Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Declining downtown church expands witness and keeps doors open

First Baptist Church of Bennington, VT had been experiencing decline but found a creative way to continue its historic (more than 100 year) missional impact in the community.

"We’ve pretty much taken on as a missional church the goal of providing the missing components for basic human needs in the area here. We’re too small by ourselves to tackle any one of these things," said Wayne Kachmar, a member of the church board of trustees. "But this collaborative model of missional church has given us the opportunity to partner with many different groups and to use what we bring to the table: open space, visibility on Main Street -- accessibility, we’re flat, we’re level -- accessibility to transportation."

Four community organizations are using space in their Education building. These include the Bennington Free Clinic, Project Against Violent Encounters’ Family Time program, the Vermont Center for Independent Living and Easter Seals.

The church no longer needed the excess space and their use by the non-profit groups has the added benefit of freeing downtown commercial space for economic use that brings in tax revenue.

Close proximity allows for greater cooperation between the groups. First Baptist offers healthy cooking and basic sewing classes with more to come in the future.

The Vermont Community Foundation provided a $6,000 grant for such infrastructure upgrades as internet access and improved energy-efficiency that benefitted all parties involved.

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