Thursday, October 12, 2006

Marblehead, Massachusetts Church is a Testimony of the Gospel in a Rocky Soil Environment

Attention, reformed-minded evangelical ABC churches trapped in heterodox regions: have a look at the story of FBC Marblehead, MA (now Grace Community Church). I worshipped a few times at this church when I was in seminary, and remember Bob Dibbs. A friend of mine did his internship under Bob. Hey come to think of it, someone should tell Bill Nicoson to sign 'em up from Cornerstone. Oh, I guess I just did.

Rev. Dibbs, wife to be honored

Thursday, October 12, 2006 The Rev. Robert Dibbs is not only the longest serving pastor in his congregation's history, he also has filled his pulpit longer than any current member of the clergy in Marblehead or Swampscott.

Dibbs has served 27 years, most in the 196-year history of Grace Community Church, formerly First Baptist, an interdenominational church inviting all to step over the threshold and meet its church family.

The church will honor Dibbs and his wife Elaine during the Oct. 15 service and a luncheon afterward. The public is invited.

Asked the key to his longevity, Dibbs paused, never wanting the attention on himself. Yet after a moment's reflection, it was clear to him.

"My longevity is due to God's faithfulness and His strength," he said, "When I've wanted to throw in the towel, God has reminded me that He is the one who called me."

He added, "Second, I have a very supportive wife. I don't see how I could do ministry without Elaine."

Many things have changed at Grace Community. The spirit of the people has changed, Dibbs offered. The New England "woodenness" is gone, and members, especially older ones, have been "extraordinarily gracious" in embracing changes in the way the church performs ministry and music. Twenty-five years ago, no one would have dreamed of a worship band in the church's sanctuary; now it is a permanent fixture.

"We also made organizational changes," said Dibbs. "We left the denomination (American Baptist), changed our constitution, changed our polity - that's our leadership structure - and finally changed our name to match everything we are doing and who we really are."

He added, "It's exciting that we have become truly interdenominational, as reflected in our diverse congregation who worships together, appreciates and loves one another."

Over 27 years, much has also changed in the Dibbs' lives. The couple says they have experienced many blessings, such as the gift of two wonderful daughters, Sarah and Kristina. But they have also been through personal crises, especially the past six years. Elaine had a bout with cancer, Bob's brother died in a fire, their daughter Kristina was diagnosed with a terminal disease, Huntington's chorea, just three months before her wedding, many key members moved after the 9-11 attack and Bob's mother died of cancer. But the Dibbs readily testify how God shepherded them through.

"There is a difference between saying God will get you through a crisis and saying it after you have personally experienced God's strength and faithfulness in getting you through times of crisis," he said.

"We have actually seen, and see now, blessings come out of these crises. They have forced us to assess whether we truly believe what we say we believe. In fact, we believe what God says," he concluded.

Many things have not changed. The congregation functioning as family is a constant.

"God and his Word have not changed," he said. "God and his Word are alive and relevant, and I am more convinced of that than I was 27 years ago."

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