Tag Archives: Taftsville Chapel

Congregational Profile: Taftsville Chapel Mennonite Fellowship

by Steve McCloskey, pastor, Taftsville Chapel

Photo courtesy of Allen Guntz

Taftsville Chapel Mennonite Fellowship is situated in the idyllic hills of Vermont with a limited number of neighbors in the immediate vicinity of our meeting space. Nevertheless, each Sunday, congregants gather from across the Upper Valley of New England (some coming from over an hour away in Western Vermont or from across the river in New Hampshire) to join together as a vibrant multi-generational community in worship of God and discipleship in the way of Jesus Christ.  

Even though we may not see a lot of neighbors in our sparsely populated part of the world, this doesn’t stop us from living in response to the question: how can we love our neighbors, including those in distant parts of the earth and future generations yet to be born?

Photo courtesy of Allen Guntz

As a pastor who began at this church about two years ago, the people of this congregation have inspired me with a number of decisions to care for our planet and our global neighbors. Shortly before I visited the church for the first-time, the congregation made the decision to install solar panels on the roof of the building; these panels generate more than enough electricity for our building’s use and we donate the excess as credits to help the nearby ministry of Bethany Birches Camp. 

There are several ways that the church has practiced Creation Care: we have been featured in the local newspaper, The Vermont Standard, for our eco-consciousness; we won an award from the local environmental organization, Sustainable Woodstock, for our commitment to energy efficiency; we are currently in the process of further-weatherizing our building with new insulation and tightened doors and windows to reduce our energy use.

Photo courtesy of Allen Guntz

We are fortunate to live amidst the beauty of the Green Mountain State; we cherish the land that our Creator has given us, and we hope to preserve this for future generations. Underlying this commitment is a willingness to keep asking the question: “How can we live simply that others may simply live?” This, to us, is implicit in faithfully loving our neighbors, and, ultimately, our Creator.

Taftsville Chapel has been described as an “eclectic” community of faith.  Many of us do not come from Anabaptist backgrounds; others of us are founding members of our church who came to the Upper Valley from Pennsylvania over 50 years ago, doing 1-W alternative service as conscientious objectors to the military draft and serving at the nearby Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.  Our community is held together like patches on a quilt: some of us exercise together doing CrossFit, others (literally) quilt together.  We regularly serve at a local homeless shelter, engage in advocacy for our immigrant neighbors, and serve one another in simple, practical community. We are happy to be a “city on a hill” in the rural Upper Valley, coming together in the old schoolhouse where our church meets, nurturing and building relationships with Jesus, each other, our communities, and our world.

Photo courtesy of Allen GuntzPrayer requests:

  • We thank God that our congregation has come together like various patches on a quilt, each one of us with our own story. Pray that our congregation continues to grow in “unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) as a church family, even as we come from different backgrounds, places, and testimonies.
  • Pray that our gatherings for worship “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12). Give wisdom, vision, and guidance to church leadership in this endeavor.
  • Pray for us as we build relationships with those outside of our congregation, that we may “promote the building-up the body of Christ in love” (Eph. 4:16) to our global neighbors and those who live nearby us in the Upper Valley of New England.

Introducing Taftsville Chapel Mennonite Fellowship

TaftsvilleTaftsville Chapel Mennonite Fellowship is a small, stable congregation in mid-central Vermont.  We meet in an old school house in the rural village of Taftsville, which is situated in the Ottauquechee River valley between the tourist towns of Woodstock and Quechee, along the US Route 4 corridor.

The congregation was formed by Mennonite families who had all temporarily moved into the area for 1-W Alternative Service to the draft (most working at a local teaching hospital) in the late 1950s to early 1960s. Many of these families decided to stay, and the congregation has grown into a vibrant, healthy body. Our congregation has remained stable at around 60 members, with some ebb and flow as families move into and out of the area for school and work.  Currently, we are about 50% ethnic Mennonites, mostly from Pennsylvania, and the rest represent a wide diversity of spiritual backgrounds.  The majority of our members are employed in the fields of medicine or education.  We range in age from newborn to 94.

Our geographic area is called “The Upper Valley,” which is simply a convenient and loosely defined term referring generally to the middle section of the states of Vermont and New Hampshire bordering along the Connecticut River.  We have dedicated members who travel as much as an hour to worship with us at Taftsville.  We are not a ‘community’ church as such, since none of our members live in the immediate village of Taftsville.  Instead we represent a wide geographic area of rural communities, home towns and workplaces.  Even with the geographic challenges, our community at Taftsville is a close-knit one, and we look for ways to be involved in each others’ lives.

