Introducing Benjamin Smith, FBCR’s Associate Pastor

Posted July 8, 2021… Updated July 19, 2021…

Benjamin was called to be the Associate Pastor in a Special Meeting of the Congregation on July 18, 2021.

Benjamin Smith received his M.Div from Wake Forest University School of Divinity this summer and grew up in Jackson, Mississippi. He has served in congregations from Austin to Atlanta and has a heart for the church and its people. He is currently a candidate for ordination with the Alliance of Baptists and is passionate about forming bonds with all age groups. In his free time you can find him biking, hiking, playing piano, and spending time with friends and family. He is grateful for the chance to be a part of FBC’s journey and is ready to walk with each of you on this road ahead. (He also needs someone to show him what a Garbage Plate is and is currently accepting offers!)

Learn more about Benjamin, opportunities to meet him, and the July 18 Special Congregational Meeting to affirm his call to FBCR.

Outdoor Worship and Inclement Weather

Posted June 24, 2021

As announced on Sunday, FBCR plans to continue to hold its lovely outdoor worship services in the courtyard. The Pandemic Task Force (with its focus on NYS guidelines and our safety) and the Worship Committee (with its focus on the worship experience), each hope to meet in July. With vacations or other travel plans of members and the time needed to gather, discuss, decide, plan, and implement logistical modifications, we anticipate no changes for a little while.

So, until further notice, we will continue to enjoy the outdoor courtyard for our Sunday worship, get to listen to the wonderful Carillon music through the steeple, and hear the birds singing and the wind blowing through the trees of God’s creation. At some time in the future, our weather plans may shift. Until then, please check the website or sign up for notifications for our plans on meeting in the courtyard or on Zoom each Sunday.

We do plan a full indoor worship experience on September 12th as we gather for Jubilee Sunday to kick-off the new program year.

On-campus pandemic guidelines

Posted June 16, 2021…

Beginning Tuesday, June 15, 2021, New York State lifted most of the pandemic guidelines – especially for vaccinated individuals and for events and programs under 250 individuals. The FBCR Pandemic Task Force worked hard to review and update to new church guidelines. These guidelines may change at any time. We will keep you posted here as they do.


Children Helping Children

Posted 6/2/21… Updated 6/24/21…

Thank you to everyone who supported the Children Helping Children program and making it possible to put together 150 care bags of treats and activities.

Sunday, June 20th, is the final week for collections…

The Kids of FBC Rochester thank everyone who has already given – and hope you will consider giving more. For the next few weeks (June 6th, June 13th and June 20th) they will still collect, in connection with the Missions Committee, items for their “Healthy Snacks and Activities Drive.” (Healthy Snacks-pre-packaged/shelf stable items) (Activities include:  Handheld activities, small individual games, small sketch pads with pencils, crayons, or washable markers, stickers, etc.)

Be creative with your ideas.

Monetary donations will also be accepted. The FBCR kids will be available to gather donations brought in. The target age is 4-10 years of age involved with the Monroe County Foster Care system or teenagers involved in the Cameron Teen Center. The Kids of FBCR will be organizing their donations on Sunday, June 20th for delivering to the two programs.  If there are any questions, reach out to Tasha Wilson or Sarah Oaks. 

Alliance of Baptists Thanks FBCR

Posted 6/9/21…
Dear First Baptist Church of Rochester,  

Because of you, the Alliance of Baptists continues to be a theological home for progressive Baptists pursuing God’s loving justice in partnership, and nurturing God’s beloved community here and around the world! We couldn’t do this without you. Thank you for your gift the Alliance of Baptists Ministry Budget.

Here are some ways you can keep up with the Alliance of Baptists and become more involved:

Find and support an Alliance partner
Attend an event near you
Download a resource for you or your faith community
Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter and Instagram
Explore our website regularly for news and information
Email me and ask how to become more involved with the Alliance!  

Your support is crucial in growing our movement. As we follow the Spirit’s call, we hope you will continue to join us on our journey, as together we build beloved communities where all are embraced, welcomed and affirmed.  

In gratitude,  

Jason Smith
congregational engagement specialist
Alliance of Baptists      

Outdoor In-person Worship Update!

Posted April 27… Updated June 16… Outdoor worship began June 6…

Sign up here to receive notifications of inclement weather or other changes

Update #5

Due to staff time off, decisions on moving worship back inside will not be made until at least July.

Update #4

New guidelines for the state have been put into place on June 15, 2021. You can find all of the new guidelines summarized at which the FBCR Pandemic Task Force has gleaned from these guidelines. If you watched the video above, please note that health assessments are no longer required.

Update #3

Dress casual and comfortable for Outdoor Worship services.

Update #2…

The FBCR Pandemic Task Force (PTF) has been working to remain up to date with the guidelines from the CDC and State of New York and to determine the best plan for our upcoming outdoor worship. We look forward to the exciting opportunity to gather in-person outside starting June 6th. The guidelines to note:

  • Everyone will be asked to wear a mask to outdoor worship until seated. When seated, fully vaccinated worshipers may remove their masks. Those still awaiting their vaccination are asked to continue wearing a face covering.
  • Family Groups (FG – extended families who have already been in social settings without masks) may sit in clusters. We ask that each FG maintain a six-foot distance from others.
  • Worshippers can sit in folding chairs that will already be set up or bring their own lawn blanket or camp/lawn chair for use in the grass.
  • During Children’s Time, leaders and children will be masked. Other speakers in the service must maintain a six-foot distance from others (vocalist, twelve-foot) in order to be unmasked.
  • We will move back to our Zoom format on inclement weather days. Worship format decisions will be made each Saturday. All participants may sign up to receive automatic notifications to be sent to them by text, email, or phone (or any combination of the above). Any decisions NOT to proceed with on-campus worship will also be posted prominently on the Home and Online Worship pages of our website.

Our Welcome Home Sunday, utilizing the sanctuary, will be September 12. This very special celebratory day is our target date for resuming indoor worship. With the lessening guidelines, the PTF will also be considering the feasibility of sanctuary use for inclement weather days prior to that date and will keep you posted if we can logistically make it work.

Please keep checking back to the Diaspora Times for updates as they happen!

Update #1

Sign up today (here or above) to receive outdoor worship inclement weather notifications or other changes.

Original Article

We can all feel it. It’s time for the FBCR family to be together again in worship. Our Worship Committee, Pandemic Task Force, and various other volunteers are hard at work making that a reality. While the threat of increased transmission remains quite high in our area and around the world, the turning weather gives us an opportunity to take advantage of this virus’s primary weakness – the outdoors!

Experts are unified in the understanding that outdoor transmission rates of Covid-19 are quite low and with additional precautions and the rising rate of community vaccination, our Pandemic Task Force has a very high degree of confidence that worshipping outdoors is safe. So join us beginning June 6 and throughout the summer for worship on the beautiful FBCR campus!

Can’t make it to worship on campus or don’t yet feel safe? Join us on Zoom. We’ll still be in our digital worship space too. Just log in using the usual channels.

Our Worship Committee and other volunteers are at work tending to the details of this plan, so you’ll want to check back here regularly for details on the exact location, necessary precautions, and other details you’ll need.


If vaccination rates continue to rise and the current wave of transmission comes to an end as we anticipate they will, we will be able to celebrate a very special Welcome Home Sunday indeed. Assuming the aforementioned criteria, we will be back together again in the beautiful FBCR sanctuary on September 12. Watch for further information.

Special Offering: One Great Hour of Sharing

For the month of June…

To contribute to the One Great Hour of Sharing special offering send a check made out to First Baptist Church at 175 Allens Creek, Rochester, NY 14618 and write “One Great Hour” in the memo line.

June Special Offering
One Great Hour of Sharing

One Great Hour of Sharing is an offering that makes the love of Christ real for individuals and communities around the world who suffer the effects of disaster, conflict, or severe economic hardship, and for those who serve them through gifts of money and time. Today, projects are underway in more than 100 countries, including the United States and Canada. Receipts average $20 million annually. 

You may drop or mail a check at the church or contribute online. Checks should have OGHS in memo line.

Contributions give support in many forms both internationally and here at home including help following flood, hurricane/cyclone, tornado, earthquake, for refugees, or asylum seekers, in civil conflicts, for clean water, and for new business assistance.

Our OAFA dollars at work

Posted May 26,,, The Board of Trustees are pleased to inform the congregation on how effective the Once and For All campaign has already become. It is benefitting the church today and will into the future.

In the last few months we have received donations in the amount of $42,000. These contributions alone will translate into $2,100 in offset to the campus budget this year and for years to come. That offset does not include the gains that these investments may see which would be in addition to this amount. By considering a tax deductible donation to this campaign, you can save, the church can benefit, and you will help offset our campus overhead now and into future – year after year! This means that our annual giving dollars can directly benefit FBCR’s Mission and Ministry. To learn more, speak with Dale Pensgen or Richard Wien.

