with them to Danbury, they did, to watch the village burn.
Danbury was a supply depot for the continental army, such as it was, and the continental army was a bit of a thorn in the side of the British occupying New York. They had sailed up the Sound and landed their men to pluck out that thorn, and so they came to Danbury that April afternoon, April 26, 1777, and with them, against their will, the eighteen men of Redding.
When the hot and dirty business of burning down a town was done, back the British marched another way. They headed back to Westport through Ridgefield, where they were harassed by the hastily-assembled militia. A small battle took place. General Wooster was killed.
Men from all around had come, raised in part by Sybil Ludington, the “Pauline Revere” of Danbury, who slipped unnoticed from her father’s barn and rode away, bareback, into the neighboring colony of New York to raise the militia. “The British are burning Danbury!” she cried, and men grabbed their muskets and met the enemy on the high ground in Ridgefield.
Daniel would have been among them. Daniel surely would have been among them to fight the British, but Daniel stood helpless by. He was a prisoner instead. His hope to fight for Connecticut was deferred; his musket lay at home with Mary and his son.
The British repulsed the haphazard attack and tramped back to their ships. They took Daniel and the others to New York, where they threw them into prison. By some accounts, it was a prison ship, anchored in the harbor. Others say it was the Sugar House. Wherever it was, it was wretched, and though the British later released their prisoners from Redding, only fifteen men went home, for three of them had died, and one of them was this land’s Daniel.
He never got to fight for his country. He never got to see his son grow up. He never got to go back home to his beloved wife and his boy and his beloved acres. All hope he had died with him, and hope deferred maketh the heart sick.
This land, this good dirt, these rocks and trees, this land where the sun creeps up of a morning over Gallows Ridge and sets on yonder western hill, beyond which lies Danbury, this deep-loamed land was his. And after him, a string of others.
Mary remarried later that year. She had to. A woman could not run the farm alone and tend a four-year-old. Mary married Benjamin Darling seven months after she lost her husband Daniel.
Daniel Jr. grew up and at the age of twenty-one married Priscilla Bradley on November 3, 1795. The next year, they had a daughter they named Harriet, and Daniel Jr. built the story and a half thirty-six by forty foot house that until just recently stood on Limekiln Road, just the other side of Route 53.
The farm passed through other hands. Daniel Junior’s daughter Harriett married Ralph Ryder. When their first child came, he was a boy, and in honor of momma’s grandfather and his great-grand, the one who died in prison without ever seeing home, they named him Daniel Chapman Ryder.
It is fitting that the street nearby is Chapman Place. It is fitting that we remember these things. This land goes deep. Its associations are sacred, and it is hallowed ground.
May the cause of freedom for which its owner died be the cause of everyone who walks this land, and may that freedom be the true freedom, the freedom that only comes through personal repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, for He it is Who said to those that believed on Him,
If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:31b-32
And again, Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. John 8:34-36
True it is that hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
Dan Chapman had his hope deferred. He never saw his son grow up. He never saw the new house built, the barn, the granddaughter born who would in turn mature and name her son after him. Daniel died in prison. How could he have not been thinking of these things?
He had his hope deferred. Like the men of Pearl Harbor, he died before he could see it.
We have had our hope deferred, but God has allowed us to live to begin to see it. May we thank Him and ever remember why we are here: to declare to others concerning Jesus Christ, that neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
And that if the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
To God Be the Glory
To God be the glory – great things He hath done!
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son,
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin
And opened the Life-gate that all may go in.
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord,
Let the earth hear His voice!
Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord,
Let the people rejoice!
O come to the Father through Jesus the Son,
And give Him the glory – great things he hath done.