Currently, the leadership at Taftsville is shared among several small teams, and individuals on those teams are either volunteers or appointed by group discernment according to strengths and giftings.  The Administrator serves as leader of the Church Council, which is made up of annual voluntary slate positions and is concerned mostly with the programs and finances of the church.  The Pastoral Care Team is invited by the Pastor to share the pastoral care needs of the community.  The Leadership Team is discerned by the congregation, serving alongside the Pastor to oversee the vision, teaching, and sermon direction and other spiritual needs of the group.

We have discovered that our mission in the Upper Valley is primarily a place of healing.  We describe this as being “preparers of good soil.”  We have found that many people’s hearts are unable to receive the gospel because of hurts, traumas, and confusion, sadly often at the hands of other Christian churches.  We provide a safe place of welcome, rest, and grace and delight to find that broken people who become part of our faith community begin to learn to trust again and grow in their own discipleship and faith.

Introducing Taftsville Chapel Mennonite Church (pdf)

Tropical storm damage in Vermont is a ‘disaster’

By Sheldon C. Good, sheldon@mennoweekly.org
Mennonite Weekly Review

What is usually a small brook washed out this section of Route 100 in Plymouth, Vt., home of Bethany Birches Camp. — Photo by Brandon Bergey

Flood waters due to Tropical Storm Irene were subsiding by Sept. 6, but extensive devastation remained as cleanup and repairs began for Mennonites across Vermont, including some who were isolated for days.

The storm weakened as it made its way along the Atlantic sea­board the last weekend of August but dropped several inches of rain in just a few hours in many places.

In Vermont, raging rivers washed out hundreds of roads and damaged dozens of bridges.

More than a dozen Vermont towns, including Plymouth, home to the Mennonite-affiliated Bethany Birches Camp, became virtual islands.

“We are in the midst of a disaster,” said Randy Good, pastor of Taftsville Chapel Mennonite Fellowship, on Sept. 1, after the storm had pased. “Close by, people have lost their homes and businesses. We are continuing to become aware of the magnitude of things, and as we do, it is getting worse.”

Good and Gwen Groff, pastor of Bethany Mennonite Church, accounted for all of their members, though some evacuated their homes. Both meetinghouses as well as Bethany Birches Camp sustained little damage.

More than 60 percent of the 450 miles of Vermont state roads that were closed have reopened, The Wall Street Journal reported Sept. 5.

Still, some roads remained closed. According to Google Crisis Response, parts of the main road that runs between the camp and the Bethany congregation were only open to authorized vehicles.

“Franconia Conference communities in?Vermont seem to be at the center of some of the most extensive damage,” said Stephen Kriss, director of communication for Franconia Mennonite Conference.

On Aug. 30, National Guard helicopters airlifted food, water and supplies to isolated towns, including Plymouth.The storm killed three people in Vermont and at least 55 total. Preliminary estimates put total losses along the East Coast at about $7 billion.

Brandon Bergey, executive director of Bethany Birches Camp, was using his motorcycle to get around.

He said most towns were setting up relief stations where people could get gas, food and water.

The local community, Bergey said, is drawing closer together.

“In a rural area like ours, it’s not always easy to connect with neighbors; now it’s easier,” he said.

“The destruction that will cost us a lot of work and discomfort — and for some, homes and most possessions — is helping us build relationships.”

Groff, pastor of the Bethany congregation, lives with her family in a parsonage next to the church. Though it sits along the Ottauquechee River, which overflowed its banks, the Groffs’ home received minimal damage.

Route 4, the main road between the Bethany and Taftsville congregations, will be closed for months, Good said.

“Some roadways that seemed passable have been found to have caves washed out underneath the roadway, and some have collapsed,” he said.

Dennis Bricker of Chambersburg, Pa., removes debris at Lennard DeWolfe’s home in Forkston, Pa. — Photo by Wilmer Martin

Six people from Franconia Conference congregations volunteered with MDS in Vermont Sept. 5-8. They removed debris and sorted through damaged buildings.

“The primary effort right now is simply getting wet materials out of homes,” said volunteer Ted Houser of Lancaster, Pa.

Houser noted the timeliness of their service: Mennonites worked on storm cleanup on Labor Day in Vermont, Pennsylvania and New York.

MDS executive director Kevin King said the organization is conducting assesments for long-term needs.?He said relief work in Vermont is “a challenge because of all the infrastructure that’s been destroyed.”

In other storm damage, the basement of New Beginnings Community Church of Bristol, Pa., a Franconia Conference congregation, flooded due to the recent storm.

Ertell Whigham, executive minister of Franconia Conference, said the church lost all of its educational resources, including computers.

Originally posted in Mennonite Weekly Review, September 1, 2011 and updated on September 6.  Reposted by permission.