Sunday, January 27, 2019

Oneonta’s River Street Baptist Church Elects The Redemption Movement’s Kaler Carpenter as New Pastor

After the morning worship service on January 27th at River Street Baptist Church, a special meeting was held where I was elected by the members to be the church’s new pastor, “for a continuous term consistent with the roles and responsibilities outlined in the current church constitution.”
This concludes a two-month pastoral search process initiated by RSBC’s former Interim Pastor Garrett Mercier, who assisted the pastor search committee by reaching out to local ministers he felt would be a good fit.

For the past two months, I have been impressed with how much this small congregation loves and cares for one another, and I am honored to be entrusted to lead a church that has such a rich history in the very neighborhood I’ve called my own over the past 10 years--Oneonta’s 6th Ward. The irony is not lost on me that ever since my wife and I moved to Oneonta in 2009, I’ve actively been searching for an organization or established church to partner with. It turns out that the right group was literally in front of me the entire time. In fact, RSBC at 133 River Street is just one block down from my own home/storefront church at 148 River Street--I can even see the church from my own front yard!

Immediate plans for the church include keeping with the job description laid out by the pastor search committee: conduct pastoral duties, oversee Sunday School and worship services, create ministries to reach the community, and oversee committees. All of this pastoral work is to be done “to grow the church, particularly with the youth.” Additionally, the position is bi-vocational, so I will keep my job as Youth Services Coordinator at Friends of Recovery of Delaware and Otsego Counties.
Pastors Mel Farmer, Frank Westcott, Garrett Mercier, & Kaler Carpenter.  

What’s this Mean for The Redemption Movement?

This move is good news for The Redemption Movement, a church plant founded by my wife in I in 2010 and publicly launched in 2013. You see, despite all of the time, energy, and resources invested into keeping the new church open, it became obvious to myself and church members that the work, due to its small size and how much money was committed to outreach, was unable to sustain itself, and thus requires a partnership with an established church or organization in order to continue. For the past two years, members of The Redemption Movement have been praying about this possibility. Pastor Garrett of RSBC was unaware of this when he called me about the open position last month.

Much to my delight, the members of River Street Baptist Church like, and even wish to support, The Redemption Movement’s outreach ministries, which includes the Kindness Station and the designated driving service, #OneontaRides.

The proposal currently being discussed is to have The Redemption Movement and its outreach activities become a ministry of River Street Baptist Church, as well as have RSBC’s Sunday morning worship services and Sunday School take the place of RM’s Thursday evening gatherings. This would effectively be a merge between the two congregations. Moving forward, the specifics of what such a merge would look like will be discussed and reviewed by members of both congregations--in the spirit of doing what it takes to come together as one congregation, River Street Baptist Church.

Therefore, the Kindness Station and #OneontaRides will continue on Friday nights for the Spring 2019 semester as planned, with the Kindness Team serving the community from its outdoor station on Water Street. Only now, the outreach effort will benefit by having more stability that comes from being connected to an established, self-sustaining church. At this juncture, I don’t know what exactly this support amounts to and I don’t wish to burden RSBC with the demands of this ministry if the small congregation is unable to fund all of its needs. However, even if a lack of funds proves to be the case, then just having an established church take on the outreach ministry as their own will allow for support in more ways than what it currently receives, making such a move worth celebrating for anybody that’s ever supported the Kindness Team in one capacity or another.

On a Personal Note…

The past 10 years has been quite the journey for me and Laura, moving to New York with aspirations of starting a new church and trying outside-the-box ideas in order to reach the community, and now ending up as Pastor of a traditional Baptist church. Twelve years ago, I left the traditional church world behind and gravitated toward church planting, a decision that was perhaps driven much by my youthful ideals and energy. Today, after going through the crucible of planting a church from scratch, I now have a greater appreciation for traditional churches and I find myself just as excited about the challenges of growing an established church as I was about starting a new church, all those years ago. If anything, I feel my church planting experience in the 6th Ward will somehow assist River Street Baptist Church in its mission in a unique way, and I’m anxious to apply the many lessons I’ve learned.

