On August 3rd, 2010 a neighbor discovered the fire early in the morning. It was incredibly difficult to watch a building that stood as a meeting location for 176 years burn to the ground over the course of a few hours. News spread quickly around the community, and many gathered for a prayer vigil that evening. We’ve seen over the past six years how God has worked for good in a difficult situation from how He protected the houses nearby to providing for our needs.
Thankfully, we had insurance on the previous building. We received our full insurance policy, which was over a million dollars. That policy would have just about covered the cost of rebuilding the previous building. The new building, however, is subject to current commercial building codes (which makes the building accessible to all and safer). Those codes come with a price tag.
Unfortunately, we did not have enough from insurance to completely build a new church building. We are now working towards finishing the interior of the building. It’s easy to get caught up in the costs associated with construction, but we have found that a building is important in how we carry out God’s mission here in South Londonderry.
First Baptist Church and the Community
We have learned just how important our church building was to the wider community. Other than the local elementary school, it was the largest meeting place in our area. As the building was located on a hill in the center of the community, it reminded people that life is about more than just jobs, shopping, and skiing. It was a visual reminder that even in a place where most people do not go to church, God is present.
Vermont is a Mission Field
We live in a place where most of our neighbors are not Christians and don’t know much at all about Jesus. We live in one of the least churched state in the country. Vermont is certainly a mission field!
Our church’s mission statement is to grow followers of Jesus by planting seeds of faith and nurturing them to bear fruit. We, as a church, are passionate about sharing God’s love to this community with or without a building.
Without a Building
We have learned as a church to be creative in the ways we reach out to our community without a building. We are a growing, vibrant church community. We have been actively reaching out to our community, and as a result we have seen new families become part of our church family and individuals become followers of Jesus.
One way we have reached out to our wider community has been through our ministry at a local ski resort. Stratton Mountain is located about 10 miles from us. We have been planting a church, where a community is developing and is reaching out to the skiiers and snowboarders at Stratton. We have partnered with Snowboarders and Skiers for Christ and created an internship program, where people come and work on the mountain and show Jesus’ love to the resort.
At First Baptist Church we have hosted a group of students from the Philadelphia suburbs each of the past eight summers, called SERVE. The students come for two weeks during the summer to serve in our community, to worship, and to grow their relationships with Christ.
These are just two examples of how we are striving to be creative and practical in our work to further the work of God’s Kingdom here in Vermont.
The New Building
While we have learned over the past few years how to be a church without a building, we have also had a lot of limitations as well. This will be a building that we can use for weekly worship services, as well as Christian education programs. This will be a building that we can use for weddings, memorial services and receptions. This will be a building that we can use to host Snowboarders and Skiers for Christ events. This will be a building that we can host mission trips, such as SERVE.
We’d also like the building to be used by the community for two reasons. The first reason is there aren’t a lot of usable spaces in our area for groups to use. That’s part of the challenge of living in a rural area. The second reason is we want the community to feel comfortable in our building so that they would be more receptive to what we’re all about, which is sharing Jesus’ love with our community. This will be a building for meetings and workshops by local non-profit organizations. This will be a building for teen drop-ins and senior citizen activities. This will be a building for community meals. Our desire is that this building will be used a lot!
Our two primary goals in the church building design was for it to be functional and to be durable. You can look at the plans here. For this reason we took steps to ensure the building would require minimal maintenance for years to come, especially in the harsh Vermont winters, and that it would be accessible to all sorts of people from parents with children to older folks to groups of teenagers. Our prayer and plan while designing it was to have a building that could be used by all and be used creatively for generations to come.
One thing that our community values is history. People who never walked in the doors remember the old brick building with the steeple and how it stood on the hill. Our new building, which will be in the same location with the same footprint, will be reminiscent of the old one. The new building will have brick, and the sanctuary will be similar in size and style. The office and classroom space will be much more functional in the new building than the previous one. With a full basement, our fellowship room, kitchen, and bathrooms will have adequate space to be used for many different purposes. The new building will be far more energy efficient and will be far more accessible to people with ramps, an elevator, and bathrooms on every floor. We’ll keep some of the old, as well as add some new things to enhance the ministry that we do.
How You Can Help!
We need your help. We can’t do it alone. Join with us to finish this building. We'd ask that you would: