From father to son: Pastor Ben Emberley follows in his father’s footsteps at the Community Bible Church


For the Recorder

Published: 08-04-2023 1:54 PM

On Sunday, July 16, Pastor Robert “Bob” Emberley passed on his role at the Community Bible Church to his son, Benjamin “Ben” Emberley. Ben’s vision for Community Bible Church echoes his father’s from 14 years ago, boiling down to that first word: community.

“I often say, community is our first name, and Bible is our middle name,” said Bob Emberley, 60, in a recent phone interview.

After serving as pastor of Mountain View Bible Church in Dublin, New Hampshire, for 17 years, Bob Emberley moved to Northfield in 2009 “with the desire to love a town, not just a church.”

“Whether someone ever becomes a follower of Christ or not, they know me as Bob who happens to be a pastor, and I’m going to be their friend and if they want to talk to me about faith or about Jesus or about life, I’m there for them,” said Bob.

In between Sunday services at the “neighborhood church,” Bob worked as a substitute teacher and classroom aide at Northfield Elementary School on and off for several years until the end of the 2020-2021 school year.

He currently serves on the Northfield Recreation Commission and runs the Northfield Summer Road Race Series, a weekly summer race he started 12 years ago. The community event starts and ends at 105 Main St, Community Bible’s new home. After hopping between eight different locations for 12 years, the church settled on Main Street in January of 2021. 

“I remember looking at that building and thinking, ‘That’d be a great building for a church that’s first name is community,’” said Bob. “It’s really cool to be right there in the heart of Northfield, and hopefully, we’re in the heart of the people in town.”

Ben Emberley, 29, said in a recent phone interview that he learned the importance of a pastor committing to a community, not just a church, from his father. “I’ve learned from him about being a part of your town… We both live here in town and we want to know our neighbors and we want to be invested where we’re at.”

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Ben graduated from Pioneer Valley Regional School in 2011 before he earned a degree in Bible Exposition from The Master’s University in California. There, his “conviction about the Gospel and what it teaches” became a calling.

“Because my dad was a pastor, it wasn’t necessarily immediately my goal to become a pastor… I didn’t want to do it just because it was the ‘family business,’” said Ben. But as he began to see his communications major as a hobby instead of a career, he asked himself, “What am I enjoying?”

The answer was Bible classes, his local church, and his mentor relationship with the pastor.

From there, he earned a Master of Divinity at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.

Referring to his faith, Ben said, “Definitely I’m impacted and shaped by my upbringing, but it was a personal conviction and choice that I believe this message to be true, and I believe in truth, and I’m going to therefore live in light of that truth.”

Just like his father, his love for New England and the “camaraderie” of a small church like Community Bible drew him back to Northfield.

To Ben, leading a small church is a “very different task” than leading a big church where “it’s easy to get lost.”

“I really love the opportunity to know the members well and to serve them and walk alongside them in life in a way that I think is really organic and intimate,” he said.

But his “first and primary calling” as a pastor will be in Community Bible Church’s middle name, as his father would say.

“One thing I’m particularly passionate about is helping people understand what the church is… and helping people see that even though we’re a small church in a small area, I believe God’s plan is to use local churches to be a blessing and to proclaim the Gospel message,” explained Ben.

Community Bible members voted to call Ben to serve as their next full-time leading pastor on July 2 after an ordination council led by the Rev. Scott Key of the C.S. Lewis Study Center in Northfield examined and unanimously approved Ben.

Bob will continue to serve Community Bible in a supportive leadership role while working for manufacturing company Brosco in Hatfield.

“I get this opportunity to continue to learn from him, and the connections he has still exist,” said Ben, who will give his first sermon on Sunday, August 13.

Bob said he is “really excited” to support his son because Ben “just had a burden to come back to his small town ministry, to his home, his own town… He just had a heart for this region.”