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 eight different facets of community, nine ways by which our community takes shape.

In El Salvador a civil war has been replaced by gang violence.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 4: Financial

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 eight different facets of community, nine ways by which our community takes shape.

Money & religion: two things one doesn’t talk about in polite company. Well, we’re going to

venture both today. Namely we’re going to consider the difference between the way that many organizations doing good things in the world fund themselves and the idea of financial participation in a faith community.

So it’s no secret at this point that we live in a consumerist society. That’s not just a statement about our love for stuff, but a note about how our society views the things, the people, the ideas in our world. Namely, the way we place value upon things. Specifically, we tend to place value upon things in our life and therefore make decisions about what gets incorporated into our life in the same way we make decisions about which consumer goods and services we wish to purchase. I’m no economist, so that’s about as far into the weeds as I can venture, but at some point organizations doing positive work in the world recognized and embraced that all things – even altruistic, positive, redemption seeking initiatives – are valued in the same way that consumer goods are valued, and for that reason are valued over against those things. So they responded in a way that seems appropriate, they began to “sell” their product, the work they’re doing in the world. “For just $0.49 per day you can sponsor a hungry child.” You can purchase a cow for a family in a place far away. You can even have the checker at the grocery store scan a UPC code to add a donation to your total. You can buy an end to world hunger. How ‘bout that!

At some point the consumerist approach to charity leaked into the church and we began to think about funding faith communities in the same way. That is, financial contributions to the church (or other faith organization) became viewed as charitable donations – donations being, in essence, being purchases that procure the good things in the world the donator wants to see.

Aren’t contributions to churches and other faith organizations just donations? The IRS categorizes them as such. Well, there is a subtle, but important difference. Certainly faith communities benefit when people say, “Hey they’re doing a thing I think is important, I’ll donate to that,” or, “Hey, they offer beneficial worship services, I’ll help support the cost of doing that.”

So that’s certainly well and good, but it is in contrast to the understanding of contributing financially as participating in community. “I’ll donate to that cause,” is different in subtle, but important ways from, “I’d like to participate in the life and work of this community, which means sharing the monetary cost.” The idea of financial participation in community over against the idea of donating to a cause does a few things. It fosters equity in the congregation, because a person’s voice in the church is not tied to the size of their contribution. Sure, some among us are able to carry more of the cost than others, but that doesn’t add up to more power. The direction and vision of the church doesn’t follow the money if the members therein don’t view themselves as donors. It also means that the full cost of ministry gets funding rather than just those things that are popular in the moment.

One of the most important aspects of the financial participation model of contribution is that everyone gets to be a part. A donation of just a few dollars may not seem like much when weighed against the collective cost of an entire organization. That can leave “donors” feeling insignificant. If instead of focusing on the size of the contribution, but rather on the intent – that is a desire to participate in community – then everyone is an equal participant. That’s gospel, friends, and I think it is the most critical part of how we think about our financial contribution – a sense of belonging. When we “donate” we give to an agency outside our reach. We say, “Here are some of my resources, go and do good with them.” When we think of our contributions as part of our participation in community we do entrust their expenditure to the wisdom of the congregation, but a congregation of which we are part. