by Steve McCloskey, pastor, Taftsville Chapel
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?
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.
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 Guntz
- 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.