“For one thing, the pastor preaches through the Scripture verse by verse. … Often, churches (usually) pick specific topics, but we go through the entire book,” said Deb Dittman, the church secretary.
Dittman, who's been a member of Ripley Church since 2010, attributes some of its uniqueness to Pastor Eric Robinson. He first was the assistant pastor, but since replacing the previous one, has been the senior pastor for several years.
“It was four years going through the Old and New Testaments, looking for Jesus through all those books. … There aren’t a lot of pastors (who) I know who are willing to do that,” Dittman said.
Robinson’s willingness seems to pay off, as congregants aged less than a year to almost 80, can be reached by programs for all generations.
“There are family-friendly youth programs; we have another where we share a meal together, (cooked) by a different family each week,” Dittman said. “Then we have Bible study and talk.”
The church has a myriad of youth programs, including a nursery, the Awana Club, and one of the newest being the Christian Arts Academy. In its third year at Ripley, the academy provides guided education for students in the arts, interlaced with Scripture.
“Music is well-loved here,” said Dittman, praising the choir and music teams that play every week.
Another popular program is the vacation Bible school (VBS), run by program director Tom Hall. He has been a staff member for six years.
In his first time coordinating VBS, the 15-year congregant plans to do what a lot of people wouldn’t want to — talk about race.
“Our theme for this year’s program is ‘The Incredible Race,’” said Hall, who also runs the Awana Club. “There is only one race, an incredible race, the human race, designed by God.
“When you hear ‘race,’” Hall continued, “… People think of (that) pictorial image … of kids running in a race.”
The program director hopes to reach children in enrolled in kindergarten through sixth grade with that message and others straight from the Gospel that he said translates to life today.
“We have a strict biblical foundation here,” Hall said. “We focus on the Gospel, making sure that we interpret the Bible (in) the original intent it was written.”
Hall then rummaged for his English Standard Version Bible. He found Genesis 1:1, the story of God creating the heavens and earth.
“You know, that right there defines our origin,” Hall said.
“I think that speaks to the confusion that’s in the world today …. about where we came from. … What about evolution? — well, I’m not getting into that right now,” cutting himself off. “People are looking for clarity, for straight information, and that’s what we want to provide them with here (Ripley).”
Hall is attempting to make VBS even more appealing to prospective attendees by holding it, for the first time ever, in the evenings.
“I’m hoping parents will be more available. You know, it can be hard, especially for parents who are are working to transport their children from here to there. … That’s another reason we’re having it from 6 to 8:30 (p.m.); most people will be off of work by then.”
Hall admitted the church strategically planned the program to take place after July 4, during which parishioners handed out fliers and frisbees in the parade.
“So by starting at this point, we’ve allowed for summer activities to end for the summer season, leaving everyone the chance to participate,” he said.
“Everyone can attend vacation Bible school, regardless of other churches . . . And there’s a good chance we can reach people who aren’t churched.”
Even more of an incentive to come to Ripley’s VBS, especially with average temperatures being in the 90’s, are the cooling stations.
“The church is air-conditioned. There are cooling stations; we have volunteers who are medically trained to deal with any heat-related injuries, so we’re prepared for that.”
The church also boasts an international missionary program, reaching Germany, Albania, Papua New Guinea, as well as two representatives for the U.S.
Dittman, the church secretary, was on the mission committee. She also readily counts on her husband Tim and their two teen-aged children among the church’s strong volunteer base.
“Tim and my son and daughter are here often. … They work in the nursery regularly,” she said. “It's just a very friendly, hometown, small-town neighborhood church.”
Ripley Church’s vacation Bible school will begin Monday and run from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The church is located at 4130 Edwards Road, Greenwich. Contact the church’s website for more information.