Starting January 6, our Sunday worship service will begin at 10:30am.
Join us so together we can share the love of Jesus in Bennington.
Starting January 6, our Sunday worship service will begin at 10:30am.
Join us so together we can share the love of Jesus in Bennington.
An open letter to the leaders and members of the Christian churches in and around Bennington
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Ask anyone on the street, in the stores, or around the water cooler what they think our community’s biggest problem might be, and you’ll surely hear a lot about addiction. This is not a new problem, but it is clear that we have a crisis on our hands. Lives are being lost and destroyed, sometimes bit by bit, and sometimes suddenly. The demon of addiction is threatening and destroying our community like never before, and it is time for the followers of Jesus to respond all the more. The situation may seem hopeless at times, but as children of God, we are called to bring the light of Jesus into the darkness.
What does God think about our community’s addiction problem? And what should we, as God’s people, do about it? Some prefer to ignore the problem. Some feel powerless, so find it best to do nothing. Some are happy to pray for “those people” but don’t do anything beyond that. Some are active in loving folks in the midst of addiction. Some want to help but don’t know how. What should you do about it? What would God have you do?
If you look around an average church on an average Sunday morning you might see our nice clothes, our impressive buildings, and our fancy pipe organs (or guitars, if you like), and conclude that “church” and “religion” is only for those who’ve got their acts together. But, as it turns out, that is the exact opposite of what God says: “God demonstrates his love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Jesus also said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” (Matthew 5:3). God’s heart is also revealed in the Psalms: “The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.” (Psalm 103:6).
Many of us believe something like this: “Those folks got themselves into their mess, so they can get themselves out.” But this perspective is missing out on God’s heart we find all through the scriptures and in our own experience. Yes, addiction often starts with a choice, but the life-destroying consequences of that choice often far exceed what is imaginable. Especially with opiates, the capacity to choose is quickly stolen away, and is only restored by a miracle of God’s grace. If we wait for folks to “get their act together” before we show them any love, we clearly forget that God didn’t wait for us to get our act together before he loved us.
Our secular friends are doing most of the work in the recovery community: 12-step programs, recovery centers, counselors, doctors, and the like. But if I may be so bold, God’s people have something they do not. We, as followers of Jesus, have the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us. We serve a God who can do far more than we can ask or imagine. We have a Savior whose love cannot be stopped by angels or demons or powers or anything else. The question before us now is: will we, as the Christian community, step up to make a difference? Or will we continue to largely ignore the biggest problem in our community?
I believe “the answer” to addiction ultimately comes down to one thing: relationships. We find hope, healing and wholeness in our relationship with God through saving faith in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amazingly, God most often chooses us, his people, to express his love to others through our personal relationships. Our relationships are needed for folks to find hope, healing, and wholeness that can only come from God.
So a little while ago, here at First Baptist Church, we started a gathering we call Mercy Street. It is a simple monthly gathering of those affected by addiction: whether in recovery, in active use, family, friends, survivors, supporters, or whoever. Those of all faiths or no faith are welcome to come together for music, story, and prayer. We sing songs of hope and deliverance. We share stories of recovery. We pray hard for each other and our community. And we find relationships, which is where the real power is. Perhaps more will come from this simple beginning, but then again, perhaps it is enough to look someone in the eye and say: “You are loved.”
It is a humble beginning, a seed of a movement of love. Will you join us as we gather to share God’s love with anyone affected by addiction? Will you join us at 601 Main Street in Bennington on February 28 at 7pm?
Individually we can make a difference. Together we can make a movement.
Will you join us?
The First Baptist Church of Bennington, VT, will hold its 190th annual meeting on Sunday, January 27, 2019, beginning at 11:45am in Colgate Hall for the following purposes:
—Lisa Flynn, Church Clerk
You’ve probably heard the popular Christmas song that starts like this: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…” The song makes no mention of Christmas, but it is most often sung this time of year when our minds are looking for peace, our hearts our longing for peace, and our bodies are aching for peace. This is when we remember the angels proclaim: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all…” (Luke 2:14).
