The Baptist Convention of New England installed Russ Rathier in a new position, regional coordinator of BCNE Vermont, on Sept. 22 during a service at Cornerstone Church in Bethel, Vt. The program was followed by a dessert fellowship.
“A season of mentoring young pastors, churches partnering together and every town evangelized is the vision God has placed on my heart for Vermont,” Rathier said. “It is truly a humbling experience to be a part of God building His Kingdom here and now.”
Rathier is a native New Englander and has pastored Washington Baptist Church in Washington, Vt., since 2011. His background includes working as Vermont State Coordinator for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and serving in senior enlisted leadership roles during his 20-year career in the Navy, an experience that gave him a knowledge of team-building strategy and a passion for bringing people together.
The creation of the BCNE Vermont coordinator position is part of a larger initiative, Uniting New England Baptists, in which several state associations have chosen to merge organizationally with the BCNE. The initiative has been a two-year cooperative effort of BCNE executive director, Dr. Terry Dorsett, and local directors of missions, with the goal of making Baptist ministry in New England more efficient by eliminating unnecessary duplication and redirecting mission dollars from administrative costs to ministry. Three of seven New England associations have successfully merged, and a fourth association is voting on the possibility of a merge at their annual meeting later this month.
Rathier was chosen to lead BCNE Vermont by Dorsett and a search committee made up of BCNE board members from Vermont. The committee met in person and via video conference over a period of months, examining resumes from around New England and from other parts of the country. Through prayer, the committee came to a unified decision to appoint Rathier.
“Russ has a deep love for Vermont and an even deeper love for Christ,” Dorsett said. “He demonstrates that love by being on mission himself and by encouraging others to be on mission, too. He is the right man for the hour to take Vermont Baptists to the next level in their Kingdom service.”
BCNE Vermont consists of 43 churches, with a total membership of 3,516 and worship attendance of 3,520. Last year, Vermont churches reported 285 baptisms, for an average of one baptism for every 12 church members. Long considered one of the least-evangelized states in the U.S., the number of Southern Baptists in Vermont is growing at about five times the national SBC average of one baptism for every 60 church members.
Kimber Huff is the communications coordinator at the Baptist Convention of New England.