Bane a boon to Aggie faithful
___COLLEGE STATION--Although it's been marked by joy and humor, Malcolm Bane's 31-year impact on Aggies is no joke.
___From the vantage point of impending retirement, Bane can look back upon a ministry to Texas A&M University students that has multiplied many times and spread literally around the globe.
___When Bane arrived as pastor of First Baptist Church in College Station in 1969,
A&M's enrollment numbered 14,000. Three decades later, the student body totals more than 44,000, and Bane has seen thousands of Aggies come and go.
|MALCOLM BANE greets worshippers after a recent Sunday service.
___More than 250 Aggies now are enrolled in Sunday School at First Baptist Church. On many Sundays, more than twice that many students worship there. At times, up to 600 students have attended church on a regular basis, arriving in buses and carpools.
___The task of ministering in a church near one of the nation's largest universities is more than academic, Bane noted. First Baptist also includes older members, families with children and single young professionals. So, reaching all the church's 1,250 active members is challenging because of the diversity.
___"We have a large number of college students, yet we also have retirees, faculty from the university, young professionals on the Texas A&M staff and in the various enterprises that support the school and the communities that surround it, and many families with children of all ages," he explained.
___Bane has worked to present the message of God's love to that diverse audience in a way that is significant to every worshipper.
___It's a message he's delivered countless times in the College Station pulpit and many more times when he was pastor of Scatterbranch Baptist Church in Commerce, 1958-60; First Baptist Church in McDade, 1960-62; Caverns Baptist Church in Carlsbad, N.M., 1962-63; and First Baptist Church in Rio Vista, 1966-69.
___"My message has always been about God's love and grace and the positive role that God's love should play in our lives," he noted. "I always try to have something for every member of the congregation--from the retirees to the children that attend our services. The message of God's grace--that he forgives us because of who he is, not because of who we are--is always presented because it is so important."
___Aggie jokes aside, Bane always has been aware of the intelligence of people who come to worship.
___"Texas A&M attracts some of the brightest young men and women in Texas, the United States and the world, many of whom are away from home for the first time and may be questioning their faith," he said. "Yet they choose to be with us for worship. And the members of the faculty who join them in our pews also are questioning and inquisitive.
___"I have to make sure I get the details right in every sermon because they are so bright they'll know if I don't--and if they can't trust me on the little things, how can I expect them to trust me on the bigger ones?"
___One of the reasons Bane's congregation knows it can trust him is because he cares for them, said Associate Pastor David Rowland, recalling how Bane would leave Wednesday night services at the church to go visit students in their dormitory rooms or shut-ins at home.
___"He has always exemplified service," Rowland said, adding service is something the younger members of his congregation have taken to heart.
___Bane reported he always is gratified when he attends statewide or national Baptist events and finds former members of his congregation who now serve as deacons, Sunday School teachers, choir members and even as ministers.
___Their former pastor inspired many Aggies to Christian service, added Barry Miller, former college minister at First Baptist, now staff member at Memorial Baptist Church in Baytown.
___"In the eight years I served at First Baptist in College Station, 47 of our students went on to attend seminary or enter the ministry, and that's an amazing number," Miller said. "I firmly believe it's because Malcolm Bane inspired them by showing them the importance of servanthood. That's the sort of man--and the sort of pastor--he is."
___The idea of service compliments the A&M mystique, which long has been known for strong traditions, including service to country, school and others, Miller added.
___Bane is quick to share the credit for influencing thousands of students through the past three decades.
___"We have a lot of good churchmen and women here to help," he stressed. "We've always had good Sunday School teachers in the Aggie Department; great folks who have had students into their homes and modeled marriage and family relationships, as well as service to the cause of Christ."
___ The church is honoring Bane with "A Season of Commemoration" that began the last Sunday in November and will continue through the end of December, when he will retire.
___Reported by Mary Jo Powell
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