The 150th anniversary observance was a memorable occasion, a stimulus to the ongoing work. The youth group was active, led by Anne Lee and Charles Ellis.
We aim to be a family church in terms of spiritual love, as well as a caring church. In 1973, because we felt it was the Lord’s leading, we raised over $3000 for folks needing a hospital in Managua, an earthquake-stricken country. That year, too, we were able to send our pastor to the American Baptist National Convention in Lincoln, Nebraska. Mike Miller, a student at MIT active in Campus Crusade, was our youth leader and had both junior and senior high groups going, each with its own approach -- a balance of serious Bible study and recreational activities. A 16 mm sound motion picture projector was among the major acquisitions of the church. The Sunday School initiated an “adopt a grandparent” program with the residents of Shady Glade Rest Home in Ayer, and the tradition of giving Bibles to those finishing grade 3 continued as did the practice of giving New Testaments to high school graduates. The newly-established educational training fund made it possible for Sunday School staff people to attend relevant conferences and workshops, as it still does.
Mike Miller served as youth leader for a second year, sharing in the worship services and teaching the high school class, as well as leading the youth group. A former pastor returned for a visit in June of 1974. To mark the occasion of his 40th anniversary in the ministry, the Rev. Ellis J. Holt, who was ordained in this church in 1934, was our guest preacher. Mrs. Holt, who had been the church organist, was guest organist on that day. A revitalization of the Bible study class was noted at this time. For many years, this weekday morning Bible study, led by the Rev. John T. Griffin, averaged 18 in attendance.
In the summer of 1975, we were able to offer an outstanding Vacation Bible School to the youngsters of the community. The “Red Berets,” a youth group from Pennsylvania, stayed with us for the week and provided the entire program.
Larry Smith came to us as our youth minister in the fall. Popular with all, he, too, took part in the regular worship service. This was his last year at Andover Newton, and he worked with us until his ordination in May of 1976.
A Board of Christian Education concern was to actively teach the Sunday School children to do for others. Rather than receiving gifts at the church Christmas party, they began to bring gifts for the handicapped children at Montrath of Groton, a tradition that is perpetuated, as is the custom of inviting our Shady Glade friends to all family night suppers. The Sunday School is a training part of our church life, developing future Christian leaders. The students and staff conduct impressive morning services at Christmas and on Children’s Day.
With love and the hard work and dedication of Ruth Long, the Carrie Lee McInnis Memorial Library was founded in 1976. One classroom was converted and its well-stocked bookshelves make good reading available to all. The library’s statement of purpose reads, in part:
“The church resource library of the First Baptist Church of Littleton, Massachusetts, heretofore named the Carrie Lee McInnis Memorial Library, under the auspices of the Board of Christian Education, was organized on January 14, 1976, for the purpose of providing books and materials to help members of our church fellowship to develop their Christian faith and fulfill their personhood as children of God.”
In April of 1976, the women led the church family in observing the Bicentennial year of our country, with Alice Brown and Audry Smiley speaking as voices of the past and present in the “Litany of Dependence.” Many wore colonial costumes.
Because of its convenient location, this church has been used several times by the Rev. Veronica Lanier, field director of Christian Education for The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts (TABCOM), for orientation meetings for her cross-country bus tours for New England youth. The participants make the church their home for a weekend, developing programs to be presented from coast to coast. It has been our privilege to preview these original productions. Because of this country’s 200th birthday, their 1976 excursion was a “Faith and Freedom Tour.”
We again ran an open-to-the-community Vacation Bible School, directed by a TABCOM-provided college student, Peggy Morehead. In his comments for this church year, Pastor Griffin observed that “Summer union services with the Congregational Church have now become a tradition.” A major project for the fall was a complete review and update of the church bylaws, with Thelma Griffin chairing the committee.
