Our challenge was quite simple: Build a healthy church, a healthy body of believers. With only 8 people attending church, there were few deep theological convictions, or church traditions, or church leaders, or functioning committees or church groups. The Bakerville Church was the only one church in town. It was wonderful to welcome people as they moved into town with “I am Chuck Gieser, the pastor of the only church in town”. Every effort was made to have the church building be the community center – where people came to vote, to have exercise class, for a club meeting. We wanted everyone to feel comfortable in “The Bakerville Church”.
Preaching/teaching was focused on the basics of the Christian faith; the person of Jesus Christ, His actions and teachings. There was no need to focus on our sinfulness – most of us have a pretty good idea that our thoughts and actions were not the same as those of Jesus Christ – and in time the Holy Spirit would convict of sin. And why even bring up areas where the Christian community had never come to agreement. Sally Jo and I both taught small group Bible studies – if a group got up to six members…start another group. Three of Sally Jo’s closest friends came from one of those Bible study groups.
.As a part of our focus on the life and actions of Jesus, it was easy to see the value of a body of a group of like minded people coming together to learn about, and in time, to worship Jesus Christ. Having people organized in some way was logical. It was quite obvious that people had different abilities/gifts– encourage their use.
And so Mr. Dobrick, a little old man, stood at the door between the sanctuary and the fellowship hall/class rooms and welcomed everyone every Sunday. He was so special that our girls named on of their gerbils “Dobrick”. Many people filled little niches, and this was clearly seen on the Sunday night before Christmas. Each year members of the congregation went caroling, and then came back to church for hot chocolate and cookies. After four years the church young people were building a huge bon fire in the church parking lot, those unable to carol baked an incredible number of cookies, Hal Glowsky provided fresh, whole milk with which to make the hot chocolate…and it took two school buses, provided by the school, to carry all of the people who wanted to go caroling. The buses went in different directions well beyond the little community where the church was. Those “being caroled” were not the church members or their close friends – they were already involved in the evening. Those being caroled were the shut-ins…and anyone else where people wanted us to sing. At an agreed upon time…back to the church, light the fire, drink the hot chocolate, and eat cookies and more cookies.
We still remember those evenings together…and the Christmas pageant, pot luck suppers, working on each other’s homes, sharing over-productive garden crops, painting the church with the young people, skiing together, the apple festival. Church was closed one Sunday each summer for a church picnic. The wedding in Cana must have been like the weddings, particularly Polish, we celebrated – with lots of dancing, laughing, food…and just in case Jesus did not show up, an adequate supply of beer and wine. Wonderful celebrations!!! This church did not have as many festivals and celebrations as are talked about in the Bible…but we got close!
After three years the church members decided it was time to build a truly wonderful parsonage with no debt: sell the old parsonage and a lot given years before. Bob Morse headed the building committee. Granny Jones gave the building site: set back off the road – stream, beautiful pond with an old stone dam, and a great view! As the plans were developed, the parsonage grew: a living room to hold junior choir rehearsals, a dining room to seat 15, a family room with a fireplace built of stone slabs from an old house, a kitchen that was incredible. Upstairs: 4 spacious bedrooms, 2 baths. And in the walk-in basement: the pastor’s study, a large play room, and a workshop wired and ready to go. Church members began building on August 11 and on the Friday night before Thanksgiving 35 people came to paint the interior of the parsonage.
Our message to the church during the planning and building process: “Do not build this parsonage for us! This is for the church, long term!” Though we did not use the phrase, Sally Jo and I lived In Partnership With God, a God who has a plan for our lives.