Admittedly, there was a time when I thought that traditional church buildings, wooden pews, and pulpits all hindered church growth. Now, I’ve come to realize that this isn’t the case. Ultimately, if a person feels a strong connection with the Lord and love from the people that belong to a church, then they will consider such a church as their home, no matter if its culture is traditional or modern. And, if letting go of my personal preferences and stepping back into the traditional church world is what the Lord is calling me to, and if that’s what it takes to reach the community, then I am more than happy to obey and embrace once again the same traditional church world that nourished my soul as a teenager and taught me how to love the Lord with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

In fact, for the first time in my life I am officially a Baptist. This is a distinction that I’ve grown comfortable with, thanks to all of the wonderful Baptist brothers and sisters in Christ that I’ve met along the way who have shown kindness to me and my family. And while I stand today amazed and pleasantly surprised at my journey from traditional church ministry to church planting and back to traditional ministry, from Pentecostal to nondenominational to Baptist, from Missouri to New York, from a storefront to a chapel, and from 148 to 133 River Street, I also remain excited and hopeful about where the Lord is taking me in the next 10 years, especially in regards to who all I will meet and the kind of servant I will become. So I encourage you to trust in the Lord with me for you past, present, and future. He will set straight your paths in ways that, though may be unexpected, you sure won’t regret!

I’d love for us to journey together on this new chapter of ministry by joining me and my family at River Street Baptist Church on Sunday morning, Sunday School 9:30am, Worship Service 10:30am.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

There and Back Again: A Redemption Movement Tale

It was a good run. The dynamic ministry that took place out of a downtown storefront was a dream come true. Beginning with the Good Friday/5-year anniversary celebration on March 30th and lasting until the last week of June, for three months we called 80 Water Street our home.

This special time was made possible by all those who generously donated 3-months’ worth of rent money and then some, almost $5,000 in all. Despite this fundraising success, we were unable to secure the steady finances needed in order to sign a multi-year lease at the end of June. Therefore, The Redemption Movement board opted to pass on the property, and now we’re back to where everything started--at “The Ol’ Storefront,” our original home on River Street.

Instead of mourning the loss of a great space, we’re choosing to celebrate what a cool opportunity we had to expand the ministry in so many ways for three memorable months. What’s this move back to our past mean for our church’s future? I think highly enough of our many supporters that I’d like to provide you with a comprehensive update. Read More >>

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Why This Month is "Make it or Break it" for Our Downtown Dream

Last March, we laid out a plan to move The Redemption Movement downtown, a ministry dream that was literally 14 years in the making. Thanks entirely to generous supporters, this dream became a reality and 80 Water Street has been our new home since Good Friday. Since then, we've made the most of the new space and seen it enhance how we reach people (more on that later).

The challenge we're faced with today involves securing enough resources and support that we can stay in the space for the foreseeable future, and to do so by the end of June. You see, the arrangement with the landlord was that the first 3 months (April, May, & June) were to be month-to-month as a sort of trial period, and we are to decide if we want to sign a lease by the end of June, which would include a security deposit (so $3,000 is due by the end of June)... Read More >>

Friday, June 1, 2018

Oh What a Difference an Open Sign Makes

Since moving our church to a downtown storefront in April, we’ve been paying attention to the rhythms of Oneonta’s culture happening right outside our door, and adjusting our strategy accordingly to meet its needs and better connect with its people. One success comes from an idea so simple it’s a wonder why more churches don’t try it--powering on an open sign!

What an Open Sign Communicates

Traditionally used exclusively by businesses, opens signs, as it turns out, communicate a message that’s exactly what churches are working oh-so hard to communicate to the public, “You’re welcome here. Come on in!”

Without such a sign displayed for all to see, it’s easy for a skeptical public to pass by a house of worship and perhaps see a bustle of activity, or even read an explicit welcoming message spelled out on its marquee, and then respond with a shrug and general disinterest. Or, maybe feel like they can’t come inside because the worship service has already started and they don’t want to be disruptive. This was the experience we had while ministering out of a River Street storefront for five years.

