Pastoral Reflections on 2017

Dear family and friends of FBC Bennington

As we begin a new year and reflect on the year that has passed, we do well to remember the primary point of Christmas: God is with us! The Spirit of God is in us and among us, leading us to follow Jesus all the more, to the glory of God the Father. Our mission is to grow and make disciples of Jesus in and around Bennington. Please be praying that God will grow our faith, and grow our church this coming year.

We experienced many blessings together in 2017. Three of our youth were baptized and were welcomed as members of the church, along with two other new members. We have faithfully worshiped God together each Sunday, looking to the Scriptures to guide us and grow our faith and love for Jesus, and the Holy Spirit has increased our faith, hope and love together. We concluded the sermon series on the Gospel of John and had other series on the Foundations of Faith, the book of Jonah, and the book of Colossians. Our weekly worship services are a joy and privilege to experience God’s grace and grow in our faith together. Please be praying that the Holy Spirit will continue to bless us as we gather for worship, and that God will open the hearts of many to come join us (or re-join us), so they too might encounter the life-changing gospel of Jesus.

We bid a fond farewell to our pianist Rachel McDill, who richly blessed our worship services. Yet we are thrilled that God has recently sent us Charlie Marshall, a faithful and talented organist, pianist and vocalist. We continue to worship God according to the scriptures and with a blend of musical styles.

We have hosted Bible studies in various formats and contexts, most often on Tuesday evenings at the parsonage. We have also begun prayer meetings at 1pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which are attended by some of our friends from the support groups we host. We have also begun hosting a monthly service for all affected by addiction, which we call “Mercy Street.” Many in our community have expressed appreciation for these simple yet powerful gatherings around music, story, and prayer. Our Youth Group continues to grow both in numbers and in faith, with a mix of youth from FBC, from other churches, and from “un-churched” families. We meet weekly for Bible Study, pizza, and games, and always have a boisterous time.  Please be praying that our various gatherings will build the faith of all who come.

We continue to share our space with various non-profits, although we said goodbye to the Free Clinic and Kitchen Cupboard, which moved to a facility of their own on Depot Street. As we continue to open our doors to the community in various ways, let us look to God to show us further opportunities to tangibly bless our neighbors.

Some of our church family passed on to glory this year, and while each loss is painful, it was good to mourn, to remember, and to look to God for his comfort and peace. Others in our church family remain in, or have recently transitioned to, local facilities or are otherwise homebound. Please remember these loved ones in prayer and make time to visit. Still others in our fellowship have departed for various reasons. Please pray for God’s grace and peace on all our church family, near and far.

A significant milestone and blessing this year was my ordination for ministry on September 24. I’m now officially a “Rev”! (although I still prefer the title of Pastor). It was overwhelming to have so many loved ones from various places join us for this special time, and as I was prayed over I felt God’s Spirit stirring within me, further encouraging and equipping me for this calling. Many thanks to all who made it such a wonderful time.

Let us pray that God will equip us all to grow in faith, and enable us to bless those in the Bennington area with the amazing grace of Jesus. Our mission is to grow as followers of Jesus and welcome others to do the same. I am confident that, by God’s grace, together we have done so this year. I have seen and experienced it in your lives, which brings me much joy and gratitude as your humble and often faltering pastor. Please know that while my office door is often physically closed (I’m easily distracted), it is metaphorically wide open, and I always love visits and taking time to chat and pray together (except on Fridays, when I’m likely to be out in the woods somewhere).

You, my brothers and sisters, are God’s beloved. Let us continue to take confidence and joy in Jesus alone, because he is with us!

Pastor Bob

“May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit we may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)