EAST POESTENKILL — The First Baptist Church of East Poestenkill is a proud country church with a website that displays a photo of a congregation member being baptized in a clear mountain stream surrounded by green rushes, goldenrod and wildflowers – delicate, snowy Queen Anne’s lace and purple bellflowers.
The lovely photo was taken by Heather Nelson, wife of pastor Andy, whose work serves the congregation while raising five sons. Their church in the pretty hamlet of East Poestenkill is part of Village Missions, a movement that tackles a crisis; keeping small town rural churches alive when they are dying by the hundreds across America.
And the movement aims for more than survival. It wants rural churches to be lively, charitable and engaging to the small towns they serve.
“Since 1948, we have been keeping country churches alive in North America,” the website says. “We place pastors in rural churches and help those churches get back on their feet. We care about the country church and are working to keep the church a vibrant and vital presence in more than 230 rural communities throughout North America. We’re here when crisis hits, when the community is searching for somewhere to turn for answers.”
The Rev. Andy Nelson’s official title is Village Missionary although his flock calls him pastor. His wife said the current congregation numbers about 35 although she hopes it will recover some of its pre-pandemic attendees.
This week, First Baptist hosted its Community Night on the Mountain, which boasted music, hot dogs, watermelon and CornHole, 4Square and Frisbee. But social events are just one way this summer the church will serve the community. Baptists from Indiana are visiting the church to help with other church projects. This week, the focus will be on clearing overgrowth and rubbish from hiking trails at Poestenkill Elementary. In August, Boy Scouts will join in working to make the trails beautiful.
“If all goes well, we will be working on Poestenkill trails that have been abandoned for many years,” Heather Nelson explained. “The PTA and elementary school principal have a heart to …….