Facets of Community Episode 3: Care

Each year the FBCR congregation sets aside a few weeks for reflection. We reflect collectively on who we are as a church, and we reflect individually on how we relate to the church at large. From now through Sunday, November 7, 2021 I want to invite our faith community to consider broadly what it means to live in community together. Toward that end, we will highlight nine different facets of community, nine ways by which our community takes shape.

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Heads Up! I refer to this episode as episode 2 but it is episode 3 in our 9-part series.

At Wednesday night forum last night, we talked about the concept of stewardship and how we might move away from thinking about stewardship in a purely financial sense and towards a model that includes how we choose to use the resources life has given each of us.

One of these resources we have at FBCR is time. Some of us have more time than others, but all of us, no matter how busy we are, have at least a little bit. When our group was chatting about this on Wednesday night, we agreed that resources are tools that we use to strive towards a goal; one of the central goals of our community at FBCR is to care for one another.

Institutions often revolve around care: Hospitals revolve around the care of people’s bodies and often psyches. The academy—another important institution a lot of us have passed through—focuses on the care of people’s minds and perspectives. The church, an institution that has shaped all our lives, revolves around the care of souls, as well as our bodies and brains.

Some questions come up for me here: 

  • How does the type of care that the church can offer differ from that offered by other institutions? Does it differ at all?
  • How might the autonomous way we govern ourselves as Baptists shape how we reach out to one another?
  • Is there anything theologically significant about the fact that we have so many lay people here who share in the work of compassionate care and outreach?
  • What might this distinction reveal to us about God?

Facets of Community Episode 2: Mission

Each year the FBCR congregation sets aside a few weeks for reflection. We reflect collectively on who we are as a church, and we reflect individually on how we relate to the church at large. From now through Sunday, November 7, 2021 I want to invite our faith community to consider broadly what it means to live in community together. Toward that end, we will highlight nine different facets of community, nine ways by which our community takes shape.

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In El Salvador a civil war has been replaced by gang violence. I don’t live in El Salvador and don’t know much about El Salvador and, as a guess, not many of you listening do either. And yet, our faith calls us to not only care about the suffering happening there, but to be a part of alleviating it.

In Guatamala corporations from wealthy countries exploit the land and resources that belong to the people. And my faith calls me to care and to do something about that.

In Laos and Thailand children are among the most vulnerable and many fall prey to abuse and violence. I’m called to care and be a part of the repair.

Here in my own city folks suffer the indignity and pain of homelessness. I’m supposed to be part of fixing that too.

Both the magnitude of the suffering and injustice people in our world face and the sheer diversity of kinds of suffering and injustice pose a huge problem for those of us who believe we are called by God to be part of redemption in the world. Standing with people in suffering and advocating for and working toward new ways forward requires an enormous amount of time, energy, and resource to say nothing of a high degree of skill and dedication. We don’t all have those things to contribute in any one area much less in all of the areas that need attention. But still, following Jesus, we believe, means doing just that. So what’s the answer?

You guessed it. Community.

At FBCR, because we have a dedicated congregation who share resources with one another we are able to help support a number of organizations and individuals who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of justice, peace, and wellbeing in our community and around the world. But we don’t just write checks. Financial support is well and good of course, but we also seek opportunities to serve directly whether that be in direct support or through advocacy or volunteer projects. Our Missions Committee at FBCR are the folks who lead our efforts connecting our available funding with the causes that need it most, considering how we might be able to support various efforts, and planning those opportunities.

None of these things would be possible if not for our ability to share the load with one another and with other churches locally and around the nation. That’s right, our connection to American Baptist Churches USA means that we’re also a part of efforts happening nationally and around the world. Because we exist in community we have a more robust, well resourced, longer lasting response to the ills of the world than any of us would have individually.

So here’s some food for thought:

-What do you know about the efforts that American Baptists are making and the FBCR is making to be present to those in need? Do you think it’s important to know a thing or two about those efforts, and if so, how can you stay up to date on them?

-How can you imagine a group of people bound together in faith might make a difference in their community aside from funding?

Here’s a possible point of action for you:

Get involved at some level in the work FBCR and our partner organizations and churches are doing at some level. If you don’t know much about what’s going on, take a look at our website and familiarize yourself. You can find a list of organizations and initiatives we support at www.rochesterfbc.org/what-we-do. Have any questions or see an area you might like to be involved? Contact me by email or phone and I’ll connect you with our Missions Committee.