While you may have heard sung by Vince Gill (among many others), it was actually written in 1955 by Jill Jackson, who said she wrote it after finding the “life-saving joy of God’s peace and unconditional love.” She was apparently suicidal before she wrote the song, and before God’s peace broke through to her. The song is powerful because it leads us to long for the true peace that God brings, and it also personalizes that peace. The song reminds us what is readily apparent: the only way we can have peace in our world is to start with peace in our selves.
But the problem is we’re constantly at war, both within and without. If I’m supposed to be a peace-maker, what good will I be doing if my personal anxiety is off the charts? If I’m supposed to “let it begin with me,” I better get my own act together (suddenly I’m anxious about messing up this whole peace-making gig). Maybe exercise will help, or a long walk in the woods, or a little something to take the edge off. Maybe prayer, meditation, or talking it out. Maybe helping others, or just tuning it all out. Maybe then I’ll be at peace enough with myself to have a shot at bringing peace to at least one other person? But then the kids are at each other’s throats again, and I’m flying off the handle again, and we’re back to square one.
I wonder if the shepherds thought about this kind of thing. After all, times may change, but people are still people. Shepherds in those days were considered filthy, thieving, low-lifes, which would probably lead to a mindset of me-against-the-world. Not exactly “Kumbaya” around the campfire while the sheep peacefully doze off. Maybe the shepherds could relate to the war within and without. Maybe they were dying for peace too.
And suddenly the sky exploded with terrifying light. A mysterious creature from another world appeared without warning, with the glory of God all around him, proclaiming joy, glory and peace. I’m guessing the sheep either died on the spot from fright, or fled for their lives, but the shepherds had more important matters now. The angels declared the good news of joy and peace: a gift from heaven to earth, “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11).
Notice that the shepherds didn’t respond by singing “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” No, first they received the word of peace that was given to them by God. They received it, and they believed it. They didn’t need to sing “Let there be peace on earth” because it was already here, in the form of Baby Jesus. And they didn’t need to sing “and let it begin with me” but rather: “and it has begun with Him!” They received it, they believed it, and they ran and saw the Prince of Peace with their own eyes. Whether they were looking for it or not, they became recipients and messengers of peace from that day forward: “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen…” (Luke 2:20)
The peace that they longed for, and that we all long for, had finally come, and he came as a baby. God’s plan for peace on earth is not to instantly wipe out all war and anxiety (if he did that, we’d all be instantly gone!). God’s plan for peace on earth is to enter into our sin and mess (messier than even a stable) and take it upon himself, ultimately on the cross. When we receive his gift of forgiveness by faith, we have eternal peace with God, and then we too can become agents of God’s peace. God’s plan for peace on earth began with Jesus, so we can have peace with God, peace with others, and even peace within ourselves. That’s how peace on earth is happening even now.
I don’t know about you, but I can already feel my anxiety calming, knowing that peace on earth doesn’t depend all on me. If you belong to the Prince of Peace, you too can receive and make peace on earth, because it has begun with Jesus.
Local FBC family and friends, please prayerfully take this survey so we can refresh our service and volunteer lists. Thanks!
I have a lot to be thankful for, especially as the Pastor of First Baptist Church. On my bad days I too often focus on my shortcomings and failures, but not today. Today is a day for thanking God what he has done in and through us this year.
I’m thankful for each and every person God has allowed me to know and love this year through the various aspects of the ministry here at First Baptist. Some have become close as family. Some have passed through quickly. To love and be loved by each and every one has been a blessing. To be even a small part of your growth in faith, hope, and love continues to be a thrill.
I’m thankful for the new members God sent to us this year and the baptisms we celebrated. He’s growing His church!
I’m thankful for the spiritual, emotional, and physical healings we have experienced among us and many other answered prayers. The Holy Spirit is working powerfully in many ways.