On December 5, in the High School auditorium, the Littleton Council of Churches presented a bicentennial pageant on the religious history of our town. Alice Brown was a prime mover of this event, as was our pastor, and several of our members took part. The delightful presentation ended with “Another year is dawning, Dear Father let it be, In working and in waiting, Another year with Thee.” The Baptists assumed the responsibility for the social hour which followed.
Chuck Johnson, a Gordon student, was our youth leader in 1976-77. He is perhaps best remembered for his colorful children’s stories during morning worship and for his return the following year to show slides of his trip to the Holy Land, narrating in his special dynamic style.
In the fall of 1977, Rev. Griffin announced his retirement, having served us for a little over fourteen years, the longest pastorate in the history of this church. His resignation was regretfully accepted, and, at our request, he agreed to serve until after the Christmas season. The Advisory Council recommended, and the membership elected, a list of persons to serve as a Pulpit Committee. Audrey Smiley chaired this committee.
Since our pastor was leaving, so also would be our organist and choir director of many years, Thelma Griffin. The Music Committee then had the task of finding a replacement and secured the services of Bernice Thompson of Harvard, Massachusetts. Mrs. Griffin had also done the church secretarial work, cutting the stencils for the weekly bulletins, “The Compass” (our newsletter), and the annual reports. The church clerk, Lynda Fisher, assumed this responsibility. George Owens became the teacher of the Sunday morning adult Bible study, which had been Mr. Griffin’s class.
In December of 1977, Rev. Griffin celebrated his 30th anniversary in the ministry, and this was recognized at a special coffee hour. On January 1, 1978, a farewell party in honor of the Griffins was held in the vestry, with many attending from the community, including the pastors of the other churches.
The year 1978 was devoted to the search for a pastor, while keeping on with all areas of the work of the church. For eight months, the Rev. Robert G. Robertson served capably as interim, with several others supplying the pulpit as needed. At the invitation of Grace and Lyman Chase, the Board of Christian Education and the Sunday School staff closed the year with a much-enjoyed June weekend retreat at Little Sebago Lake in Maine, an event that was to be repeated annually for several years. That summer we were again blessed with a successful VBS, directed by a local resident, Betsy Borda. The Rev. William Beldan, just called by the Congregational Church, gave the message at the parents’ night program as his first function in Littleton.
At a get-acquainted dinner in November, we met the Rev. Kenneth C. Whitt and his wife, Carol. He was the candidate selected by the Pulpit Committee for our consideration, and after hearing him preach, the membership voted to call him.
Rev. Whitt began his ministry with us in January of 1979 and was installed in an impressive service on the 21st of that month. We immediately turned our attention to refurbishing the basement area of the Christian Education wing to make it more functional. The pastor decided to use the study on that level as his office, and the nursery was redecorated and refurnished, and a toddlers’ room was added. The largest room was made into a lounge, suitable for small meetings. Another room became the office where all church printing and mailing is done by one paid staff person and several volunteers. The remaining room is a resource center.
On the vestry level, a toilet accessible to the handicapped was installed. To preserve the outside of the church building, vinyl siding was applied, except on the corner pillars, which remain to keep the character of this beautiful old building. Ongoing parsonage upkeep has been provided, all under the diligent supervision of the Trustees. A public address system was installed in the sanctuary, a memorial gift from Rose Wood in honor of her husband, George. A tape recorder was purchased with funds given in memory of Sarah Bell and Danny Philbrick.
A new monthly newsletter, “The Good News-letter,” was started in April with Carolyn Webster as editor and Carol Whitt contributing her talents as art editor. Once again an organist was needed, and Ted Athorn returned to serve in that capacity as he had years before. In memory of his wife, Marion, he gave the church an electric organ that is enjoyed at special services. An organ fund has been started for the renovation or eventual replacement of our pipe organ.
With the pastor and his wife and other dedicated people as advisors, the youth have become energetically involved in terms of projects, programs, and trips, and have increased in numbers. At a moving service in April, four of our young people were Baptized: Laurie Fisher, Karen and Steve Mongelli, and Lyle Webster.
