No Perfect People Allowed

What do you think of when you see a church building on the street corner or up on a hill? Perhaps it’s just part of the scenery of our beautiful state. You probably have a mental image of a tall white steeple with a vibrantly dappled mountain in the background, surrounded by a quaint village (and if so, I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of Stowe Community Church, which is surely the most-photographed and post-carded church building out there). Or maybe you’re thinking of a swooping white fence outside a beautiful old building, which borders a maple-bedecked lane and an historic cemetery (which of course is found here in Old Bennington, and may be a close second to the one in Stowe). Our church buildings are indeed a significant part of our history and culture.

Our particular church building has the appearance of a large brick and stone fortress, if not a castle (I’ve heard people refer to it as Camelot).  By the way, I’ve often wondered why the Baptists usually built with brick, and the Congregationalists usually built with clapboard. Is this some sort of strange origin of the Three Little Pigs story? Which makes me wonder about hay bale church buildings, but I digress. This building was built in 1878, and you could tell that whoever put this together was not messing around: soaring spires, intricate stained glass windows, and stadium seating long before it was cool. The architecture inside rivals that of the outside. It also conveniently located across the street from not just one, but two high-quality pizza shops (Baptists are also known for eating, of course).

Yet I still wonder what you’re thinking when you come across a “house of worship.” Perhaps pleasant memories of holiday services with family. Or the thrill and joy of your wedding day. Maybe the sadness of that especially painful funeral. Or the warm satisfaction in knowing that this is your spiritual home. Perhaps simple indifference, or maybe a tip of the hat for the community services housed there. Perhaps guilt, anger, or indignation.

I am incredibly thankful for the amazing gift of a fabulous church building, which helps further our mission in so many ways. A beautiful church building certainly enhances our worship as we gather together. But my biggest problem with an awesome church building is that it may give the impression that we have our act together. I’m not originally from around here, so when I pulled up to this building for the very first time, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size and beauty. I remember thinking, “There’s no possible way that I belong here.” As it turns out, architecture can deceive. I was dead wrong. I very much belong here, and thankfully I’m not alone.

I’m tempted to put a big sign over the door of the church building that says “No Perfect People Allowed.” I need remember that on the outside we may appear impressive and strong, but on the inside we are broken and tender. As a Christian church, we are followers of Jesus, and Jesus saved his harshest words for the people who thought they had their act together. The sad irony is that if you think you’ve got your act together on your own, you most certainly don’t. That’s why often the biggest step of spiritual growth is admitting you need help — help from God himself. Our spiritual strength begins by admitting our human weakness, which God has come to help and heal. We only move forward by the strange and often stumbling two-step of coming to the end of ourselves and falling forward into God’s arms.

So, sure, enjoy the beautiful architecture of your local church buildings. Yes, come get your kale at the Winter Farmer’s Market here in our hall (1st and 3rd Saturdays). Bring your friends and family to our next spaghetti dinner (February 10!). And if you’re affected by addiction (and who isn’t in some way?), please join us for our next Mercy Street gathering here on January 31. Or even join us for a worship service if you feel so led. Everyone is always welcome (except the Perfect People, of course).

But don’t let the building itself lie to you. We don’t have our spiritual act together on our own. We’re broken people being put back together by God himself, who is making us more than we could have imagined. True strength is found in weakness, which Jesus demonstrated by his death on the cross. We’re certainly not perfect, not even close, but we’re perfectly loved by God, and called together to follow him. So perhaps my “No Perfect People Allowed” sign will need an important footnote: “*except Jesus.”

Bob Wiegers is the imperfect pastor at First Baptist Church of Bennington:

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New Bible Study

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Tuesday nights at 7pm. A place to discuss faith and spirituality as we take a close look at what it means to follow Jesus, using the guidebook called “The Walk: Steps for New and Renewed Followers of Jesus.” ALL are welcome. Please let us know if you are interested!

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!

Yours,
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)

The Stories Behind Pastor Bob’s Ordination Service

On September 24, 2017, I had the amazing privilege of being ordained for ministry in the American Baptist Church (ABC). God’s grace, faithfulness and gentle leading has brought me, and my family, to this point. I also had the privilege of putting together the ordination service. I used a traditional order of service, yet I selected the readings, hymns, and people who participated. Each has a special place in my heart, so here are a few thoughts on each part of the service. [See below for a video of the entire service]

Continue reading “The Stories Behind Pastor Bob’s Ordination Service”