New Church Opens Doors on Easter
Former Clifford HQ Finds New Role
On Labor Day 2015, members of the East Randolph Baptist Church and their pastor, Marty Bascom, “started a journey,” as Bascom puts it.
That was the day that the 44-year-old pastor and several church elders visited a 12,000-square-foot, well-built structure on Route 107 in Royalton. The two-level building, formerly the home of Clifford of Vermont, was vacant, and had been so, for the most part, for several years. With its ready access to I-89, a substantial parking lot, landscaped grounds, and even a sanctuary-sized room ringed with windows, the building had the potential to become a new church—a “regional church,” Bascom said, that could seat 150-200 people.
At the time, the East Randolph church—regularly attended by about 100 and growing—was running out of space. Options for adding onto the 200-year-old building were limited.
So, after six months of discussion, Bascom and his congregation agreed to take a giant step into the unknown. They decided not only to buy the $550,000 building, but to operate it as a second church, continuing to maintain services and programs in East Randolph.
“It was scary,” Bascom conceded, in an interview at the new church last week. “It was really a step of faith.”
Since the commitment to buy the property was made last March, the project has been buoyed by an outpouring of support. Thanks to an extraordinary fundraising effort, which drew donations not only from outside Vermont, but outside of the U.S., the last payment for the building was made a few weeks ago.
The new church, called the Cornerstone Church, holds its inaugural service this Sunday, Easter Sunday, at 11 a.m.
About 40 members of the East Randolph Baptist Church are shifting over to anchor the new church, while Bascom and a small number of elders will do “double duty,” to staff both locations. Bascom, his wife, and their four children will continue to live in the church parsonage in East Randolph.
“I told my kids they wouldn’t have to listen to the service two times,” Bascom said, with one of his ready laughs. To make the logistics work, services in East Randolph will be held earlier, at 8:30 a.m., and followed by “Sunday school Bible study for all ages.” That gives the dual-duty team time to get to the Cornerstone Church in time for the 11 a.m. service.
Square-shouldered, bearded, and ready to talk and laugh, Bascom is positive in a plainspoken way. Last week, he wore an open-collared shirt, jeans, and hiking boots. He’d upgrade to khakis on Sunday, he said, but wears no robe.
Bascom, who grew up in Springfield, moved as a young man to Somerset, Ky., where he became “part of a big church there.”
About 16 years ago, he said, he read a USA Today article about “unchurched America,” and found that his home state topped the unchurched chart.
“I said to myself, ‘Maybe it’s time for me to go home and be part of what God is doing in Vermont,’” he recalled.
Fifteen years ago last summer, Bascom moved to East Randolph to pastor the Baptist church there.
The establishment of a second church this year, Bascom said, is not about personal ambitions, as he put it, of starting “a dynasty” here. Rather, he said, he wants his stronger and growing churches to support other established—but perhaps shrinking—churches, and the wider community, as well.
Nor does Bascom believe that the new church be in competition with local churches for attendees. He anticipates that the proximity to Exit 3 of I-89 will make this a regional church. And, he pointed out, Vermont has no shortage of folks without a church affiliation.
Since the Cornerstone Church came equipped with a big generator and bathrooms with showers, Bascom anticipates making the building available as an emergency shelter for the community.
Bascom believes, he said, that both the East Randolph Church— now suddenly down 40 members— and the new church will grow.
He could be right.
In order to prepare for the Easter Sunday “launch” of the new church, Bascom and the 40 new members held 11 a.m. services at Cornerstone for a few Sundays in advance of Easter, without making any official announcement of that plan.
Attendance at the April 2 service, he noted, filled close to half of the 150 folding chairs set up in the new sanctuary.
That sanctuary space, once divided into cubicles for Clifford of Vermont (and then Vermont Power and Tel) sales staff, is now wide open. It is a bright and open space, with one drawback. With its shape and acoustical tiles designed to have a “dead” sound, microphones—and a pastor who can project—will be required.
(This first appeared in the Herald of Randolph April 13,2017)