Pentecost Worship online

Updated May 25, 2021…

… The full service may be viewed online if you missed it.

Pentecost Worship with Sibling Churches, 11am May 23

FBCR will join with our sibling congregations in the Rochester Genesee Region ABC USA to celebrate Pentecost Sunday on May 23 at 11am.

Pentecost is a natural moment in the church year for the wider church to celebrate our unity and diversity as it marks the moments traditionally thought of as the beginning of the universal church. Among other images, the occasion remembers the miracle of many languages being understood as one. To that end, we the pastors of the participating congregations, would like to invite you to add your voice to the service for that day. Please see the specifics of a couple of different ways (one musical, one spoken) to do that below and feel free to participate in either or both of those opportunities by the deadlines listed.

The service will be held via Zoom. You can log in here or using the usual method on the home or worship-online pages.

2 Ways to Add Your Voice to the Service

Call to Worship

Record yourself on video telling us about your hopes.

First and for context, read Romans 8:22-27. It speaks of hope, or that which we hope for, being unseen. Nobody hopes for what is right in front of us. Now record yourself answering the question, “What is unseen in your world/community/neighborhood that you sincerely hope for?”

How to Record

  • Set your recording device for the highest possible resolution. If that doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry about it. Just send us the best video you can and we’ll make it work.
  • If you’re using a mobile device consider finding an interesting/fitting background in front of which to record.
  • Minimize background noise as much as possible.
  • If you’re recording from a phone, please use landscape mode (sideways). 

How to Submit

Go to and click the upload link. A new screen will appear to allow you to select the file from your computer or device. Follow the prompts to select and upload.
DeadlineI won’t have time to include submission that come in after 8am on Monday, May 17.
Contact for problems

Digital Choir

What to Record

This year, for our joint Pentecost service, we are again venturing into a group virtual musical project: a virtual choir video recording of the hymn “On Pentecost They Gathered.” 
You can find the instructions both in the attached pdf, and as a document in the the project folder accessible via the following link, where your singers will also be able to access all subsequent materials:

I’m looking for a total of 16 singers, 4 of whom are already covered by members of UBC Columbus, Ohio. That leaves 
3 more sopranos 3 more altos 3 more tenors 3 more basses 

How to Record

  • Set your recording device for the highest possible resolution. If that doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry about it. Just send us the best video you can and we’ll make it work.
  • If you’re using a mobile device consider finding an interesting/fitting background in front of which to record.
  • Minimize background noise as much as possible.
  • If you’re recording from a phone, please use landscape mode (sideways). 

How to Submit

Email files to David at address below.

DeadlineWednesday, May 19

Contact for problems

Call to Prayer and Action for Myanmar

Posted early May 2021… On February 1, 2021, the military seized control and declared a year-long state of emergency. The country’s elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and members of her party are now under house arrest. As a result, all ethnic and religious minorities as well as actors of conscience and conviction are in grave danger.

One leader in Myanmar wrote to us, “With guns in hand the military has ruled with an iron grip, arresting and destroying many lives. The whole country is mourning in grief but this time the people did not come out to protest in the streets knowing many would be shot and killed…”

Read more on the events and Myanmar and find out how you can be of support here.

Download a draft letter to urge American officials to use their power to help here.

2021 ABC USA Biennial Mission Summit

June 24 – 26, 2021…

What to Expect at the 2021 Biennial Mission Summit

Plan to experience the vitality of our American Baptist family together with other American Baptists from all corners of the United States and the world through the June 2021 online Biennial Mission Summit event! Join one of the most diverse Baptist denominations as we imagine new possibilities and celebrate together the love of Christ and the joy of being a part of American Baptist Churches USA.  The online Biennial Mission Summit will feature scheduled programming on each of the three event days, June 24-26, 2021. Participants will draw from a library of pre-recorded sessions, along with resources and offerings for prayer, worship, live workshops, inspiration, fellowship, and online fun, all while connecting with both regular attendees as well as American Baptists who have not attended an in-person event before!

Venue Information

For our 2021 Biennial Mission Summit event, we will be offering a one-of-a-kind online experience using the Cvent platform. Our partnership with Cvent will give attendees access to a Virtual Exhibit Hall, providing attendees opportunities for meeting with exhibitors during scheduled times one-on-one or in groups throughout the event. Live events will kick off on June 24 and run through June 26, and a wide-ranging library of prerecorded workshops and offerings will be available to registrants for a 90 day period. We are excited to imagine a new way of coming together to celebrate, learn, and grow collectively as a representative body of American Baptist Churches USA!

