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    Sunday, April 14, 2024

    Flanders Baptist Church minister begins new year with retirement

    Alan Scott addresses church-goers once more before his retirement. Flanders Baptist Church honored the longtime minister with a party and gifts after his final Sunday service before retirement on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in East Lyme. (Kevin Arnold/The Day)
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    Alan Scott looks in awe at a painting of the church, commissioned by Chet Reneson, which was gifted to him by the congregation. Flanders Baptist Church honored the longtime minister with a party and gifts after his final Sunday service before retirement on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in East Lyme. (Kevin Arnold/The Day)
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    Alan Scott, left, along with his son Peter, center, and wife, Violeta Chan-Scott, look over a photo album, a gift from the congregation. Flanders Baptist Church honored the longtime minister with a party and gifts after his final Sunday service before retirement on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in East Lyme. (Kevin Arnold/The Day)
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    Parishioners gather to share a meal and reminisce about their longtime minister. Flanders Baptist Church honored longtime minister Alan Scott with a party and gifts after his final Sunday service before retirement on Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, in East Lyme. (Kevin Arnold/The Day)
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    East Lyme ― After more than 70 years of service, there will no longer be a Scott preaching at Flanders Baptist Church.

    New Year’s Day marked Minister Alan Scott’s last day on the job after a 33-year career. His father, Allen Scott, was his predecessor of 38 years, before his son took over in 1990.

    A native of the area, Scott, 65, grew up a part of the East Lyme community and watched his father work, not just for a paycheck, but for people. Scott said that was a driving factor in why he wanted to follow his father’s career path.

    “There’s not many jobs where you get to see people both on their best day and on their worst day,” Scott said. “You see the whole gamut of human life. It’s a real privilege to be the person that people call on at these moments.”

    From weddings and baptisms to wakes and funerals, Scott has seen people experience some of the highest highs and the lowest lows. Scott’s wife, Violeta Chan-Scott, said they’ve seen “a church full of people go up to heaven,” over the years. Through these experiences, and his Sunday services, Scott has found an extended family.

    “You can’t have enough family and enough friends and they’re both those things,” Scott said of the church community.

    And to show their support, the church threw him a retirement party following his last service. The congregation reminisced about their time with Scott over pasta and desserts in the church’s basement.

    Chan-Scott, a retired church musician, called it a “bittersweet” day but said she’s looking forward to having her husband spend more time at their Old Lyme home with their 31-year-old son, Peter. The two met some 40 years ago in New Haven while Scott was earning his PhD in religious studies at Yale and Chan-Scott was a graduate music student.

    Scott said he does not have a bucket list he’s looking to complete but said he was tired and wanted to slow down.

    “We’ll just keep calm for a while,” Chan-Scott said.

    The church’s moderator, and emcee of the party, Lind Bayreuther, talked about his 35 years at the church and what it’s been like working with Scott and his father. The two play tennis every Tuesday, so he gifted Scott a newly strung racket. He also presented Scott a quilt with the faces of church parishioners on it, as well as a photo album and a painting of the church itself.

    Bayreuther said the church’s greatest asset has always been the love everyone has for one another, no matter their religion or ethnicity, and said that starts with the Scotts.

    “To have roughly 70 years of one family running a church has been wonderful,” Bayreuther said. “They never wanted it to be known as ‘The Scott Church.’ This has always been a church family.”

    “It’s hard to put into words just the kind of spirit he is and the kind of heart he has,” parishioner Kerry McDonald said of Scott.

    Scott has witnessed a family grow in front of his eyes. Ted and Beth Richmond, now of Montville, met as teenagers when they were a part of Sunday School and the youth group. After 26 years of marriage, not only did Scott officiate their wedding, but he’s baptized each of their three children before they too attended the church.

    “We’re very happy for him,” Beth Richmond said. “It’ll definitely be a transition period for us.”

    “He’s been an incredibly important part of our lives, but he’s earned (retirement),” Ted Richmond said.

    Linda Southerland, the church’s organist and choir director, has been involved with Flanders Baptist for nearly 50 years. As a native of the area, she’s experienced working with Scott and his father and has ties that go even further back.

    Allen Scott told his son to let Southerland “do whatever she wants” when it came to the church music, and Scott let her do just that.

    “You gotta love a boss like that, right?” she said.

    But she’s also excited for the future. Southerland and Bayreuther were two of the seven members on the search committee for the new minister. The group unanimously selected 46-year-old Jean-Fritz Guerrier to lead the church next. The Haiti native has two divinity degrees from Yale and a master’s degree in business. Southerland thinks the new leadership will be good for her, as well as the church, which is still recovering from the perils of the COVID pandemic and in search of new, younger members to carry on traditions.

    “I’m excited,” Southerland said. “I’ve been doing this for such a long time that I think it’ll be good for me too to have a new chapter and some new ideas.”

    Bayreuther said Guerrier stood out among the rest.

    “It was as though God was saying, ‘This is the one,’” he said.

    Guerrier will preach for three consecitive weeks before the congregation votes on paper ballots to see if he will stay. While the committee is confident the arrangement will work just fine, there will be adjustment for the parishioners.

    “There’s always been a Scott there,” Ted Richmond said. “It’s going to be strange.”

    “It’s like the end of an era,” said 73-year-old Dan Wheeler, who has attended the church since he was 3 years old.

    k.arnold@theday.com

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