By Keith Clayton
Vermont is a very dark area of the world in terms of the gospel and the truth about the church being very widely known. Vermont is largely a rural area. There are only approximately 500,000 people ,in the entire state. Until the 1960 census, cows out-numbered people and it was not until the 1970 census that people finally surpassed chickens in total population. Unfortunately, the average non-Christian has heard about as much about the church as the chickens and cows. Let me explain. Maybe it is my youth in Christ that causes me to expect too much too soon. I apologize if this article sounds like a testimonial or if it appears that I think these problems are unique to Vermont. I am just trying to portray, as accurately as I can, the state of the Lord’s church in Vermont, and a little bit of what the work is like here.
Of the seven or eight congregations I know about in this tiny state, there is only one sound congregation that I know of. That one happens to be the one I worship with regularly, Milton. The fact that this faithful congregation of the Lord’s children has remained strong in the face of the issues is incredible in itself. Brothers Gene Dumas and Gordon Gaynon have had a great deal to do with it. We have no “located” preacher, so these two men have done a commendable work here for the Lord. Unlike some other congregations in the state, we do not take contributions from other congregations. We are a small and struggling congregation financially. We are in the process of buying some land and building a structure to worship in. We are now meeting in the school at an exorbitant rental fee. Our treasury registers nearly zero for a sum total, except for the land that we now hold full title to. Back to the cows and chickens for a minute. Such ignorance is not the situation in Milton. The people of the community that will listen are being reached slowly but surely. We only wish there were made available to us a full time personal worker to expedite the work.
The rest of Vermont is quite a different story. The erring brethren from the other congregations may as well have been teaching the livestock of Vermont’s farms for the amount of truth they have been teaching in regards to the churches’ responsibilities. I have talked with some new converts in these congregations. Here is a very partial list of some of the things these babes in Christ have been taught that are good, wholesome, and necessary (scriptural) for the church to participate in: (1) Potluck suppers in the church building. (2) The Herald of Truth is a part of the gospel itself. (3) If a certain congregation of the Lord’s people do not support human institutions with the Lord’s money, the members of that congregation are “anti-Christs.” (4) Smoking is not a sin. (5) Television is a sin. In talking with one of these erring brothers, he said he thought the problem went much deeper than the issues, and I agreed with him. The problem, I told him, was a general decline in respect for the authority of God’s word and a lack of knowledge of it by a great number of people. He would not agree, but he would not say what he thought the problem was either. I think you can gather from some of the attitudes and teaching that it is no wonder the cows and chickens are in the running as far as a genuine knowledge of God’s word. It is rather hard at times to tell the liberal churches in Vermont, and elsewhere, from a social club or worldly denomination. It would not be quite so bad if some of these imported “Herald of Truthers” would stay where they belong. (Wherever that is!) For example, we have had, in the past, permission to use the baptistry of a near-by congregation. A young lady wanted to obey the gospel one evening, so we went to this congregation’s building. Unfortunately, they were having a gospel meeting and a preacher from Arab, Alabama was there. This guest preacher and a single member, who knows nothing about the issues, but knows that “anti’s” are “antiChrists,” tried to block this young lady from being baptized into Christ. After they had created a scene, the men of the two congregations got together to hash it out. And “hash” it was. The men of Milton listened, without interrupting, to a 45 minute monologue from the Arab, Alabama visitor that sounded like something out of a book entitled, “How to Persuade People Without Telling the Truth” (fictional title, mine). In the final analysis it came down to either we accepted the unscriptural practices of the church supporting human institutions or stay out of the building and especially the baptistry. Suffice it to say the men of Milton offered to study the issues out of God’s word with them, of course, as usual that was out of the question. (They could not do that without their debaters present.)
Back to the work in Milton. The Lord has blessed the efforts of the saints in Milton many times. Evangelists such as Jay Guyer, Ralph Smart, Tom Moody, and Kent Persall have been a great help to the brethren in Milton. It was with the help of these dedicated people that the church in Milton has grown. Just a short time ago, the church in Milton consisted of Brother Gene Dumas and his wife around their kitchen table. Today the congregation’s number is up to around 35 souls. By the way, that is our attendance figure Wednesday and Lord’s day, if we do not have any visitors. We just finished a gospel meeting July 28th. Brothers Kent Persall and Tom Moody from Alabama did an excellent job in working with us. We have been averaging two or three baptisms per meeting. In some cases the meeting only played a minor part in the conversions, but none the less contributed. In closing, if there are preachers (mainly personal workers) looking for a hard but rewarding work, and you can bring support with you, come to Milton, Vermont. You do not need passports to get to this mission field.
Truth Magazine, XX:8, p. 5-6
February 12, 1976