This past week, the Reformed Baptist community lost an influential member in the passing of Ron Baines. While others knew him better, the Lord used him in our family during a difficult trial. May this memory help others as they mourn, and encourage us to “not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not give up.”
In the late summer of 2001 my husband and I moved to central Massachusetts. My husband had just been called to serve as an associate pastor of youth of an evangelical congregational church. We were excited about this new position and of the support we had received from the members. Ninety days after his starting date, about a month after 9/11, the church terminated the senior pastor in a bitter, ugly, and emotional congregational meeting. Seeing the process as unbiblical, my husband spoke against voting out the pastor at the meeting, but it did not sway the majority of the congregation. We were faced with a church split, members whose thought processes we did not understand, and no guidance from a senior pastor. Many of those members who had been the friendliest left the church. Young, married for only a year, and expecting our first child, we were unsure how to proceed.
Calvinistic and baptist in doctrine and practice, my husband had been introduced to the 1689 Confession a few years beforehand, so he sought out a Reformed Baptist church nearby where we could attend evening service. That church was Heritage Baptist Church in Worcester. That was when we met Mike Renihan and Ron Baines. After hearing our situation, Ron invited us over for dinner to talk further.
I believe Ron was working bi-vocationally at a meat-packing plant at the time, yet he and his family still took the time to extend hospitality to this young couple. For dinner we had steak with carmelized onions, and it was delicious. Afterwards it was easy to converse with Ron and his wife, and Ron in his down-to-earth style explained how he viewed the bond between a pastor and his church as one that should not be broken without much consideration. This advice impacted us tremendously, and the Lord used it to influence our decision to remain at the church where my husband served for two more years. Also, hearing about my interest in American religious history, Ron gave me a copy of “Marriage to a Difficult Man“, which at the time was out of print. I still have that copy fourteen years later.
While we were never fully involved with Heritage, the Baines family’s kindness towards us continued. My husband was able to audit classes with the Reformed Baptist Pastoral Training Institute and learn much from Ron and the other pastors that taught the small group of men. Ron’s wife picked me up for ladies’ Bible studies, and their daughter knit a sweater with football buttons for our newborn son. That sweater has since persevered through several rowdy children. And like that sweater, the memory of the kindness of Ron Baines and his family has persevered and influenced more than they know.