At one point he turned the sanctuary into a mini golf course and used the baptismal tank as a water trap for the youth group.
One Sunday, Dale Edwards stood in a 600-gallon tank of water and sang—“As I went down to the river to pray…”
He was trying to convince a church audience of 150 that they should get baptized that Sunday.
"If you want to get baptized in your street clothes, I’ll baptize you right now,” Edwards, the former reverend of the First Baptist Church in Lebanon, told the them.
The keyboardist kept playing and Edwards kept singing the song from the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” He stood in the baptismal tank alone until people lined up in the center aisle and got baptized, one by one.
It was so moving, "There was not a dry eye left in left in church,” said Edwards. "It’s one of those moments where you say, wow, 'Christ is real.’”
The baptismal tank was in the center of the church, behind the altar. It was one of the artifacts lost in Dec. 29 after the church was allegedly set on fire. The tank is one of the artifacts that’s full of memories that church members can’t get back.
Edwards remembers the day he did all the baptisms in the late 1990s. It was a period of church growth and revival.
Dartmouth College students came to church, bringing coffee and “crazy hair,” said Karen Hill, the music director. "People talked about it sometimes as a church of refugees,” said Hill because people came from all different backgrounds.
In this church, Dartmouth College professors, people from other countries and cultures and people from other religions, sat side by side.
Edwards arrived at the church when he was 28 and stayed until he turned 53 in 2011. At one point he turned the sanctuary into a mini golf course and used the baptismal tank as a water trap for the youth group.
“There were a lot of good memories in the church,” said Hill.
Edwards still lives in Lebanon and is now the regional manager for the American First Baptist Churches of Vermont and New Hampshire.
"For us it was home,” said Edwards. “(The church) is just full of tremendously wonderful memories of ministry, life, worship and prayer,” said Edwards.
Edwards has been one of the leaders of the aftermath, offering comfort and counsel to church leaders.
“You grieve the building and the loss of the memories, but then you say, we’re Christians. God’s in control. It will be OK. We’ll be OK,” said Edwards.