It Took a Sign to Befriend a Skateboarder

Then one Thursday evening in April while our church family was working together on various building and outreach projects for the new space, Patrick went to the store and purchased a light-up open sign. He found a generic, LED sign and as he was hanging it in the window something remarkable happened.

Patrick turned on the sign and I stepped outside to eyeball the best spot to place it. It was then that a man on a skateboard, Wayne, stopped and began to chat with me. I had seen him skateboarding nearby for the previous hour or so, and I even made eye contact and said hi a few times. For whatever reason, none of those friendly interactions persuaded Wayne to stop skateboarding and engage me in conversation. Instead, it took something extra to achieve this feat; something brighter than my smile and more trusting than my persona, like a light-up open sign. 

Wayne and I then spent the next 10-15 minutes standing outside, talking to each other, getting to know one another. It turns out that he’s heard of the work we do with the designated driving program, and, as a local bartender, he appreciates it. We also discussed several other topics with each other and I found myself really liking the guy. Therefore, I invited him to join me inside the building so I could show him around and introduce him to our church family. He agreed to this and followed me inside. Once he entered our space he was warmly greeted and he spent the next 15-20 minutes chatting with everyone.
On the surface, this doesn’t seem like much of a story worth telling, or even celebrating for that matter. However, considering the countless times I tried connecting with someone passing by on River Street during a church gathering, only to be ignored, why, I was both stunned and encouraged by Wayne’s willingness to just come inside and “check us out.”

How an Open Sign is Changing the Way We Do Ministry

From then on out, we continued to turn on the new open sign for church gatherings and community outreaches at the Water Street building, and we continued to see new faces come through our door.

In fact, this simple, just-flip-on-the-open-sign approach has even led to successful outreaches on Saturday nights where we saw groups of people come in off the street all throughout the night--without us having to go through the great expense and work of setting up the Kindness Station tent and hospitality table! This sets a precedent of making it possible to utilize the space for outreach much more often (but rest assured that the Kindness Station certainly still has a role). 

Another way of how we’ve seen the open sign affect ministry is that it actually changes the tone and posture of a worship gathering.

This is seen by the fact that, once the open sign is powered on, there’s now a good chance that a random stranger will walk through the doors in the middle of what you’re doing, whether it be singing worship songs or teaching a Bible study.
Personally, I prefer this dynamic because of what it means.

  • As the preacher, it means that as I prepare a message, I must keep this possibility in mind and have a contingent plan in place to address any questions from someone walking in mid-lesson.
  • It means thinking less about writing a well-constructed, lengthy sermon where each point builds off previous points, and more about proclaiming Gospel truths that don’t require a whole lot of explanation, yet are still impactful enough to challenge worldviews and set captives free. This is actually the teaching method we see Jesus utilize while preaching in public spaces, with parables being a tool that Jesus seemed to favor the most.
  • Then there’s the intriguing possibility that, with the open sign on, someone can walk into the worship gathering at any time--someone who may not believe like I do. Keeping this possibility in mind means doing more work to explain a truth claim than what it takes to “preach to the choir” by simply stating, “This is true because the Bible says it is.” This also means taking the time to address doubts and common objections to a truth claim. 

Yet, it’s Not About the Sign...

At the end of the day, it’s not about an LED open sign or even having a downtown storefront. These are just tools that we’re able to leverage for the sake of achieving our true mission: to be a people that’s with the neighborhood we’re called to, connecting those around us with the love and hope found in Jesus Christ. To that end, we’ll continually try new ways to be on mission and reach new people. Buildings, signage, tents, designated driving, free snacks, acts of kindness, and more, all of these are nothing more than tools that God gives us so we can be his hands and feet to reach people for His glory.    
The Redemption Movement’s ability to continue ministering to people with a great resource like a downtown storefront is totally dependent upon donations from the community. To assist with paying for rent so we can stay in our space, you can give online at:
Fundraising progress at the time this blog was published.