Our 1979 VBS was led by “His Power and Light Company,” a youth group from Michigan. In the fall, the worship and church schedule was changed, experimentally at first. The new hours were: adult Bible study at 9 a.m., worship at 10 a.m., a 15-minute coffee time, and Sunday School and an adult forum at 11:15. The adult Bible class and adult forum give a fuller opportunity to learn about ourselves, our church, and our responsibility to others in this world. In November, an occasion that was to become an annual one took place -- the all-church “Loyalty Dinner,” later renamed the “Friendship Dinner.”
During the annual meeting in January of 1980, the new schedule was adopted. A bylaws committee was elected and challenged with the task of reviewing the church’s membership policy. The Board of World Mission Support was reactivated. The membership voted to participate, with the Council of Churches, in sponsoring a refugee family from southeast Asia. Ernest Schindler was elected a life member to the Board of Deacons, as E. Foster Kimball had been a few years before, and as Florence Kimball had been to the Deaconesses.
In compliance with its duties as prescribed in the bylaws, and with the guidance of the pastor, the Advisory Council established the practice of holding a planning conference in February, as soon as all new church officers and all chairpersons are elected. Ideas are shared, evaluations are made, our purpose is pondered, and goals are set. Another annual February event was instituted -- the church family winter retreat to Sentinel Lodge in New Hampshire. For several weeks during the late winter months, the pastor led an adult Bible study entitled, “Journey.”
The entire church family rejoiced at the birth of Stacey Eva Whitt on April 14, 1980. Her dedication in September by her grandfather, the Rev. Chester Whitt, was a joyous occasion, especially since, during that same service, Dan Carney was Baptized.
A fund was started toward the construction of a downstairs restroom. This would be of particular value to the nursery children and personnel. The Deacons organized work projects during the summer on some home repairs where they had perceived a need. Once again Veronica Lanier used our facility to launch one of the excursions-with-a-purpose. To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Sunday School and relate its history, her New England young people went on a “Sunday School Survival Tour” to San Francisco and back. Our pastor led a summer Bible study that was enjoyed by several from the Congregational Church, along with some of our own. The practice of having a church picnic on Children’s Day, tried the previous year, continued. Youth group members were serving the church as ushers and occasionally taking part in the worship service. Early in the summer the church made it possible for Dan and Sandy Carney, youth workers, and two of our youth to attend Jubilee, a gathering of American Baptist youth at our national conference center at Green Lake, Wisconsin. The pastor was one of the leaders there. This investment is yielding bountiful returns to the church as the Carneys relate to and work with the senior high class and the youth group.
One of the more intense programs was an eight-week study of the Book of Job in the fall. The Civic League, a community group, initiated a Christmas tree lighting ceremony on the Common. As an important part of this, our chimes peal out the traditional carols. After the trees are lighted, refreshments are served in our vestry and its warmth is much appreciated.
The 1981 annual meeting saw the approval of the revised membership bylaws, which recognized other forms of Baptism and allowed full voting membership to all members, eliminating the term, “associate member.” Even the youngest members may vote, except on matters pertaining to the purchase, sale, or mortgaging of property. The prerequisite of Baptism by immersion applies only to the pastor and members of the Diaconate.
A Sunday School assembly right after coffee time was working out as part of the routine, and attendance at the adult forum was increasing, so the morning schedule was extended to 12:15, an extra fifteen minutes. The church voted to participate in TABCOM’s “Reach Out” campaign to make the facilities at Grotonwood and its sister camp in Maine, Oceanwood, accessible to the handicapped and to develop “A New Day Village” for adult retarded at Grotonwood. The ambitious goal of $9,000 was set and surpassed. On Easter, an early breakfast was served at the church for those who attended the sunrise service, and the good response assured its becoming a yearly event. The installation of our new area minister, the Rev. Stanley Manierre, took place at Littleton First Baptist in March. Our pastor attended the American Baptist National Convention in Puerto Rico and the coordinately-planned mission tour of Haiti in June, bringing gifts from us to the Haitians. In August, this church and the Congregational co-sponsored a community VBS which was directed by Betsy Borda and held at the Congregational Church.
