Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wednesday night praise

We had a great service at church tonight. Steve Contois kicked things off with some special music. He finished up with a song from Casting Crowns titled "Slow Fade." Here they are singing it.

I followed up Steve's song by talking about John 11:35 which states that "Jesus Wept." It points out the fact that Jesus really cares, so much so that he probably had this event on his mind when he was on the way to the cross. The pain and suffering that are the result of sin cause so much grief that only his obedience could get rid of it.

Praise God. We finished our service with a time of prayer for several individual situations and also for our church as it prepares to enter a time of uncertainty. It was a great night.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

January 2011 Community Luncheon

On Sunday Cynthia Strouse, one of her teaching sorority sisters and Nancy Allen were in the kitchen at the Community Luncheon. They cooked up a batch of macaroni and cheese that had everyone raving about it. Add a tossed salad and some mixed veggies and you had a wonderful Sunday meal.

Michelle and Elsie Chaffee, Amanda Duntz and two of her friends from Habitat, Lindsey Beth and Amana Trothier helped out in the dining hall. Here are a few pics from the day.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Top 25 memories in 25 years

I have been reflecting on my 25 years in Norwich and was trying to come up with the twenty five biggest events to have occurred in our ministry together, Here is the beginning of my list. Can you think of anything else? We can rank them later.

*200th Anniversary Weekend - July 2000

We started it all with a recognition service on Friday night at church. Several special guests were in attendance and several proclamations were read. On Saturday we held a public baptism at Spaulding Pond in Mohegan Park.

*Miracle Sunday - October 1995

In July we began work on the renovation of our sanctuary. We stripped and repainted the ceiling and walls, upgraded the electrical and installed a new sound system. The total cost was just over $30,ooo. In October we planned a special one day campaign to pay for the project. We asked everyone for gifts and pledges to help with the expense. At the end of the day we raised 29,065.45 for the project. special music included a trio of George Rezendes, Nancy Allen and me.

*Building Projects 1996 - 1999

The Access 2000 project kicked off with an exciting ground breaking ceremony on June 6th. Several officials and dignitaries were present as George H. Strouse Jr, and Edith Robinson (our longest standing members) and Brian Grillo (our newest and youngest member) dug in with the first shovels. In January 2000 we celebrated the completion of our major building project which added offices and restroom upstairs and modern bathrooms and increased accessibility to our Fellowship Hall area.

This project was a nice complement to the work done at the back entrance of the church. Cliff Vanase oversaw a project in which a new entrance was made off the parking lot which allowed access to both the upstairs and downstairs in a single entryway.

*First joint worship service with Central Baptist - Jan 2006

On January 15 we began meeting with Central Baptist for eight weeks in the height of winter. We spent two weeks in each place and then moved back and forth accordingly. Rev. Sheldon Keller and I led the services and our choirs came together to form a mass choir. Although there were some adjustments to be made by everyone, it was great fun and very exciting. The first weeks saw record attendance figures as the excitement and novelty of the experiment captured our imaginations. Although the services and the ensuing talks about merger never took hold, we did have a great time and several good things came out of it. The two biggest ministries were the Joint Mission trips and service at the Community Luncheons at St. Mark's.

*Installation Service - October 1985

Rev. Michale Kary (our most recent interim minister) gave the charge to the candidate and Dr. Robert Roberts (Our Executive Minister) gave the charge to the congregation at the service. Dr. Dick Bowser ( The Pastor's mentor) offered the prayer as I was installed as pastor of the church in October 1985. Several colleagues were in attendance including Rev. Carole Simpkins, Rabbi Stuart Altshuler, Monsignor Joseph King, Rev. Ed Bradley, Rev. Bruce Elsensohn, as well as many from the church. It was a beautiful day as Lori sang "No Man is an Island" and the choir sang "Surely The Presence of the Lord is in this Place." Representatives from the SUNL Association and my friends from my home church, Lebanon Baptist came together to mark the official start of our ministry together.

*Youth Group to Colorado - July 2000

When we heard about the opportunity to go to Estes Park with 3,000 kids and group leaders from across the country, our kids got excited. We had never done anything like this before. We had a very large group of senior high students and it seemed perfect. We began raising money in the fall of 1999 and continued right up through July. It was a great experience for all who went. We not only attended ID2K Conference but we also had the opportunity to see God's handiwork in the Rocky Mountain National Park and to travel to the Continental Divide. Travelers included Becky Lord, Joanne Clubine, Amanda Guillemette, Stacia Green, April Rezendes, Jonathan Vanase, Timothy Rezendes, Roland Widstrom Jr. and their chaperons Buffy McFalls, Kay Lautzenheiser, Cliff Vanase and myself.

