Melvin McLaughlin

Melvin McLaughlin’s remembers the beginning

Melvin McLaughlin, Marine Corp (ret) was there in Randolph right at the beginning of Southern Baptist in our town. Bob Orleck interviewed “Mac” in preparation of the timeline for the 35th anniversary of The Baptist Fellowship of Randolph. Here is what he had to say:

“We retired on April 1, 1967 and Florence and I first stayed with her Grandmother while we were building the house in Randolph. It was the end of April and I asked Florence where we were going to church and Florence, who knew these things, said there was a Southern Baptist Church in Burlington. The reason Florence knew these things because she would always wind up as the Association Missions Chairman and she had all the information on missions. Now this was before the Interstate highway was built so we took off at about 8 AM in the morning, going up the back roads looking for this Southern Baptist church in Burlington. Finally after looking all over the town I inquired at the firehouse at the lake and one of the firemen said it was not in Burlington but was in South Burlington and he gave us a description where the house was. So about 11:30 AM we found the church and it was in the old carriage house behind this mansion up there where Bob Brindle had created a sanctuary or chapel .

We went in and sat in the back row (typical Baptist) and we knew right away that we were going to transfer our church membership there so when the hymn of invitation was announced we went down. When Bob found out we were from Randolph, it blew his mind. The day before he was told that a couple was looking for a Southern Baptist church and he thought it was us. Well Bob and his wife Susan took us home for lunch and of course they didn’t want to let us get away. Bob and Susan were both from Kentucky which resonated with me because my father was a Kentuckian. Susan showed me her Kentucky dulcimer and boy did I like it. So I went home and made four of them but that’s another story.

I told Bob Brindle that I wasn’t sure how faithful we could be with our attendance but we would send our tithe. Ten years later Bob kidded me at an association meeting and said, “Mac, I don’t care if you come, just send your money”. There was another couple from Springfield who were doing the same thing we were doing in support of the work there.  We joined the church that first Sunday and Bob asked if he could combine our offering with others to support a church planter in Vermont. We thought that would be fine.  A year or so later here comes Bob Brindle down and he has Merwyn Borders in tow with him. Merwyn spend that first night on our sofa out here and he left to go back to Massachusetts.

Six months later Bob picked me up at 4 AM and we drove to Massachusetts to move Merwyn to Randolph. I packed that U-Haul for Merwyn cause I had a lot of practice moving and whenever we moved I always kept my eye open about what they did. Heavy stuff in front and when Bob and I went through the house down there I packed it tight. You couldn’t get a postcard between things. As the morning went on I went back in the house and looked and I knew from what I had gotten into this large U-Haul that I still had oodles of space so I asked Merwyn if that was it and he said “yes”. So I started packing loosely because I had a lot of space. Then all of a sudden here came bicycles. He had all this stuff under the house so I wound up taking the pedals and handlebars off to get them in. Later Merwyn blamed me for losing some of the parts and he had to take half of it to the dump up here. When we got to Randolph and up on the mound he couldn’t find the key to the house. So I had to do a B&E through the kitchen window.

The first expansion work was in Montpelier at the Elm Street Resurrection Baptist Church. The Home Mission Board wanted a Baptist work in the State Capital so that took priority. So that’s where I first crossed paths with Bob and Barb Orleck and they have been following me around ever since.  Florence and I were in Bob’s Sunday School class there in Montpelier.  Meantime right in our living room we had Bible Studies and we met in various other homes such as Mary Ann and Andy Davis. At that time we had an active group from down at Bethel and we would go to their homes on sleepy hollow road or someplace like that. There was Ruby Newcity and Glenn and Anita Burch. Florence was doing women’s Bible classes in Bethel. I seem to recall that the very first Bible Study evening was at our house. Merwyn, Linda, Andy and Maryanne, Malcolm and Geri Davis and Tom and Dianne Lyons were there.

Now that the Montpelier work had been started, we decided to attend there due to shorter distance to the Montpelier Church.  Merwyn decided to have communion that first Sunday and I had come to church in my relaxed shorts from Hawaii. Oh Boy, we were doing communion and I had to serve it in shorts. I was the only ordained deacon he had so Merwyn had no choice.

When Merwyn first started to have Church services down our way, the first church we met in was a little church on the left hand side out on Route 12 A. (7th day Adventist) We met mainly during the summer there but afterwards we met in the high school, then over the top of the Randolph National Bank, thanks to the Lyons, and then onto the grade school. I believe it was about then that a member was very adamant that Randolph did not need another church. Merwyn stood right up to him. It was about then that we had a group come up for the South to help with VBS. Along the way we also met in the Marie Castle building and in the Masonic Temple. When the time came we had contractor Jim Maloney build the first stage of our church building.”