Or, to learn about additional ways that you can help, reach out to Kaler @ (607) 434-2564.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Seeing Jesus in Your Routine. Luke 24:13-32

From the Anchor sermon "Feeling Far From God" preached by Pastor Ryan Alsheimer. Communion message by Pastor Kaler Carpenter.
The beauty of this story is that Christ and His presence was with the two disciples throughout the entire journey...

even when they didn’t realize it.

Often times, we may feel far away from God, or like He doesn’t care when we’re discouraged. But, the whole time, 

He is walking beside us, encouraging us, speaking truth into our lives.

In the midst of trials and tribulations, our prayer should be, “Lord, give us eyes to see that you truly are with us.”

Now, in this story and even in those special moments when God reveals Himself to us, it is the Holy Spirit performing the supernatural work of “opening our eyes,” to the reality of Jesus Christ and his resurrection powerThat said, on a practical level,

God is one to use the ordinary and the familiar, in order to reveal to us the love of Christ in supernatural ways.

In the case of the two disciples, this revelation was experienced through “the breaking of bread.” In this text, when it says, “ He took bread and broke it”, it refers to sharing a common meal--an ordinary meal where one person takes an ordinary loaf and divides it to be passed out. 

Thinking back to the disciples’ time spent walking with Jesus, they likely enjoyed dozens, if not hundreds of meals with their Master. At the start of each meal, Jesus, as is customary for rabbis, “took the bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.”

Each one of these meals, though ordinary, was made special to these men because they shared a table with Jesus and enjoyed his presence.

At this inn located outside Emmaus, the Holy Spirit used the very moment of Jesus breaking the bread (in the exact same way that he’s done so with them many times before) to bring their hearts back to the past times when Christ was with them, and then, reveal to them that

the very same Jesus is with them now

in their time of extreme discouragement. 

Friends, “Why does this church break bread every week?” If we do it at every worship service, wouldn’t that make a special sacrement, ordinary? I love how Pastor Don once answered this question, with a question. He said, “Why doesn’t your church break bread every week?”

You see, there’s value to finding Christ in a familiar routine.

  • By coming to church regularly and fellowshipping with the saints,
  • by reading the same scriptures over and over again,
  • and by coming to the table and remembering the death and resurrection of Jesus, 

ESPECIALLY when you feel far away from God, 
you are, in effect, creating a space in the midst of your ordinary routing where you’re inviting the Holy Spirit to supernaturally work in your heart to remind you that God’s love is, indeed, oh so real. 

So, when we come to the table tonight, bring your burdens and your doubts, and come with an open mind and an open heart. I pray that, 

when you participate in this familiar act, your spiritual eyes will be opened, and your own hearts will, like the disciples’, “burn within” with the reality of His resurrection.

It’s a reality that encompasses every aspect of the human experience,

the good times, 

and even the bad.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Updates From the First Month in Our New, Downtown Home

Update #1:We're Moved in for the Month of April!

On March 30th, 2018 we were given the chance to use 80 Water Street as a space to both celebrate Good Friday and The Redemption Movement’s 5-year anniversary. This service also served as a way for our supporters to preview the space we’d like to move into. It was a special time, celebrated by more than 25 friends that represented as many as five local churches... Read More >>

Update #2: 3 Stories of Hope from the First 3 Weeks in Our New Home

This April, we’ve opened the doors to our new building on Water Street (made possible by the generosity of our friends) on five separate occasions and invited Oneonta’s nightlife inside in order to serve the community’s needs. What follows are three of the most memorable stories from the first three weeks in our new home... Read More >>
Click to see a tour of the new pad.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

The Case for Moving The Redemption Movement Downtown

It’s been five years since The Redemption Movement officially introduced ourselves to Oneonta by launching a weekly, Friday evening ministry out of a renovated storefront on River Street. Today, we’re presented with a cool opportunity to move operations from River Street to downtown.

