By LISA CAPOBIANCO
If there is one word to describe the recent merger between Bristol Baptist Church and Wolcott Bible Community Church, it’s synergy.
The idea of merging began when Rev. Todd Williams was taking a detour through Bristol one day and stumbled upon a “for sale” sign in front of Bristol Baptist Church, located at 43 School St.
As Wolcott Bible was looking to relocate in a larger building located on a main road, joining both churches seemed to be the solution. At the same time, Bristol Baptist Church, now 225 years old, was becoming smaller, and could no longer afford to keep going, said long-time church member Ruth Boss.
“We [Wolcott Bible Church] had been looking to relocate our church for awhile now to find a place that’s on a more main road,” said Williams, who has been the pastor of Wolcott Bible Church for 10 years now. “It seemed to be a perfect fit.”
Starting last June, both churches began an informal merger for seven months. They called the experiment “synergy,” so that by coming together, both churches would be better together, said Williams.
“There were a lot of questions both congregations had,” said Williams. “We just jelled so well together, it was evident probably within the first month or two that we all really liked it.”
Brian Evelich, who has served as chairman of the deacon board at Wolcott Bible, said to describe the transition of the merge as “smooth” is an understatement, adding that Bristol Baptist opened its arms.
“It was very seamless,” said Evelich.
After the trial merger, both churches voted at the end of January to make the collaboration official. The merger also will result in a new name—one that both churches will share.
Established in 1960, Wolcott Bible Community Church began in a small stone church (which is now the senior center), and ultimately moved to the north end of Wolcott near Cedar Lake. Williams is the third generation pastor of the church, as his grandfather, Rev. Gerald Williams, was the founding pastor. After his retirement, Rev. Burton Williams (Todd’s father) became the pastor for over 30 years before he was a missionary to street children in the capital of the Philippine Islands, Manila.
“It’s cool to see what God started…and see how it keeps on growing and growing,” said Williams.
Since the merger, both congregations have seen positive changes. Both churches have now grown in size on Sunday mornings. Evelich added that since the merger, churchgoers who initially worshipped on an occasional basis are now popping in more regularly. Boss added that more young people have come to church, especially children, which brings a whole new level of energy and passion.
Williams said this kind of growth has added more energy on Sundays, especially with the church music.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Williams, adding how the merger also has resulted in more outreach in the community.
“We’ve had a bunch of people throw their hat in the mix,” said Evelich, adding how younger people have become more involved. “It seemed to energize both bodies to really do more.”
Looking ahead, Bristol Baptist Church hopes to delve deeper into missionary work, which is something that Wolcott Bible has embraced, said Boss. Evelich is the Connecticut state director of Child Evangelism Fellowship (C.E.F.), the largest children’s ministry worldwide that Wolcott Bible has a long history of working with and supporting. Other ministries that church members are involved in are Hope Pregnancy Center, Samaritan’s Purse, and Acts 4, which supports low income families and individuals in the greater Waterbury area through the collection and distribution of re-usable clothing and furniture. One church member partnered with Youth Assured Ministries and opened a drug rehabilitation house while teaching school in Monrovia.
In addition, the church has opened its building to six different groups and organizations, allowing them to use its meeting space.
Williams said their church is not about a denomination, but rather more about what Jesus taught and how he lived his life.
“We encourage [ministry work] by getting involved. We’re not just a church that supports missions, we’re a church that’s on a mission,” said Williams, adding that their church is very open. “We’re on a mission to proclaim the love of Jesus Christ to everybody…by our example, and to raise the character of our community.”
“We just want to be a reflection of the totality of who Jesus is in the community,” added Evelich.
By LISA CAPOBIANCO