I’m grateful to you for taking the time to consider this facet and of community and others.

Facets of Community Episode 1: Polity

Each year the FBCR congregation sets aside a few weeks for reflection. We reflect collectively on who we are as a church, and we reflect individually on how we relate to the church at large. From now through Sunday, November 7, 2021 I want to invite our faith community to consider broadly what it means to live in community together. Toward that end, we will highlight nine different facets of community, nine ways by which our community takes shape.

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Baptists from the beginning saw what could happen when matters of faith and belief were cast upon people. They understood that belief by coercion was not true belief at all, but simply a mode of control and, ultimately, oppression. In answer they began to experiment with the idea that perhaps individuals had to be trusted with their own beliefs and actions rather than having them handed to them by a hierarchical authority like the government or the church. They also knew though, that on their own, there could be no true encounter of God and no robust mission. They needed one another in community. The community served to pool resources, to hold the beliefs of the community in dynamic tension with one another, to organize their efforts in the world. For Baptists, the local church, became their central organizing principle. Churches worked together in association, yes, but held no authority over one another. In Baptist life denominational authority is granted only by the churches and authority in the churches is granted only by the people of the congregation.

So, what does this have to do with stewardship?

Well, if stewardship means taking stock of what community means and how we care for and serve our community of faith, then recognizing that congregational polity is a part of that means realizing that we all as individuals – that you dear listener – have authority in the congregation. You share that authority with the other members of the FBCR community, but YOU have authority in the decisions made, in the vision set, in all workings and happenings of the church.

Given that you have authority in the workings of the church, here are some things to contemplate:

  • If the way that our community of faith shows up in the world is a matter decided by bottom-up, congregational leadership, what does that require of us in terms of dialogue and communication? What does it imply about how we deal with things like conflict and controversy? What does it say about unanimity and unity?
  • What does congregational polity suggest about your role in the church?
  • Lastly, what does the fact that you are a needed and integral part of the mission and vision of FBCR call you to do? To know a bit more about the way we make decisions? To express an idea? To become involved in leadership? How can you put your knowledge of congregational polity to its most constructive use?

Letter from Pastor Brent

FBCR Family,

Each year the FBCR congregation sets aside a few weeks for reflection. We reflect collectively on who we are as a church, and we reflect individually on how we relate to the church at large. Because we, as humans, tend to default to the pragmatic this period of reflection, which we often call “Stewardship Season” seems like nothing more than the practical process of funding the operations of our organization. Once each year you hear from FBCR leadership asking you to support the church financially. This year, I would like to invite you – to invite us – into a season of reflection that goes beyond the pragmatic. Yes, the way FBCR stewards its resources is one facet of our consideration in the weeks ahead, but there are several others worth our contemplation.

From now through Sunday, November 7, 2021, I want to invite our faith community to consider broadly what it means to live in community together. Toward that end, we will highlight nine different facets of community, nine ways by which our community takes shape. Those nine areas are:

  • Polity
  • Mission
  • Caring
  • Financial
  • Risk
  • Workload
  • Voice
  • Wisdom
  • Membership

To aid in your consideration we will release a brief podcast-style reflection each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through the end of the season. Each reflection of roughly 5 minutes will introduce one of these facets of community, pose a couple of questions for your contemplation, and suggest an action item to help you participate fully in the life and community of FBCR. The reflections will come to you by email and will be available on our website at rochesterfbc.org/stewardship, where you will find the message available in text, playable audio, and downloadable audio for listening on the go. If the last two sentences seem like another language to you, worry not – just click the link in the email, then the highlighted message at the top of the page.

Soon you will receive in the mail (also available in the foyer and on the Vitality Table on campus) a resource that will aid us in our reflections – a response card – provided for you to indicate potential areas of service you might be interested in. The card also allows you to pledge your financial participation and support for the 2022 budget year if you should choose. That card may be returned via the offering baskets on campus, mailed to the church office, or submitted via scan/image to by November 7, 2021.

For reasons unknown to us, God has chosen faithful community as a vehicle for God’s redemptive work in the world. That community though, is not built or maintained without intentionality. Will you join me in a season of reflection on the shape of the community we call First Baptist and on your participation within? May God bless this season with insight, energy, and a renewed sense of our call to be together in important and meaningful ways!

Grace & Peace,

Rev. Brent Bowden, pastor