This trip launched a series of yearly trip which included a mission trip to Florida, Biennial meetings in Providence Rhode Island, a trip to Soul Fest Music Festival in New Hampshire and a second trip to Colorado in 2004.

*First Mission trip to Mexico Feb 2007

After a visit by Mercy Gonzales Barnes Pastor Sheldon Keller and I began talking about a joint mission trip to Mexico. We put together a team of fifteen from the two churches and set off for Mexicali at the end of April 2007. It started an annual trek back to Mexico for the next three years and spurred two stateside mission trips too. Each trip has been a life changing experience for those who went along.

*First Pumpkin Festival - October 1994

We were looking for a new fundraiser when Curt and Mary Brockway suggested a Fall festival featuring painted pumpkins. It blossomed into a great time with pumpkins, crafts, food and games. George Rezendes even built a couple of booths for outside. Kathy Duntz, Patty Bell and the Brockways chaired the event for the four years it ran. We only stopped it when construction began on the new addition and there was no place to hold the festival.

*25th Anniversary service - June 2010

It had to be the hottest day of the summer but it was way too cool. Tiger Lilies adorned the sanctuary and several dignitaries and special friends were on hand to celebrate 25 years of joint ministry. Rev. Greg Hamby preached and Lori and I sang. So did the choir, Steve, Cheryl and Paul and my girls. It was a great day.

*Big 50 Sunday - June 2008

This was a wild idea to help me ease the pain of my 50th birthday. It just so happened that we had a dozen others in the congregation celebrating at the same time and a half dozen couples celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. We added in those celebrating 50 years of membership and made it a great day of worship and praise.

* 190th Anniversary celebration with Rev. Walter Loomis - June 1990 & Rev. Orice Gracey - October 1990

We invited our former pastors back to help us celebrate our 190th Anniversary. Rev. Walter & Marguerite Loomis came in from Ohio to visit and they joined us for a pot luck supper in June/ Rev. Loomis (1944-1951) shared memories of his time in Norwich. In October Rev. Orice & Machon Gracey came up from south Carolina to visit. Rev. Gracey (1952-56) gave the message at our worship service and talked about his ministry in the community back in the 1950's. Doris Royce, our historian, posted wonderful displays to remind us of god's faithfulness down through the years.

* Homecoming - October 1987

We invited friends and family back for a day and honored Louise Strouse for a lifetime of service. Louise came to the church as a young women in the 1940's and it became the center of her life. Working with the women, teaching in the Sunday School, singing in the choir and serving in leadership and service, Louise embodied what it meant to serve the Lord. We had a great day and a wonderful recpetion following worship.

* Celebration of Rev. George Strouse's ministry - May 1988 & October 1999.

There were two times when the ministry of Rev. George H. Strouse was celebrated with gifts and homage. In May of 1988 we received new choir robes in his memory. They were beautiful and the choir felt honored to receive them. Rev. Strouse always appreciated the music of the church and his son and daughter-in-law thought this was an appropriate way to honor his memory. Then in the fall of 1999 money was given by the family to build a new organ in honor of Rev. Strouse. Alan McNeely began working on it during the summer of 99 and completed it in time for it's dedication in October of 1999 in conjunction with our 200th Anniversary service. That month we hosted the Annual Choir Festival and proudly used the organ for the first time in public.

*Christmas Joy - December 1991

We decided to do something different on Christmas Eve and had a living Nativity Scene with actors presenting a tableaux of the Christmas story. Amy Rezendes and Mike Keithley portray Mary & Joseph. The choir presented a Cantata titled "A Simple Gift" and the adults put on a skit at the Christmas Party & Pageant titled, "A Christmas Gift."

*The Bowling League - May 1992

We started a Christian bowling league with hopes that we could fill the norwich Ten Pin with church people during the summer. We had eight teams that year and has as many as twelve teams in our 17 seasons of play. It was a great night out for couples and a lot of fun for all.

