Vigne graduates from pew to pulpit

MIDDLEBURY — Greg Vigne has intently listened to more than two decades of sermons from a spot in the pews at the Memorial Baptist Church of Middlebury.
Now Vigne, 49, is learning to appreciate the view from the pulpit, as he is currently delivering sermons to is fellow parishioners.
“It is really humbling,” said Vigne, who is certified to preach as an interim minister but is pursuing his ordination as a pastor — a move that ironically will preclude him from permanently taking the pulpit at the church he and his family have called their spiritual home since the mid-1980s.
Once ordained, which could take place as soon as this summer, Vigne will be free to apply for leadership vacancies at American Baptist churches throughout the nation and even the world, or continue a career as an interim pastor or perhaps minister to patients in hospitals.
Vigne has been considering a career change for several months. He has long been involved in spiritual vocations, first with the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (ICF) at Middlebury College beginning in 1987. The ICF is a campus ministry that ministers to students and faculty through small group Bible studies, large gatherings on campus, leadership training, conferences and events.
Vigne in 1997 joined the publishing arm of the ICF, the InterVarsity Press, for whom he still works half-time. It is a job that requires him to do a lot of telecommuting and traveling. Vigne has been looking to cut down on his traveling, and believes he has found the perfect avenue through which to accomplish that priority: pastoral leadership. And he is getting some hands-on training at his own church as the interim pastor. He is temporarily filling a void left by the retirement last November of the Rev. Steve Jewett, who ministered for more than two decades at Memorial Baptist Church.
It has been a fairly smooth transition for Vigne, as he and his wife, Susan, have — along with some fellow parishioners — been part of the lay-leadership of the church. For example, Greg has taught adult Sunday School class.
Vigne preached his first sermon on Feb. 5. He is becoming increasingly comfortable with a dimension of the job that he at first found somewhat daunting.
“The pulpit is both the scariest and most challenging part for me; preaching is the area of ministry I have had the least experience with,” said Vigne, who has always been adept at the teaching, counseling and visitation aspects of the job.
But with a couple of sermons now under his belt, Vigne said he is “now eager to do it.”
Vigne is now going through a period of “discernment,” or reflection upon his calling to the ministry. His ordination will require him to complete an “ordination paper,” through which he will state his system of beliefs, his personal spiritual history and his sense of calling to the clergy.
Full ordination can take around six months. He would be the second generation of his family to become a preacher. Vigne’s dad was a United Methodist Church minister.
But once ordained, Vigne will have to step down from the pulpit at his home church, per a process outlined by the American Baptist Churches of the USA. He would be free to join another parish in need of a spiritual leader.
“That was really hard for me to work through,” Vigne said of his waning tenure. “Our family has a love for the people in this congregation and we have a long history here.”
He called Memorial Baptist Church “a jewel that not a lot of people have discovered in the Middlebury community.”
It is a congregation, he said, that is made up of people of many socio-economic and indeed religious backgrounds. Every Sunday, according to Vigne, a flock of around 100 parishioners gathers in the South Pleasant Street church for worship. Some are college professors, some are truck drivers. Some were raised as Catholics, Methodists or Episcopalians. All make for a solid, united group, he said.
Vigne would like to remain in the Addison County area once his ordination is complete. One of the reasons: Susan Vigne is a leader of the Middlebury-based Aurora School, and would like to continue in that capacity.
“We are in a huge, life-change situation,” Vigne said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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