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The Vermont Awakening

Updated: May 7, 2023

We talk a lot about "passing the torch to the next generation." The trouble is that often the torch doesn't get passed until we're dead or just about dead. I have been blessed to discover something that is even better than passing the torch. It's carrying the torch together.

I have been an active pastor in Vermont for fifty-one years. For forty-one of those years I have been privileged to labor in one church - - in Brattleboro, Vermont. Several years ago I stepped away from my role as the lead pastor to turn the reins over to my eldest son, Michael Bryan. I stepped away from my position, but not from the ministry. I didn't exactly "pass the torch," but chose to carry it alongside him for a while. It has been my great joy to run beside this extraordinary young man and under his leadership the church has remained a vibrant and healthy ministry in our community.

Brattleboro, Vermont is a small town with big city problems located in what is statistically one of the least "religious" states in the entire country. Located on Interstate 91 which runs north from New Haven, Connecticut to the Canadian border, Brattleboro is squarely in the pipeline of drugs running back and forth between Canada and the United States. The devastation of cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl has touched every strata of our rural community. Our population has been ravaged by addiction and poverty to the point where our public servants (police, fire, and rescue) are stretched to the breaking point. Homelessness and beggary are on display at every corner, and the Department of Children and Families is literally overwhelmed with children who cannot stay with their parents, but have no safe place to go.

It is painfully obvious that government programs, social action efforts, and multiple millions of dollars are failing to keep up with, much less provide effective solutions to the growing despair of our community. Churches have joined in with various ministries that provide some food and other services but the needs always seem to overtake the supply of well-intended services. Our own church operates a food pantry that provided groceries and supplies to more than 1600 clients in April alone. It is not enough.

Add to all of this the crime that accompanies social brokenness such as assaults, burglaries, homicides, and such we have watched the fortunes of our beautiful state falter at a fearful rate. It becomes clearer and clearer that social programs and programs of compassion are not enough. Our problems are not just social. At the very root, what is eroding the lives of our people is not a lack of money, but a poverty of spirit.

Bryan sat before our church board several months ago to request a significant sum of money that we could use to mount an effort to mobilize our church members in reaching members of our community with the gospel of Jesus. We are convinced that the only hope for a broken people is the truth that makes men whole. With the approval of our elders and board members we entered into an agreement with Internationally known Evangelist Tommie Zito of

Fort Lauderdale, Florida to partner with us in what we are calling THE VERMONT AWAKENING. While Evangelist Zito is a passionate preacher, he is best known for training men and women to share the gospel message with their family, friends, neighbors, and even perfect strangers.

Tommie Zito and his team of evangelists came to us without demanding any guarantee of monies but because he has a burning desire to see broken men's lives impacted by the gospel of Jesus. We began a week of meetings on Sunday morning, April 30 and while both of our Sunday morning and evening services were exciting it was on Monday morning, May 1 that we realized that my son had made an inspired decision by pointing the church in this direction.

More than forty individuals turned up on Monday morning to be trained to share the gospel. After a morning training session the group was separated into teams and accompanied by a trainer, left the safety of the church into the streets of Brattleboro to share the gospel. That first afternoon saw forty-four individuals make a decision to follow Christ. Addicts, drunkards, business men, guys waiting on a bus were introduced to the life-giving power of the gospel. This pattern was repeated for five days and by Friday afternoon 300 men, women, and children had accepted Christ as their personal savior in Brattleboro and several surrounding communities.

For the first time ever, the biggest problem we are facing as a church is how to effectively follow up on all of these new believers.

In the gospel of Luke, chapter five we read of how simple fishermen who had fished all night and caught nothing obeyed Jesus and caught so many fish they had to call for other fishermen to come help them. On Friday, Pastor Bryan was sending out urgent emails to several other pastors in our community asking if they would help us follow up with these new converts so that they can be welcomed into the family of God and be plugged into a local church. He simply said, "Help! We've caught too many fish!"

Equally significant is the fact that some forty of our church members were ignited with a passion for sharing Christ and armed with an effective tool to do it. In just five short days, our church DNA was changed forever! This morning, around sixty formerly shy and fearful believers were transformed into passionate warriors for the gospel, and we believe our community. . .indeed the entire state of Vermont is going to be impacted by a move of God. We are already developing strategies to not only sustain the momentum that has been created in Brattleboro, but to spread this passion to the rest of the state. We are in the process of contacting Pastors all over Vermont asking them to come help us fish for men . . . desperate, broken, hopeless men and women who are frantically trying to fill up a void in their lives that only Christ can fill. Evangelist Tommie has committed to return to Vermont in 2024 and we are already developing a plan that will allow us to make an impact from Brattleboro all the way to the Canadian border.

I have been praying for such a move of God for fifty-one years. I believed that it would come, but often feared that it could come after my death. I suspected that the torch bearers would be the children of a new generation and for that I would be grateful to pass the torch along. But I realize today that God has granted me an amazing gift that is even sweeter than passing that torch. He is allowing me to run alongside that next generation for a season. Other hands now grip that torch and we are carrying it together. I have hope that I will not only see a move of God in my life time, but I can be a part of it.


If you are a church leader in the State of Vermont and would like to have more information on our plans for The Vermont Awakening 2024 drop me a line at

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Bill Watkins
Bill Watkins
May 09, 2023

What a great move of God, my friend. Our country needs Christ and then discipleship into living life his way. I will be praying for you and your church's efforts in this regard.

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