* We co-hosted the Annual Meeting of ABCCONN with Central Baptist - April 1994

We welcomed delegates from across the state for the Annual Gathering of Connecticut Baptists. Lee McFalls and Will Willey did a lot of organizing as we painted and spruced up the building and grounds. On Friday we hosted the Annual Meeting of the Connecticut Baptist Minister's Council and treated them to an excellent meal. On Saturday the venue switched to downtown and we helped greet the guests alongside our sister church. It was quite a week-end.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Amanda Soderberg and Jimmy Morocco were in church today. They were recently engaged and are planning a June wedding down in Maryland in 2012. They are one of four couples with connections to the church who are planning weddings in the coming months. The three others are members of the church.

Jennifer Fraser is going to be married on May 22nd. Amanda Duntz and Jake Shanks are planning a June 11th wedding at Jake's father's home. Finally, Ben Strouse and Lauren Benson are working on a late November wedding here at church. These will be my last weddings at church. I am looking forward to them and am excited for each of the couples.

Today I went to lunch with Amanda and Jimmy after church. They were in town visiting her mom and step father, Elizabeth and Matt Isenburg.


A family dedication in church

This morning Merlande Daniels and Pierre Charles brought their son before the congregation in a service of family dedication. I married the couple several years ago. Last fall they brought their newborn son, Kaidens before us. At the time they asked if Jalen was too old. I told them he wasn't and they said that they would like to do the same thing for him on a different day.

Just before Christmas they set the date. They joined us with some friends and family members and we built the ceremony into our morning worship service today.

In a family dedication ceremony the parents declare that they believe their child is a gift from God and promise to raise him or her in a Christian home.

Then we ask the congregation if they are willing to stand by the parents. The congregation promises to provide a place for the parents to come to find support and encouragement as they fulfill their promises.

In recent years I have introduced the child to the congregation. This morning Jalen and I walked down the aisle together. He was a little nervous to begin with but h warmed up by the time we got back up front. We even got a smile out of him when I gave him his own flower.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Taking down the decorations

This morning a few of us got together to take down and put away the Christmas decorations. Randy Sargent had cleared an area in the basement for us to store them. So Karen Barber directed a crew of six to pack everything up and take them down stairs. The sanctuary always looks so empty after the decorations come down and it takes us a few weeks to regain a sense of its natural beauty.

Oliver Bray came in early to start taking down our candle holders. Then Karen, Cynthia Strouse, Pam Kane, Bob Walker and I joined him. It took us an hour and a half to finish it up and put it all away for next year. Here are a few photos so you can remember how it looked.


The bittersweet announcement

The news is out and most of you have heard. If this is the first time you are hearing or reading this, I pass along my sincerest apologies. I have tendered my resignation at the First Baptist Church of Norwich in order to accept the call to serve as the next pastor of the Central Baptist Church of Westerly, Rhode Island.

My last Sunday here will be on Communion Sunday, March 6, 2011. It will be a bittersweet moment for all of us. Yet I believe that God still has big plans for our church here in Norwich. Just as God led me here twenty five and a half years ago, God will bring new leadership with renewed vision and inspiration. You are a great congregation filled with wonderful people. We have accomplished so much in the last few years. You have a heart for mission and sharing the gospel. You have a heart for the city of Norwich and its people. I think that you will have several candidates lining up waiting for the opportunity to serve alongside you.

Some may say that our success has been due to my leadership. I would like to think that this is partly true. The reality is that you have made everything possible by your willingness to follow God's lead. From the sports ministries to our mission trips, the Sunday School programs and cantatas, it has been your faithfulness and hard work that have made it all happen. That same spirit will bless you and the next pastor as you write the next chapter in the history of our First Baptist Church.

There will never be another Cal Lord. The next Pastor will have their own gifts and skills. He or she will forge new relationships. The next pastor will be there with you to share those special moments. He or she will be there to pray for you and walk you through the sad and lonesome valleys. You will always be in my prayers, especially those of you who I have come to know and love, but it will be their job to minister to your needs. In time you will come to love him or her in the same way you have blessed me.

So I hope we can enjoy the next two months together. Let''s celebrate what God has done. Let's come together and praise the God who gave us life and blessed us as pastor and people. He's not done with us yet. There is still so much to come.

Thank you for blessing me.

Over the next two months I will be sprinkling in some of my favorite memories from our time together. Enjoy and let's thank God for what he has done. It has been wonderful.

Yours in Christ,