Historic Replant Makes Community Connections

Last Saturday more than 300 people made their way to Legacy Church at First Baptist Church Sutton (MA) and warmed up with a drink at the hot chocolate bar or enjoyed complimentary sandwiches and baked goods during the Sutton Chain of Lights.

History of Community Involvement

Legacy Church at FBC Sutton is the fourth oldest Baptist church in Massachusetts and has roots dating back to 1735. But in recent years the congregation has dwindled to only twelve members.

The church had a history of opening their building up to the community, but when that cooperation ceased, some neighbors developed negative feelings toward the church. Don McKinnon began serving as a “replanter” – a pastor who intentionally leads a dying church toward revitalization – in the summer of 2017. With a new focus on reaching out to the community, opening up the church building as a resource for the town made sense.

“Part of the [revitalization] strategy is to reestablish those bridges with the town,” McKinnon said. “Showing the love of Christ in tangible ways – that’s what starts those Gospel conversations.”

Joining the Town’s Celebration

One of the ways Legacy Church is trying to build bridges is through participation in community events like Chain of Lights, an annual town-wide Christmas celebration that takes place throughout Sutton on the first Saturday in December.

A handful of women in the church began meeting several months ago to plan the outreach. The church was joined by two mission teams – New Salem Baptist Church from Missouri and Sixth Street Baptist Church from Kansas – for the actual event.

“The mission teams worked tirelessly. They were a big help to us,” McKinnon said.

The extra volunteers helped make the church a memorable stop on the Chain of Lights. In addition to the hot chocolate bar, sandwiches and baked goods (the only free snacks in the entire town), Legacy Church at FBC Sutton presented two Christmas concerts featuring traditional carols and the Gospel story in the church sanctuary. Volunteers sold handmade items, with proceeds going to help with church renovations. The church also had a craft table for children and held a raffle where they gave away several gift baskets.

Part of the [revitalization] strategy is to reestablish those bridges with the town. Showing the love of Christ in tangible ways – that’s what starts those Gospel conversations.
— Pastor Don McKinnon

The response was incredible. Volunteers handed out invitations inviting the 300+ visitors to an upcoming church outreach and Christmas Eve service, as well as 37 pocket Gospels of John.

But best of all were the conversations. One person made a decision to follow Christ after talking with a member of one of the mission teams, and at least 15 people mentioned that they were looking for a church. Many community members were surprised to discover that the church is still open and pleased to see the congregation’s involvement in the community.

McKinnon hopes to continue making more connections and finding more opportunities to share the love of Christ.

“Something new is happening in someplace old,” he said.

 Kimber Huff serves as the communications coordinator at the Baptist Convention of New England.