Pastor Scott Lidbeck had long since disproven the adage "you can't go home again," yet he never felt more at home than during the centennial celebration of Rome Community Bible Church's original building.
Best known in the mid-1960s as a devout Christian teenager and a football standout on two championship teams at Mount Baker High School, Lidbeck has been pastor since 2007.
After high school graduation in 1967, Lidbeck, 65, has devoted his life to Christian service, including 32 years with the American Missionary Fellowship in several cities far from his original church, located on Mount Baker Highway between Bellingham and Deming.
He and his wife, Rachel, have five children, six grandchildren and "one more on the way in Ferndale," he said with a smile.
He obtained a bachelor of theology degree from Multnomah Bible College in Portland, Ore., then earned a master's of divinity at Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, also in Portland.
Question: Pastor Scott, what was the 100th anniversary celebration like?
Answer: It was one of the most wonderful days of my life. We celebrated on June 28, exactly 100 years to the day the original building was dedicated. The current church building (in the same locale) was dedicated in 1976.
During an afternoon service - my message was how God is faithful from generation to generation - several people provided three-minute testimonies. Then others shared memories at an open mic, along with singing. We had about 180 people attending.
Q: Wasn't one of the testimonies provided by a special member of the congregation?
A: Our matriarch, Lynn Reamer, is in her mid-90s and knows a lot of church history. She brought out wonderful remembrances and made me laugh hard with some of her stories. Another highlight was how the ladies worked hard to put up beautifully framed vintage photos of the many weddings at the church.
Q: What else made the celebration special?
A: It was so great to see people embracing who had not seen each other in maybe 40 years, yet many seemed to pick up conversations and friendships as though they had seen each other not long before.
As pastor, I have enjoyed reconnecting with some of my high school friends from more than 40 years earlier.
Q: When did you find Christ?
A: It was at vacation Bible school when I was 8. It was June 19, 1957. It was the first time (a sibling and he) had heard the gospel message. Ellis Honaker was my first pastor.
Q: How much did Pastor Honaker help you grow?
A: He not only helped me, he helped our whole family. He was a carpenter, a hands-on guy. Pastor knew Dad was also a carpenter. Dad and Mom came to Christ when Pastor Honaker visited us at home when I was 12.
All of us would attend Rome together. Everything seemed to change overnight and we had a wonderful family life.
Q: Is this your first pastorship?
A: It is. In my career at the American Missionary Fellowship, I started as a missionary in northwest Oregon. I served as northeast regional director in Albany, N.Y., then became Northwest regional director in Portland. I returned east to work out of Norristown, near Philadelphia, as national director of missions. After four years, it was time to return home.
Michelle Nolan is a Bellingham freelance writer.