New congregation in Exeter started with a pulpit

Posted Jan. 23, 2011, at 8:07 p.m.

EXETER, Maine — New Beginnings Bible Church got its start with a pulpit.

Norman Nugent, a founding member of the congregation, made it for Pastor Peter Davis after the minister was let go in August after eight months as the spiritual leader of a church in Garland.

“I make furniture as a hobby,” Nugent of Garland said after Sunday’s service of New Beginnings held at the former Exeter School. “I knew people were looking to him for leadership, but I also knew he was depressed.

“He came back from a retreat, and he was really down,” Nugent said. “He didn’t know I was making [the pulpit]. I told him if he came by my house, I’d give him some boxes in my garage.”

Instead, Nugent showed Davis the pulpit made of cherry wood adorned with a cross made from ash.

Davis had found a new church and a new beginning in a carpenter’s workshop.

Shortly after that, a group of about a dozen people began meeting at The Garden in Dexter, which is owned by Dennis and Connie Hall. Once fall set in, the group began looking for a meeting place after the church outgrew the basement of member’s home.

They have been meeting at the school, across the street from the Exeter Town Hall, since November. Attendance averages between 40 and 50 worshippers.

“We are like the phoenix rising out of the ashes,” Hall, who owns the display gardens on Dunn Road, said Sunday. “God kept us together.”

Davis, who grew up in Springfield, Mass., came to Maine a year ago to serve as pastor of Garland Baptist Church, he said. He turned to church ministry recently after working with New Tribes Mission, based in Sanford, Fla., for many years. The organization, located near Orlando, Fla., helps local churches train, coordinate and send missionaries to indigenous people around the globe, according to information on its website.

“I was pretty discouraged in August,” Davis said. “I was going to move away. Then, Norman built the pulpit.”

In his sermon Sunday, the minister compared the congregation’s mission to that of John the Baptist, who spent much of his life as a recluse living in the wilderness, but also baptized Jesus.

“John the Baptist was trying to say to the Israelites, ‘Jesus is coming, straighten up,’” Davis said Sunday. “He was a witness just as we’re called to be witnesses. We’re like John the Baptist in a sense, because he didn’t want to speak about himself either.

“If our witness is before God, we won’t fail, not before God,” he continued. “We may make some mistakes, but we will not fail.”

Hall said that she has attended quite a few churches in her life but feels “more connected to this group than she has any to any other. We’re bonding together by working together.”

“In the Old Testament, they had to rebuild the Tabernacle several times as they moved around,” Hall said as church members stacked chairs and gathered up dog-eared hymnals purchased second hand. “We’re building a church as we go, and that just makes it special.

New Beginnings Bible Church meets at 10:30 a.m. Sundays at the former Exeter School, 1221 Stetson Road. For information, call 876-1189.

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