The Advisory Council undertook the preparation of job descriptions for all elective church offices and positions. The purpose was twofold: these job descriptions would serve as an aid to the Nominating Committee for selecting qualified candidates and would be informative to those accepting the nominations.
Missions giving increased constantly, as the congregation recognized that this was a major responsibility of a vital Christian church. The enthusiastic senior high class, having redecorated their classroom by their own effort, took on the responsibility for an entire worship service in the fall. With their teacher, Dan Carney, they focused on the importance of the family and did it with an honesty and sincerity that was deeply moving to all.
Rev. Whitt led a leadership training class through September and October which helped a dozen lay people deal with the responsibilities of their positions. The B.C.E. developed a plan for recognizing Sunday School achievements and individual plaques were created. A Thanksgiving Sunday Communion breakfast was held -- a high spiritual experience.
At the 1982 annual meeting, the membership voted to establish a Pastoral Growth and Relations Committee. A long-term project materialized with the installation of the downstairs restroom on the nursery and office area level. The James Theodoros memorial fund made possible the purchase of an electronic stencil maker. This greatly facilitates the publication of the newsletter and the printing of flyers, programs, tickets, reports, and other materials. With Pastor Whitt’s leadership, many adult education subjects have been covered both at the forum and at evening sessions. These include: basic beliefs, death and dying, dealing with anger, and a study of Senator Mark Hatfield’s book, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place.”
The traditional concerns of the church continue: the “march” offering for the New England Home for Little Wanderers on Thanksgiving Sunday, the Christmas Eve Service of Candles and Carols, the Maundy Thursday Tenebrae, a joint Good Friday observance with the Congregational Church, participation of the youth group and Women’s Fellowship in the community Christmas Bazaar, sharing in the Council of Churches’ Ecumenical services, and the town picnic and “New Games Tournament” at Faye Park, ongoing support of a variety of mission outreaches, faithful filling of White Cross quotas by the Women’s Fellowship, and recognizing years of dedicated service by people like Rose Wood and Ernie Schindler when they retired as collector and treasurer. Increased emphasis is placed on the musical aspect of worship as we continue to live up to the title, “The Singing Church.”
The spring of 1982 finds the youth group preparing for a mission trip to Tennessee, where fifteen youth and five advisors will work on “Habitat for Humanity,” helping construct adequate housing for the poor of Appalachia. The Advisory Council and youth group are considering ways to reach out to the youth of the area. Littleton First Baptist has had the extraordinary experience of having its own ambassador for Christ carry the Good News to the Communist countries of Hungary and Romania. At the invitation of the Baptist World Alliance, Rev. Whitt was one of 31 Baptist leaders to tour those countries, preaching the message of hope to the Baptists there and bringing them Christian mementos from this church.
Thus the work goes on. A regular system of visitation and caring for our shut-ins is being implemented by the Diaconate. The B.C.E. is studying ways to enrich family life, further adult education, and inspire growth in the faith. The church is involved in Massachusetts Baptist activities and in the Merrimack Valley Women’s and Baptist Associations. In this 160th anniversary year, we reflect on where we have been, consider where we are, and envision our future potential. “We study to show ourselves approved unto God, workers that need not be ashamed, rightly handling the word of Truth.” 2 Timothy, 2:15
John T. Griffin, Sept., 1963 - Nov., 1977
Robert G. Robertson, Interim, Feb., 1978 - Sept. 1978
Kenneth C. Whitt, Jan., 1979 -Nov. 1989
Since 1972: In addition to losses by death and transfer, 38 were placed on an inactive membership list following the 1972 roll call of the church. There have been 36 added to the church: 9 by Baptism, 23 by letter, 4 by experience.