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July 15, 2013

Seen From the Road: Vergennes' Victory Baptist Church Messages Passersby


Most Route 7 commuters know the quirky landmarks between Burlington and points south by heart: the camel that grazes with sheep, the colorful Adirondack guideboats and the burned-down BBQ place, to name a few Ferrisburgh favorites. Seven Days intern Meredith White, who lives in Middlebury, has logged many hours on Route 7 this summer. She decided to pull over recently and get the scoop on another landmark: the eye-catching sign with the ever-changing slogans outside a little white church in Vergennes.

Victory Baptist Church's marquee stands triumphantly alongside Route 7 — triumphant because Vermont's 1968 billboard banishment made marquee ministry a challenge for Pastor Tim Taylor.

"This is actually a very expensive sign," he told me when I met him in the church's dusty gravel parking lot. "It's not easy to get marquees in Vermont."

The church's roadside real estate makes attracting congregants easy. After miles of serene countryside landscapes, with nothing but clouds and cows competing for drivers' attention, the marquee is almost impossible to miss. Windows down, WVTK crooning and miles of roadway to eat up — what better time to consider accepting Christ into your life?

Not that the Victory Baptist Church is hungrily scouting converts. On a recent day, a whole busload of churchgoers waited in the parking lot. Taylor said it was only after 9/11 that he appealed his initally declined sign permit request. 

"We needed a message of peace and hope to minister to the community," he explained. 

And voilà! Request granted. 

"We try to do a little bit of humor, a little bit of Bible, and a little bit of community," he added. The flip side of the sign pictured above currently advertises enrollment in the church's preschool. And if the lack of secularity hurts your eyes, there's always the nondenominational diversion of the Green Mountains to the east.

Pastor Taylor keeps a binder of all the marquee's past sayings. Call it the sermon-in-a-book or Christianity Lite, all you need to know about faith in easily digestible memos capped at the 20-word limit. 

"People call in with ideas," Taylor said. "If it's good enough, we'll put it up." 

Previous good-enoughs include:

School is out, but church is still in session. 

(Which gets me to wondering, what if this weren't the case? What if church were out, too? And the summer was a time for agnostic indulgences...)

God reigns and Son shines. 

(God has been "reigning" quite a bit this summer.)

As for being the person your dog thinks you are, you could also, with a little rearrangement of those marquee letters, be the person your god thinks you are. 

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