MBC 60th Anniversary: “Part of a Bigger Whole”

Recently, my husband Tom had a chance to connect with extended family members he had never met at his uncle’s funeral in central Minnesota.  He’s always had a longing to know his roots and to know more about his family’s background.  Meeting cousins and other relatives for the first time at his uncle’s funeral gave him a strong sense of belonging, of being a part of a bigger whole.

Reading through the history of our church gave me a strong sense of connection to “family” I had never met but who were a big part of who we are now as a church.  I see the continuity of our faith community and the ongoing vision of honoring and serving God, mostly in the day-to-day living out of normal life which is where the majority of our Christian walk takes place.

The part of church history I investigated this month was the 1980’s and 1990’s.  Let’s take a look back at some of the highlights and what was going on in the life of the church…  In 1981, Good News meetings by Bob Laurent of the Good News Circle challenged Christians to be “real’ and to help change the lives of others by speaking out for Jesus.  Fran Flint was a frequent contributor to the letters to the editor in the Fond du Lac Reporter, speaking up about the rights of the mentally ill and other justice related issues.  He also helped start the Franklin and Lincoln Houses, residential living facilities for the elderly and mentally ill, that some of us still do vespers services at today.  Rosemary and Merritt Helmer celebrated their 20th wedding anniversary while Russ and Muriel Wagner, many years their senior, were just getting married.

Pastor Bill Cornelius, long-time pastor, got called to a new position as Minister of Education for ABC of Wisconsin.  Pastor Bill and his wife, Harriet, still stayed very involved at Memorial and Bill, along with Pastor Glenn Davidson, chaplain and counselor at the Health Care Center, helped start Alcoholism Intervention Project, which helps educate the public about alcoholism, provides interventions for many alcoholics to get the help they need, and offers support to families of alcoholics.  Pastor Ernest Shipe was called as the new pastor for Memorial.  At that time, Memorial was known as the church with the “Dial-a-Devotion” telephone line.

In the late 1980’s, Steve Cornelius was called as the new pastor at Memorial in the footsteps of his father and the church entertained a proposal to build a new addition onto the building.  In the early 1990’s, as the expansion of the building is underway, the church office and the pastor’s study were located in a trailer in the church parking lot.  The CARE ministry team was initiated by the Diaconate to communicate in a systematic way our caring for all people in the church family.  Youth directors were hired and Pearl and Al Mertens got married.  In 1994, Pastor Bill Cornelius died at age 67.  A dedication service took place for the new addition which includes a new fellowship room, upstairs handicapped restrooms, a grade level entrance, new nursery, youth room, and office space.

In 1995, Memorial Baptist turned 40 years old and a celebration was held.  In 1996, Lucille Balson resigned as church historian at age 87 after 40 years of service.  She stated, “This is not a history of memberships, births, baptisms and so forth; that is the job of another officer.  This is a history of people doing things, not only as part of our church, but as part of our community of believers in the city of Fond du Lac and beyond.”

In 1999, Pastor Brian and Gabrielle Hastings started serving at MBC and were welcomed at an all-church picnic.  Pastor Brian’s dream at that time for MBC: “God is calling each one of us.  God has given us a special place in His kingdom.  My hope for the church is that it will be a place where people can come and find out where their place is.”

And so goes the snapshot into the history of MBC up until 1999 when the scrapbooks by Lucille Balson end.

We didn’t come on the scene of MBC until 2008.  I’m sure there were many important and everyday events that happened during that nine year interim.  I have enjoyed reviewing the history of MBC since its beginning in 1955.  It’s been interesting to see the continuation of family connections since the beginning and to see others join in for a time in the journey.  I appreciate the faithfulness of long-time members keeping everything going in service to God and to this church.

Now as we wrap up our 60 year anniversary celebration, I have mixed feelings.  Sad that my glance into the history is ending but also excited about looking forward to being involved in the living, breathing organism of Christ’s body, the local church here at MBC.  We are the current history being made as we live out our faith, taking steps day by day in the business of being the hands and face of Jesus in our worlds.  As I consider the “great cloud of witnesses” that have gone before, I feel inspired to continue in the tradition that has gone before me.  I have a sense of belonging and of being a part of a bigger whole.

Kathy Bonde