Last Monday I told of the beginning of our ministry in Bakerville, CT (IPWG #15). Those who responded included Dr. Jay Barnes, the President elect of Bethel College in MN. Jay, a teacher at Wheaton Academy in the 1960s, was the bus driver for the Academy choir tour that included a concert/overnight in Bakerville. The teenage organist I mentioned as being one of the eight who were present our first several Sunday mornings also responded.
The young organist was Chris Philips, the oldest son of George and Jean Phillips – dairy farmers. Chris’s grand parents lived just down the road – as did his aunts, uncles and cousins. Chris was greatly loved and encouraged by this extended family. They recognized that Chris was both like them…and different from them.
Chris had nothing to do with his growing up in a solid family in a small New England town. Chris had nothing to do with the fact that the town’s church was very beautiful, had well maintained properties, and a very good pipe organ. Chris had nothing to do with our coming to Bakerville during his high school years. All of this “just happened” to him… just as Sally Jo and I had almost nothing to do with our spending four years as the pastor and pastor’s wife of this church.
God had chosen us to encourage and help Chris prepare for future ministry – though neither Chris nor we had any idea of what was to come. After four years in Bakerville, Sally Jo and I moved to Tennessee. Chris settled into college life. I was the minister for Chris and Joanne’s wedding. Chris went to an Anglican seminary in England and then became a minister within the Episcopal Church in Rhode Island. In 1983 Chris/Father Philips became part of the first group of Protestants welcomed into the Roman Catholic Church through a pastoral provision. The liturgy is significantly Anglican, as found in the Book of Common Prayer. Within this body of believers there is a provision for married priests.
When Chris and I are together, we share how the Lord continues to use us – and we both realize that we have merely been “along for the ride”. When we seek to live In Partnership with God, God plans, guides and provides – sometimes in incredible ways. Following is his e-mail response to my telling of our arrival in Bakerville – IPWG # 15 5/19/08:
Dear Chuck: …I enjoy reading your articles, and of course the Bakerville remembrances have special meaning for me. My own typical teen-aged self-absorption kept me from realizing just how difficult it was for you and Sally Jo in those early years. All I knew was that your coming to Bakerville opened up a whole new world of faith, as well as a realization that God actually had a plan for me! Thanks for responding so faithfully to God in your own vocation, which was instrumental in helping me find the path He had laid out for my own life. One day you called my attention to Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose,” and I have kept that as a foundational scriptural guide ever since. You told me, “All you need to do is love God; the rest will be taken care of.” Thanks for that lesson. Yours in Christ, Chris
Here is Chris’s response to my response: Dear Chuck: I’m very touched that you would want to include something about me, and I thank you for thinking of it. I know you have affected a great number of people in your ministry, and I was only one kid from over forty years ago; however, other than my parents, you were the most formative person in my life, and I think you know how grateful I am. Of course, if God hadn’t sent you into my path, I might have been a pretty good farmer! As far as my present ministry is concerned, I don’t know if you’ve looked through the website for the church and school: www.atonementonline.com. Yours in Christ, Chris.
I encourage you to take a minute to go to the above website. Read about the heritage of the parish ministry (4,000 + 5,000 worship each week – includes those who come more than once) and the Christian school (500+ students). See pictures of the facilities. I wish you could spend a couple hours with Chris/Father Philips at the church/school so he could tell you himself how God has guided and blessed the ministry.
Each of us has the privilege of living In Partnership With God. What that partnership means, how that partnership plays out, differs for each of us. This is not our concern! Our concern is to obey the teachings of His Word – to celebrate our life in Christ!