On the afternoon of September 17, 1868, a little band of Baptist believers met in the old Town Hall of Vergennes --since destroyed by fire. There they organized “The First Baptist Church of Vergennes.” This church grew numerically and financially to the point that they were able to build a large church building. The church existed for a total of sixty-one years. The church disbanded and gave the building to the Vergennes Graded School District to be used as a community house. However, the building burned to the ground on a bitter cold night, January 29, 1934. This left the City of Vergennes without a Baptist presence.
Almost one hundred years after the beginning of The First Baptist Church of Vergennes, with the help of some local people who were traveling to First Baptist Church in Shelburne, Brother Gault held the first service of Vergennes Baptist Church on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1969. This service was held in the Bixby Memorial Library on Main Street in Vergennes. The theme of the church at that time was “The Church with a Heart In the Heart of Vergennes.”
With four years of hard work and God’s blessings, on February 2, 1973, the Vergennes Baptist Church was officially organized. They met with five objectives:
Constitute ourselves as a Church.
Examine and expect the proposed Constitution, By-Laws, and Statement of Faith.
Nominate qualified men as the church’s first deacons.
Extend a call to Brother Gault to be the first pastor.
Declare ourselves a religious, non-profit corporation.
The signing of this organizational charter meant you were a member of this fledgling church, and those who signed did so with joy and commitment.
In time, the church needed their own space and rented the school house in Panton. Much time and effort was invested, and the little building served the church well until more space was needed. There was even a steeple and bell put up to give that country-church feeling to the building. The bell is now part of our present facility.
The next move for the Vergennes Baptist Church was the Chapel building of the current Job Corp Facility. The church had a very successful bus ministry at this time and still today there are families in the church who were touched by this ministry.
Word was out that the Christian Reform Church was going to stop leasing the Community Building in Ferrisburgh. The building was right on Route 7 and had already been used successfully to get a church started. The opportunity was taken and the building was procured for Vergennes Baptist Church. A problem with the name of the church was obvious, so they changed its name to “The Ferrisburgh-Vergennes Baptist Church.” While using this historic building for worship, two other events of interest occurred. In December of 1977, Pastor Gault resigned and recommended Roger Gaboriault to the church as the new pastor. Brother Roger was currently a member of the church and had been trained by Pastor Gault. Also, the church changed its name once again, this time to Victory Baptist Church. What a great name for a church that was rejoicing in past victories and looking for many to come.
The Victory Baptist Church soon tired of investing its tithes and offerings into other people’s property and decided to find a facility that they could call their own. This was found at the top of Woodman Hill. They purchased the old antique shop that had been used for everything from a restaurant to a blacksmith’s shop. It was now going to become the home of Victory Baptist Church. With limited funds but a lot of hard work, the transformation was made and many souls came to know Christ in that building. During the use of that building some other changes came to the church: a Christian school was started, and in October of 1984, Brother Roger resigned as pastor, and soon another new pastor came to Victory Baptist. His name was Rev. Norman Frink. Brother Frink stayed with the church for six months and on July 7, 1985, he resigned. At that time, he recommend that the church hear a young man from Londonderry, New Hampshire, as a possible pastor. By July 17, 1985, Brother Jon Rettig was voted in as the new pastor. During this time the Christian school was closed and Brother Rettig impressed on the congregation the futility of trying to maintain a building that was coming apart as fast as it was being repaired. The property was put up for sale in hopes of a profit large enough to buy land and build a new church building. Pastor Rettig resigned in the spring of 1988.
Victory Baptist sought God’s will through the summer of 1988. In August of that summer, Rev. Tim Taylor, who was currently pastoring in Kansas, was called to be the pastor of the church. Soon after his arrival, it was apparent that the building could not be sold for enough profit to build again. The building was taken off the market and the Lord revealed to the church a new plan. On August 3-4, 1990, there would be a church raising with approximately 100 men and women from as far away as South Carolina. With the old building partially torn down and part of it totally rebuilt, along with a 36 by 86 addition, Victory Baptist Church would have a beautiful facility they could call their own. With the church raising, which got the frame up, and with the continued hard work of the members of the church, by Easter of 1991, the church was able to occupy the new sanctuary. It was not long before the church family gave a special offering and filled the sanctuary with beautiful new pews.
Victory Baptist enjoyed some good times in that building with many folks being added. As God gave the increase, the congregation began once again to seriously outgrow their 150 seat facility. They found it necessary to go to a two-service Sunday morning format to accommodate the size of the congregation until they could build a 300-400 hundred seat sanctuary. This time, the church folks did not do all of the work themselves, but were able to hire Morton Building to get the frame up. The members did do most of the finish work themselves, and once again on Easter Sunday, 2000, they moved into their new sanctuary.
God has richly blessed throughout the years. Along with the growth of the congregation, as folks received Christ and were baptized, other ministries of Victory Baptist flourished. Camp Sonlight has grown to its capacity of about 250 folks each summer. This includes 180 or so campers and 60-70 volunteers each year. The Ark Preschool/Kindergarten is at capacity as well, and is a great outreach into our community. The AWANA program, on Wednesday evenings, has proven to be a rich asset for the overall ministry of Victory Baptist.
In addition to these ministries, the reach of Victory has gone “global” in its missions trips from the Navajo Nation to Romania. There will be more to come. The missions family has grown to include many missionaries and church planters as well as national pastors in Nigeria and the Philippines.
As Victory Baptist celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, there is an air of excitement. More people are coming to Christ and following in baptism as they join the church. It is an exciting time with people working together each week with anticipation to see what God has in store for this year…and the years to come.