Keynote Speakers

Rev. Dr. Winterbourne LaPucelle Harrison Jones
Friday Evening Keynote Speaker

Rev. Dr. Winterbourne LaPucelle Harrison-Jones is a scholar, author, ecclesial leader, and distinguished Churchman out of the linage of Dr. William Augustus Jones, Dr. James Forbes, Dr. Mordecai Wyatt Johnson, Rev. Marvin Chandler, and Dr. Howard Thurman.

A fifth-generation minister, Dr. Harrison-Jones is widely sought after as a preacher, speaker, and workshop facilitator.  Rev. Harrison-Jones is a 2006 graduate of Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School in Washington, D.C. and a 2010 graduate of the historic Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., where he earned his bachelor’s degree in Religious and Philosophical Studies.  While at Fisk University, Reverend Harrison-Jones had the distinct opportunity of being mentored by Fisk University President and former United States Secretary of Energy, The Honorable Hazel R. O’Leary, and Dean of the historic Fisk Memorial Chapel, Rev. Dr. Jason Richard Curry, PhD. 

In addition to Fisk University and Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School, Rev. Harrison-Jones holds degrees and professional certifications from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin Germany, and the Universidad de Salamanca in Salamanca, Spain. Rev. Harrison-Jones simultaneously matriculated in two national doctoral programs, earning the Doctor of Ministry from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School and is currently pursuing the PhD in Urban Education from Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis (IUPUI).

As a scholar, Rev. Harrison-Jones investigates how theological and homiletic resources within Christian traditions are valuable for interpreting and responding to such pressing public issues as economic deprivation, religious bigotry, racism, class inequity, and structural inequality. Rev. Harrison-Jones is married to Mrs. Jillian Ardelia Harrison-Jones, who is a doctoral candidate in Choral Conducting at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music and serves as the Richard Wesp Assistant Conductor of the Cincinnati Children’s Choir and the Music Director of MUSE, the Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir.

Reverend Harrison-Jones is the esteemed Pastor of the historic Witherspoon Presbyterian Church of Indianapolis, Ind.

Rev. Dr. Brianna Parker
Saturday Evening Keynote Speaker

Founding Curator of The Black Millennial Café which is a resource for persons and institutions interested in authentic millennials engagement. Rev. Dr. Brianna K. Parker created BMC to educate others on millennials & faith through her doctoral research.

She holds a Master of Divinity in pastoral care and counseling from Fuller Theological Seminary, a Master of Arts in church-state studies from Baylor University, and a Doctor of Ministry from Virginia Union University’s Samuel Dewitt Proctor School of Theology. 

Before founding the Black Millennial Café, Reverend Bri served Friendship-West Baptist Church for nearly a decade with Reverend Frederick D. Haynes, III who ordained her. She served Paul Quinn College for seven years as an adjunct professor and Coordinator of College Assembly and three years as an Associate Professor of Religion at Jarvis Christian College.

She has been awarded the Norman Vincent Peale Preaching Scholarship and the Mary McLeod Bethune Religion Award from the National Council of Negro Women, and she is a Silver Lifetime Member of the NAACP.

For more information on other speakers, workshops, and events at the 2021 ABC USA Biennial Mission Summit or to register visit here.

NOTE: The Church office will not be notified of your registration, but we would like to know who will participate, so let us know if you’re planning to attend.

ABCUSA has announced a preview of Biennial Mission Summit to occur on April 20, 2021. Reserve your spot for this sneak peek here.

Section Leader Sunday

May 2, 2021…

It is time to bid farewell to our 2020/2021 Section Leaders for the season. Ella Torres, soprano; Danielle Romano, alto; Josh Carlisle, tenor; and Jack O’Leary, bass will sing special music throughout the service. We are excited that Ella, Josh, and Jack will return again next fall, but we must say goodbye to Danielle Romano, who is graduating. Following the service we will have a short time in conversation with them. Won’t you join us for this special musical treat!

Jazz ‘n Jeans Sunday

April 25, 2021…

Join FBCR and our musicians this Sunday for a pandemic version of Jazz ‘n Jeans. Grab a cup of coffee (or juice, or tea) and a treat if you like for this uplifting casual service with jazz and contemporary music interwoven throughout. David Labman will tickle the piano keys, Sam Baker will jam on organ and our section leaders: Ella, Danielle, Josh and Jack serenade us with song. Music begins at 9:50 AM. We hope to see you there!