It’s a move that makes sense in a lot of ways. It’s a move that will stretch us by requiring way more resources than what our little church has. But, it’s also a move that’s been marinating in vision and evolving since long before The Redemption Movement was ever, well, The Redemption Movement.

A Move 14 Years in the Making

The vision for ministering to a college nightlife scene out of a downtown location originated from my own college experience in Springfield, Missouri (2001-04). This is when I first became exposed to the vibrant nightlife with its hordes of young people walking the streets, hanging out, and just going from bar-to-bar looking for something (seemingly anything) to do.

As I talked with people from these crowds, I was taken aback by how hungry they were for friendship, how open they were to having honest conversations about God, and I was dismayed at how many people were putting themselves at unnecessary risk by being intoxicated (drunk driving, sexual assault, etc.). I also observed how this was a time when churches had their doors closed, and how few Christians were represented in the mix--primarily because they were resting up for the big show on Sunday morning.  

Emboldened by what I saw, I approached the church I was interning at and proposed the start of a storefront ministry to be operated downtown during these nightlife hours. The catchy name for this ministry endeavor: Night Church. Even though the church leadership all agreed that it was a good idea, for this particular suburban church, such a venture didn’t fit their target market.
Side Note: As I came to later find out, much of the ideas God put on my heart lie outside the box of traditional church activity, which is ultimately why I am a church planter today.           
Soon afterwards, I graduated and moved from Springfield (with its active nightlife) to my hometown where I ministered at a small, rural church. Even though I was making plans to settle down and enjoy married life in a small farming community, I couldn’t shake the vision of Night Church. It wasn’t but a couple of years later when this vision resurfaced in the form of church planting, and it took a couple more years for this vision to develop further and lead me to a location that would be suited for such a ministry--Oneonta, New York.

Like my experience in college, I had a difficult time convincing traditional church planting organizations that an idea like starting a new church in Oneonta was worth investing in (much less starting a night church). Therefore, upon arriving to Oneonta in 2009, Laura and I could only afford a building located a couple of miles from downtown. But no matter. We viewed our River Street headquarters as nice starter building, believing that it would only be a matter of time before the church plant would outgrow the space and support would one day allow for a move downtown.

In the meantime, we poured our hearts into Oneonta’s downtown scene, serving the crowds with thousands of free rides home and giving away thousands of dollar’s worth of snacks at the Kindness Station. All the while, we were building trust, networking, forming relationships with like-minded individuals, and connecting with other organizations that cared about Oneonta. Granted, I originally anticipated that such a move from River Street to downtown would take place sooner than this. But, as I’ve come to learn, God’s timing is perfect. 

The Amazing Opportunity Before Us Today

Fast forward to 2018 and the very building that we’ve been running the Kindness Station directly in front of for more than two years, 80 Water Street where our friends at LEAF used to call home, becomes available.
When this opportunity first opened up, myself, the Kindness Team volunteers, and our church members started dreaming:

  • What if, instead of showing Kindness outside of this location every weekend, we also showed kindness INSIDE?
  • What if the Kindness Station had a home--a home that wouldn’t require lugging two carloads of gear back and forth every single outing?
  • And, to make this home happen, what if we didn’t have to move from the very spot that we’re known for--a spot that people KNOW they can go to and find us if they’ve had too much to drink and need a free ride home?
  • And what if, instead of just giving out free snacks and rides, we’re able to take advantage of a building that would allow us to do much more for the community? Like, what if “Mission Oneonta” was more than a catchy title for a blog and it became the name of an actual downtown mission that served the community’s needs in a variety of helpful ways; such as, being a space for additional community groups, churches, and nonprofits looking to better Oneonta?
  • What if the Night Church vision God put on my heart back in 2004, actually became a thing?

Oh yeah, and what if all of this coincided with the 5-year anniversary of the public launch of our church?

So, What’s the Plan?

It’s important to keep in mind that making the move downtown is just the first step toward making this vision a reality. It’s going to take a couple more steps to get such a downtown space where it’s a thriving mission that’s making a positive impact on the community.

