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Tuesday August 19, 2008 Edition
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Twenty Years of Memories And Faith With Pastor Tim Taylor

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Tuesday August 19, 2008

By Cookie Steponaitis

    When Pastor Tim Taylor arrived in the Champlain Valley on August 17, 1988, to accept his role as Head Pastor of a new church he knew he was a person who, “ …by nature liked roots,” but did not know twenty years would quickly pass and that his church and congregation would achieve many milestones and stages of growth. “When we first arrived,” he commented, “there were about thirty people in the congregation. The church had an apartment, and had formerly been an old antique shop and a blacksmithing forge. Heat was provided by two or three wood stoves and there was even a For Sale sign posted on the front yard of the property. What was clear was that there was an excellent core of people who were committed to the Lord and the church. They caught a vision of what could be.”

    As the new pastor and his congregation planned for the future, they were instructed by the state that they had to maintain a historic footprint of the original building in order to build. So, part of Victory Baptist Church contains the shell of the prior building with new walls and new concrete. The summer of 1990 saw great changes for the fellowship as church members began major renovations and construction of a new auditorium. Traveling back and forth along the eastern US, Pastor Taylor had enlisted the assistance of pastors and congregations from as far away as Texas. On August 1-3, 1990, over one hundred people came to the site for a three day church-raising, in the tradition of New England barn raisings. The assembled group of volunteers tore down the old antique shop and began the structure that would serve as the auditorium and apartment for Pastor Taylor and his family. While the massive group of volunteers only stayed three days, the congregation continued to work diligently through the summer, fall and winter. On Easter Sunday, 1991, the group dedicated the new building to the service of the Lord and Victory Baptist Church saw its first major structural change.

    One tradition that Pastor Taylor restored in 1989 and which remains a cornerstone of the outreach programs of the church, is the Youth Camp ministry, in addition to new and community based programs. Over 240 campers and volunteers will be housed on the grounds of CEF Camp in Charlestown, New Hampshire, making the week-long commitment to music, games, and ministry. Pastor Taylor was quick to point out that many people have been taking a week off from their jobs and attending the camp since long before he came to the church. “Doris Brace has been running the cafeteria for Youth Camp for about fifteen years,” recalled Pastor Taylor.  “Just think, a week's worth of time donated year after year by so many people who have a passion for kids. It is a true blessing.”

    During the interview Pastor Taylor focused on cornerstones of growth for the church and also paralleled it with new programs and community outreach that have come to fruition. “Our auditorium that was completed in 1991 seated one hundred fifty and by 1995 it became clear that we had outgrown that setting,” he recalled. “We tried to offer two services on Sunday, but it didn't work well. People wanted fellowship and to worship together. So we worked hard to pay off the mortgage of our existing building and in 2000 we broke ground on the new construction which allows us to seat three hundred in our current sanctuary.”

    Buildings were not the only new part of the church life during the 1990's. In 1995 Pastor Taylor initiated the Ark Preschool-Kindergarten Program. Many people had approached him about an existing void in the area because the one existing preschool had a huge waiting list. The people wanted a program that had play, phonics-based academics and a Bible message appropriate for age groups. Over the past twelve years, class after class of graduates have gotten their start at The Ark. Also in that year, Pastor Taylor, his wife, Sandy, and their children Joy and Josh moved out of the apartment and into a home in Ferrisburgh. Both of the children are grown now. Joy is married and living in Albany, New York, working as a therapist after completing her MSW degree. Josh completed a business degree, married Ashley O'Bryan, and is working at a motorcycle dealership in Lynchburg, Virginia.  Both of their families are very secure in their faith and in serving the Lord.

    While one measure of growth is in numbers and facilities, Pastor Taylor was quick to remark about the depth and diversity of the community that calls Victory Baptist their home. Being raised in a New England agricultural setting, Addison County reflected a sense of community and mindset that he found appealing. “While the stereotypical New Englander is very standoffish and reserved, I found myself welcomed by open, approachable and accepting people who went out of their way to make us feel like this is our home.” He also commented on a recent Burlington Free Press article that showed Vermont as having on 36% of its residents as faith-based individuals set against a national average of 56%.  Pastor Taylor said he felt that the Champlain Valley far exceeds those numbers in the depth and diversity of worship.

    Pastor Taylor welcomes all who would like to come to worship or attend one of the many community based activities that the church sponsors. “The message of Victory Baptist is a Biblically based message. We believe that the Bible holds answers to living your daily life as well as your spiritual life.” In addition to programs that include pre-school church, junior church, adult worship and adult Bible groups, community members are treated every spring to events like Truck Day. “We fill the yard with trucks of all shapes and sizes. There are agricultural-based machines, large cranes, and trucks for all ages. People drive in and ask if they can come, too, or if it is only for children. It seems clear that everyone has a soft spot for trucks.”

    While society and technology have continually changed during his twenty years as Pastor, Reverend Taylor was firm in his convictions that the gospel has never changed and is here to guide people through all they have to deal with. He also remarked about the commitment and generosity of the people who make up his congregation. “When we were first beginning to talk of renovation and building,” he remarked, “we applied for Act 250 permits and found ourselves in a bind. Our good neighbors, Ralph Jackman, and his wife, Myrle, donated 1.8 acres of land to the church, so the building could proceed. That kind of community support and commitment is the defining quality of Addison County and stays constant no matter the changes.”

    As we concluded the interview, I commented on the sign in the front yard that displays a host of Biblical messages and humor. In response to my mention of many car rides I spent to Middlebury pondering the posted messages, Pastor Taylor shared that it was the developments of September 11, 2001, that caused the church to support the addition of the sign. “Churches across the country were using the signs to offer support, faith and messages of encouragement to the country and individuals as a whole. It continues to be a way to reach out to the community and to make connections.”

    If you measure growth in numbers, then the parking lot full of two hundred plus every Sunday is a testimonial to the continued growth and community that makes up Victory Baptist Church. If you measure growth in community involvement, programs like the VUHS Baccalaureate Program and links to the VUHS Community Service Learning Days offer another window into the diversity of connections that have been made. If you measure growth by the commitment and by the smiles and involvement of his congregation, then Victory Baptist is growing and branching out. No matter what your measuring stick, it is clear that the leadership and commitment of Pastor Tim Taylor has focused and directed one community of worshippers for twenty years and has become the cornerstone of the group's commitment to each other, their communities, and their faith in God.


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