Pastor’s Notes June 2008
When you think of First Baptist, rightfully you think of the people first. Each congregant brings something unique and diverse to our church and its ministries, and together we live out the faith as American Baptists, committed to the continuing story of the First Baptist Church of Bennington, Vermont. At the same time, when we think of “First Baptist”, we also bring to mind the physical edifice that sits on the corner of Valentine and Main Street. Indeed, we are graced with a beautiful building where our worship and spiritual life take place week to week.
As we think about the church in a time of transitional ministry, we should take note of the good things that have been happening with our building since the congregation entered into a three-year interim period. The trustees have brought about several improvements to the aesthetics of the building with new floor tile in the hallways, a beautifully renovated church lounge, new paint here and there, a handicap accessible bathroom, and a facelift for the church office area.
[On this latter count, let me extend gratitude for the redesign of the pastor’s office. The new ceiling, better lighting, a good size closet and storage space, and the reconfiguration of my workspace is quite helpful. The pastor’s desk no longer dwarfs the useable floor space, so it has been wonderful to welcome people into my office for conversations and meetings. I am working on making the pastor’s office more as the pastor’s study, less of a place geared toward an administrator’s office, and more a place where you can sit down and talk about the life of faith. I still have files and spreadsheets and committee notes piled here and there, but it is starting to feel more like a place where I can tend souls. I hope you will visit me in “the pastor’s study” and we’ll talk a spell.]
Another way that the building is changing can be noticed when you look at the “master calendar”. We have events, meetings, and other opportunities for the community to utilize our building, quite different from where we were a couple of years ago. First Baptist is becoming a great place for groups to meet, and Cindy Watson (in her role as building coordinator) is fielding phone calls to rent out space for events to community groups. This summer, we will be the site for three community events: June 7 is the annual Chocolate Festival and Play benefiting PAVE (The Project Against Violent Encounters). June 21 and 22 will be the Bennington County Chorale Society’s last concert of the season. We are working right now on arranging an evening in August featuring a rabbi and a Muslim who perform stand-up comedy that will be a riotous evening of interfaith mirth.
In May, the congregation voted affirmatively to install a lift to make our second floor accessible to all persons. The capital improvement (project cost: $32,000) will answer a long-standing problem with the Nichols Educational Wing, allowing everyone to access the great space we have upstairs. (Did you know that the second floor has more useable space and more bathrooms than downstairs?) While we are looking at this improvement as a necessary improvement to allow more use (and we hope more building rental income) for First Baptist’s space, I find the handicap accessibility that the lift and the new first floor bathroom symbolize as good theology at work. We are making “all persons” welcome, and when we complete the lift installation later this summer, we will take an opportunity to give thanks and bless these new and accessible additions to our physical space as sign and symbol of our increasing ministry of hospitality.
I also take joy in seeing how our space is allowing other groups to flourish. For the last several months, PAVE has offered a multi-week parenting course through its Family Time program. Families are encouraged to learn various skills to build healthy communication and relationships, and the program is growing as word of its helpfulness is getting around town. PAVE hopes to expand the program so they can keep up with the list of folks wanting to take this course. Your building is helping make these things possible!
Sometimes when we think of First Baptist, we think of the church building as the place we go Sunday to Sunday to receive the spiritual nourishment to get us through the week. Perhaps during the week, we might pop in for an event, a committee meeting, or something else that causes us to drop by the church. Know that as the congregation is rethinking its ministries and we are working together to bring about a new day, your building is also doing new things as well. Indeed, the tenets of faith are being lived out as we share our space and allow many good things to flourish through partnerships with community groups looking to improve the social, cultural, economic, and spiritual life of Bennington through time spent at that wonderful place we call “First Baptist”.
Keep our ongoing efforts in your prayers as well as the staff of the congregation as they help coordinate this work. Say a word of thanks to the hardworking trustee board, and give yourselves a pat on the back, too! Our desire to share the building is doing great things. It is indeed building ministry!