Step 1: The Kindness Station, Indoors
Upon taking over a downtown space, the first thing we would do is to use the indoor space in conjunction with the already thriving Kindness Station outreach ministry. We’ll still pitch the tent outside and keep a hospitality table stocked with a few goodies and have a heater going, but we’ll also move much of what we do inside. Being indoors will allow us to serve the public with a warmer space, a closet full of clothes instead of just a single rack, public bathrooms that we’ll keep clean (so people will hopefully stop urinating in the parking garage or on the public sidewalks), and a safe and comfortable place to sit, to socialize, to give time for the alcohol to wear off, and to wait for a safe ride home. Plus, having a home indoors will allow us to create and leave up interactive displays designed to educate the public about alcohol consumption. Best of all, NO MORE SHUTTLING GEAR BACK AND FORTH EVERY WEEK!       

Step 2: Opening Up the Space to Other Community Groups
With our small church’s current operations in mind, we’ll likely start off only using the space a few times each week. That makes for a lot of times throughout the rest of the week that other groups can use the space. In addition to a move like this allowing for the building to be used to its maximum potential, it will help us pay the rent if we sublet these rooms to enough groups that may want a regular downtown presence, but not be able to afford renting an entire building. A step like this would be a win for the group subletting the space, a win for us to have help with the rent, and a win for Oneonta to have another community-minded group with a presence downtown.

Step 3: Night Church
Night Church is the third step because it’s a concept that’s going to take more people to pull off than what our small church currently has available. Therefore, it’s our hope that moving downtown will allow for our church to grow into this and other ministries. At the very least, moving downtown to a place that’s more visible and more accessible will make it easier for visitors to check us out--something that’s historically been a struggle for our church with its out-of-the-way/easy-to-miss location on River Street.   

In a nutshell, Night Church involves taking several elements of a church worship service, like music, prayer, and teaching, and it stretches these out over the course of a few hours; all within a casual, conversational, coffeehouse-style environment. For example, this could look like taking a typical 3-point sermon and breaking down each point into a short lesson, followed by a time of questions and answers from small groups. It’s actually a model of ministry that we experimented with successfully when we first opened our doors in 2013. We were even able to incorporate additional ideas such as board games, food, and group art projects. However, as much fun as we had doing this night-church style of ministry, it quickly became apparent that such a model is truly designed for a downtown location that lends itself to foot traffic.

Keeping with the community-mindedness purpose of the downtown space, it would even be cool if we could have other pastors and other ministries participate in Night Church.      

What’s All of This Going to Take?                

Truth be told. Taking advantage of this opportunity will only be possible if our friends, church members, other churches, community groups, student groups, etc., all catch this vision too. At the time of this writing, The Redemption Movement has saved up, at most, perhaps enough to cover one month’s rent. This is primarily due to the fact that our church’s approach to finances has always been to give back and bless others with as much as we take in, as exemplified in the free ride service and the Kindness Station.

We are now asking for the community’s help to make this move possible. To make this happen, we’ll need to have enough monthly commitments to total at least $1,700 per month. Considering all of the friends we’ve made over the years, this goal actually seems obtainable.

To give, visit:
In all of our time here in Oneonta, it’s been rare for our church to ever directly ask people or groups in the community for donations. It’s just not been our style. But now, we’ve got an opportunity before us that I feel is compelling enough to play this fundraising card. If you agree that this is a good thing for Oneonta and that it needs to happen, then a gift of any amount will go a long way. We first and foremost are asking for monthly donations so we can plan our rent expenses accordingly, but one-time gifts will certainly help too and will either go toward moving expenses or be budgeted to help pay the rent. 

You can give to this cause online, or mail a check to 148 River Street. You can also contact Pastor Kaler at 607-434-2564 to learn about additional ways to give, or to schedule Kaler to come and speak to your church or community group about this need.           

Thank you friends for dreaming with me, and to see for yourself what such a move could look like, stop by 80 Water Street on Good Friday and join us as we celebrate 5-years of serving Oneonta!