Our History – Chapter VI: Onward and Upward (1996-2002)

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Much that happened in these next years was a result of the church taking a focused look at its purpose. Gloucester Point has come to view its calling as centering around two verses of scripture: the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) and the Great Commandment (Mark 12:29-31). As Rick Warren has said, “A great commitment to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment will produce a great church.” The church has increasingly seen its mission as: “go and make disciples”, while at the same time continuing to love the Lord and our neighbors.

In 1996 Sunday School Director Nancy Wilburn initiated Sunday breakfasts. This monthly event has done much to promote fellowship between Sunday School classes and continues today under Linda Mitchell’s leadership.

Gloucester Point Baptist’s emphasis on missions began a new chapter in 1997 when the church began participating in the “Impact Virginia” summer missions program. That year we sent a team of adults and youth to Fredericksburg to help repair and modify homes of the poor and disabled. This “hands on” effort proved so exciting to the participants that the church sent teams year after year, first to Bluefield (two summers), then to South Boston (2001), and Culpepper (2002). These work trips also provided opportunities for youth worship, fellowship and Bible study.

The year 1997 saw the addition of a new ministry in our church: a Drama Team. Under the leadership of Frank Mummert, this program proved to be an effective and creative outreach to our community. The Christmas productions, such as “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” in 1997, and “Scrooge Revisited” in 1998, which combined the talents of the music and drama ministries, were particularly inspiring and added greatly to our worship during the advent season. Complementing these productions was the purchase of a new sound system and theater-style lighting. The sound booth was moved into the sanctuary at this time.

In the summer of 1998, the church joined with other Virginia Baptist churches in a long-term disciple making training process. This three-year effort provided church training and coaching in how to encourage people to become growing and witnessing disciples of Jesus Christ. This plan challenged the church to view discipleship not simply as another program among many, but rather as the central thrust of a church’s ministry, with everything else flowing from this discipleship core. In the spring of 1999 a small group, led by Pastor Mike, was started to begin training leaders for future disciple making. These ten individuals studied together for a year. Linda Mitchell went on to become Sunday School Director; Bob Branen joined state Baptist construction teams; Linda Breaks led neighborhood Bible Studies for several years following this discipleship training.

Focusing on evangelism, our Children’s Ministry started a new Wednesday night curriculum in June, 1999, called “Team-Kids”. Baptist adults taught Bible and teamwork to the youngsters through games, drills, and sports. Several baptisms were a direct result of this outreach.

Another unique venture began in 1999. Gloucester Point Baptist started teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) to Asian students attending William and Mary College at VIMS. Kay Riley and Harry Wang taught five to ten students weekly. The group fluctuated each semester. Several students attended our worship services. After three years, this program was discontinued because of college-perceived church/state issues.

Our new building certainly provided welcome space for many church activities. Children’s Wednesday evening “Team-Kids” had plenty of room for their games and re-freshments. Preschool classes now had large pleasant rooms built expressly for young children. They also had ample play areas for inclement weather. Director Rachel Wells guided Weekday Preschool in its new setting for six and one half years.

Baptists are known for celebrating with food, and Gloucester Point is no exception. Our new Fellowship Hall and kitchen made such a difference! Our summer Ice Cream Social following Joint Worship Service, a much anticipated annual event for local Baptists, now had plenty of space for eating and Christian fellowship. We really enjoyed our monthly family night suppers in comfort. But attendance at these Wednesday night meals began to drop off. It was thought that busy families had difficulty preparing a complete meal midweek to bring to church. So in the year 2000, the Hospitality Committee proposed supplying the main dish for these meals themselves, asking the congregation to bring the side dishes and desserts. The church budget accommodated the expense and this plan has worked well. Our church meals have been well attended and the fellowship and food superb!

In 2001, New Member Recognition was combined with a Thanksgiving Dinner, held on Sunday noon before Thanks-giving. A Christmas Dinner was also initiated to follow our Christmas Cantata worship service. Both of these meals have become annual traditions. The Hospitality Committee also hosts numerous receptions throughout the year to honor guest speakers, staff and performing groups. These food-related functions are an effective means for uniting the congregation. Special thanks goes to our hardworking Hospitality Committee and in particular to the committed Ashe family: Catherine, Paulette, Melissa, and Tommy.

Our music staff has seen new faces this 21st century. In spring 2000, Lucy Wilkins resigned as Music Minister to enter fulltime employment at Colonial Williamsburg. The church hired Tara Jackson, a third year Christopher Newport University student majoring in music, to replace her. Tara had grown up in Gloucester Point Baptist so the adjustment was relatively easy for everyone. At the same time, the church hired a new pianist, Robin Stortz, who worked well with Tara and Barbara Stevens, organist. Robin stepped into her job, delighted to find a new grand piano (Yamaha) in the sanctuary; it was purchased by the congregation in March, 1999.

Tara Jackson Harris resigned in October 2001 to have a baby. Our current Minister of Music is Margaret Sarratori. She came to us in 2001 as Margaret Galloway. A high point for Gloucester Point Baptist was celebrating her marriage to Frank Sarratori October 2006. Margaret has a solid background of choir and soloist work as well as a rich Christian heritage.

The year 2002 challenged us with more staff changes. Sandra Brewer, longtime church secretary, retired in April after twenty years of exemplary service. She was valued highly for her Christian love and sterling character as well as her reliability. Our next secretary, Judy Jenkins, came to an office modernized for her with computer, printer, and new air conditioner.

During this period our church helped to finance several missionaries from within the fold. Summer 2001 God called Brian Wilkins to Bosnia and Linda Mitchell to China, both to teach English. Summer 2002 found Sarah Thompson in Jamaica and Ben Wilkins in Austria on group mission trips.

The Reverend Doctor J. Michael Wilkins resigned in June of 2002 to accept a call to pastor Manley Baptist Church in Lexington, Virginia. Pastor Wilkins had served at Gloucester Point for eight and one half years. He earned his doctorate during that time and his three children, Brian, Ben, and Beth, grew up in our church. Mike and Lucy served together as a staff team for four of those years. Pastor Wilkins will be remembered as a gifted worship leader. He consistently melded the elements of the worship service into a meaningful whole. Special occasions such as the annual Maundy Thursday service were especially memorable experiences for all participants.

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