Deep roots form a strong foundation for church

Wilton house of worship celebrating 200th anniversary

Courtesy photo The Good News Bible Church, 27 Hutchinson Road, Wilton, is celebrating its 200th anniversary.

The body of Christ is an extended family that helps each other weather the storms of life.

Over the last two centuries, through the stalwart commitment and dedication of our pastors, members and God’s grace, members of the Good News Bible Church have steadily forged our way forward since nearly closing our doors in the early 1960s.

We have rejoiced together as many gave their lives to the Lord and were baptized, and also through the simple times of fellowship and potluck dinners. We have sustained one another through tragic, unexpected deaths and all storms of life. Week after week, faithful elders, deacons and members have quietly served in the children’s, women’s and men’s ministries, in addition to other administrative positions. Such has been the lifeblood of the church for two millennia, loving God and loving others.

We would be remiss to not recognize the faithful ministry of siblings Forest and Florence (Keyes) Whitcomb, who were raised in the church and baptized in 1900. They faithfully continued meeting together even when there was no full-time pastor and little or no church growth. From 1934-62, the average attendance had only increased by seven people (from 15 to 22), and actually reaching a low of only five members at one point.

Florence’s son, Earl Keyes and his wife, Ivy, were an inspiration and role model to many, attending every time the doors were open and encouraging others to love one another and serve the Lord. Earl refused to let the church die, as many small congregations did when the region’s churches reached their low points around World War II.

A current, third-

generation and lifelong member of the church, Joanna (Hall) Norbu, looked up to Earl and Ivy Keyes through her childhood and youth. Their faithful Christian service, along with elders’ wives, Sue Hallowell and Deb Krook, were influential in Joanna’s decision to attend Bible school at Capernwray, Australia. As a young mother, Joanna continues the Keyes’ example of dedication and service to our church, and in bringing up her children to know the word of God and his love for them.

We have an impact on each other in so many ways, and can be such an encouragement to those around us and in the community, as well live out what God has done and continues to do in our lives.

With the arrival of Pastor Donald Magnuson and his wife, Carol, in the 1960s, church attendance began to increase. Over the years, we have been blessed with many excellent and devoted pastors, elders and deacons, and notably Bill (Harlan) Burns.

In 1988, while still a doctrinally Baptist church, our name was changed to Good News Bible Church, with the hope that its new name would reflect the fact that the good news was for everyone: that God loves and cares for all, and that Jesus Christ offers forgiveness and peace for everybody. Mark Creighton, the pastor at the time, said, “The good news of Jesus Christ is open to everyone.” (Cabinet, Aug. 24, 1988.)

By 2003, another major change was in store for our church. The expenses of updating and maintaining our 1827 sanctuary became unsustainable, and the decision was made to sell the building and relocate the church to a more visible and accessible location. A large industrial building was transformed into our present sanctuary and classrooms. The transition was under the leadership of Pastor Peter Vitello Jr. and elders Dale Hallowell and Darrell Krook, as well as plenty of sweat equity from the members. Doctrinally, we remained a conservative church with biblical roots, as denoted by our moto, “Preaching Christ with a heart for God and you!”

Since March 19, 2001, we have been blessed by the faithful service of Pastor Peter Vitello, who is now joined by his son, Pastor Jared Vitello, along with the committed support of our elders and many members.

Our weekly AWANA ministry was started by the Sandoval family and then followed by the Longval family. Elder Tom Lizotte and his wife, Cathy, also selflessly served us for many years, often opening their home for Bible studies and cookouts, and all during the process of adopting five children. Not to mention the many nursery, Sunday school and kitchen volunteers who lovingly have served along the way.

In recent years, teams from Good News have partnered with Tree of Hope – Haiti and built homes for homeless families affected by natural disasters in Grand-Goave. We have also funded well-drilling ministries in Africa, partnered with E3 ministries in mission trips to South Asia and South America, and supported Bible translation in Thailand. We also support long-term missionaries in Niger and the Philippines.

Today, we are so thankful for the heritage of our church family, and are excited about the future. Our current location at 27 Hutchinson Road, on the north side of Route 101, is just west of the Route 31 branch leading to Greenville. It boasts a highly visible sign, handicapped accessibility, plenty of parking, a playground and a full-size volleyball court.

At 9:30 a.m. every Sunday, we have biblically based and inspiring messages by Pastor Peter, and professional, quality, contemporary worship led by Pastor Jared. Every Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., we have something for the whole family: children’s ministry, D6 from toddler to teen (Deuteronomy 6:2-9), and Bible studies for adults.

If you are without a church home, please visit us. You are warmly invited to join us from 6-8 p.m. Friday, April 7, for an evening of celebration in honor of our 200th anniversary. Light refreshments will be served.

– Submitted by Good News Bible Church