In 1996 I moved to Laurel after having been a migrant theatre worker for several years. Between ’91 and ’96 I had traveled throughout the U.S. and Canada working in professional theatre as a singer, actor and director. My move to Maryland seemed like something of a “whim” at the time, as I needed a place to recover from years on the road and slow my pace of life.
Upon arrival in Laurel, I made the decision that I wanted to meet some new people – make some friends – and I thought church would be a good place to do that. Good people go to church, right? And after having been in the liberal artistic community for so many years, I was anxious to build relationships with people who were more stable in their lives; less rebellious and attention-seeking.
I had grown up in a conservative, legalistic church in Texas where, at a young age, I had professed my belief in Jesus and was baptised. But my faith journey pretty much ended there. As a young adult I ditched church and all the criticism and scrutiny that came with it. I honestly didn’t have much of an interest in God, but was earnestly seeking some authentic relationships.
For several months, I made the Yellow Pages church tour of central Maryland. Interestingly, the first church I checked out – and the one closest to my home – was Bethany.
I will never forget that first Sunday, walking in, wearing a tie and totally looking like THE NEW GUY! The details of the service are fuzzy, but I remember how different the church experience was compared to so many others I’d had in the past. The music was engaging. The teaching was relevant. And the people were REAL!
To make a long story short, I ended up in a discipling relationship with Greg Ressler and engaged as a part of the worship team with Bethany’s Pastor of Worship. For two and a half years those men poured into my life and helped me discover a real passion for loving Jesus and living for Him.
In 1999, I left Laurel for Mississauga, Ontario in a job transfer. I can’t say it was the smartest move of my life. In fact, both Gary and Greg counselled me against it because of some marital issues I was having at the time. Not long after leaving Laurel (and Bethany) that marriage fell apart. And although I felt helpless, so far from my church family and friends, as I went through the darkest time in my life, I was solidly rooted in my love for Jesus and was able to pull through without losing hope.
Ironically, Trevor Peterson, an intern at Bethany during the time I was there, connected me with a friend he knew in Mississauga, Ontario. His friend, Philip Bryant, was part of a team that had planted a church only 3 months before my arrival in Canada.
I connected with that church, Grace Community, and began (or rather continued) in my faith development. Two and a half years later I joined the staff of that church as the Worship Pastor. I served there for almost 9 years and now, part of the same church planting team, I am the Associate Pastor/Church Planter for a new church in Medicine Hat, Alberta (having launched on Sept. 11, 2011).
My dream today is to plant churches across southern Alberta and western Canada, helping people discover Jesus and the amazing relationship he offers.
I can honestly say that the little church in Laurel, planted 25 years ago, has played a huge part in my growth as a Jesus-follower and my life-mission of planting more and more churches to see more and more people find eternal hope.
I love you guys! You are a part of my heart and part of my story. I pray for many, many more years of life-changing ministry for Bethany!
When did you attend Bethany Community?: 1996-1999
Where was Bethany meeting when you attended?: Rt. 1 Building
Where do you live now?: Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada
Tell us a little bit about yourself: My name is Bart Blair. I am married, the father of 3 children. I am the Associate Pastor/Church Planter for Grasslands Church in Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.
Do you have a story to share? A memory or significant moment where God met you at Bethany? We’d love to hear about it. Click “Share Your Story”!