I’m thankful for the Gospel of Mark. We’ve taken a slow walk through the book of Mark together this year on Sunday mornings in our sermon series. It has been wonderful to get to know Jesus all the more each week.
I’m thankful for the joy and honor of worshiping God together each week. There is absolutely nothing like joining with brothers and sisters regularly.
I’m thankful for music, which has a unique power of expression. I’m thankful I get to play some music in church in various contexts, and also very thankful for Charlie Marshall, a wonderful man and fabulous church musician too.
I’m thankful for our Bible Study series this year, and each who participated. We’ve done 3 different studies: The Walk, Heaven, and Forgotten God. Each has been impactful in different ways. I love getting together each week to open the Bible together and be led by God’s Spirit. I’m thankful God keeps sending folks to join us…so many that we had to start another meeting!
I’m thankful for the kids, families, and leaders of our Youth Group. These young people are growing in their faith and it is wonderful to see and be a part of. I’m especially thankful God sent us Chris and Michelle H to help us lead and love these kids who fill our home each week. I’m also thankful for a fabulous Youth Sunday as well as Youth Lake Day this year.
I’m thankful for the amazing opportunity to regularly write newspaper columns about faith in Jesus. I did about 12 this year. I love writing, and every now and then I hear from someone who has been impacted by my feeble words.
I’m thankful for my friends in the recovery community, especially my friends in AA, the Turning Point and Celebrate Recovery. Each person shows a unique courage and strength to carry on in the face of so many challenges. I’m thankful for the chance to pray together regularly after meetings. It has also been an honor to host monthly Mercy Street meetings, to welcome folks in to be prayed for, to sing together, to eat together, to share stories together. Together we are so much stronger, and I’m thankful. I’m especially thankful for the wonderful Maundy Thursday service we enjoyed as a church and recovery community together.
I’m thankful for the organizations sharing our building who are serving various needs in our community, especially for the new ones this year that serve the recovery community: Hawthorn Recovery, Turning Point, and Celebrate Recovery. Each of these is a direct result of strong relationships in the community, and I’m thankful to be partners in supporting our community.
I’m thankful for the little ones in our church family and those that help teach and care for them each Sunday. I’m thankful for the older and wiser ones among us, who have long been faithful and have much to give.
I’m thankful for the Church Life Board who faithfully serves many needs of the church, for the Trustees who make sure things run well, as well as for John and Melissa who take care of so many things for us. I’m also thankful for those who volunteer much time and effort in various ways.
I’m thankful for the special events we had this year. Many joined us for our special Community Good Friday service, which was a highlight. Our table at Mayfest was a great way to meet many folks in town, as was our week of Summer Kids Camp (along with Missionary Alliance Church and Green Mountain Church). We had a ton of people at our Outreach Cookout too!
I’m thankful for the fun and service of our regular events like the Tag Sales and Bazaars.
I’m thankful the church decided to move our worship service back to 10:30am starting in January. I hope and pray this opens the door for others to join us who many not have otherwise.
I’m mostly thankful for Jesus, who loves us all far more than we can imagine. I’m thankful for his forgiveness of my many sins and shortcomings, and for hope and love he is giving us more and more.
I’m thankful for each of these things, but I’m mostly thankful for what they all represent: God’s powerful and amazing love to me and to all of us, and God’s love through us to others. Through the power of the Holy Spirit God is doing amazing things in our lives and relationships and amazing things here in Bennington and beyond.
Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands! (Psalm 90:17)
Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory. (Psalm 115:1)
Jesus said: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Our current Bible Study (Tues at 7pm or Wed at 3pm) is focusing on the Holy Spirit, using material from Francis Chan’s Forgotten God. I recently compiled a bunch of information from the material and included the scripture references. Come join us to check it out, or if you must, here’s a link to the document: Who is the Holy Spirit? I hope and pray it is helpful to you.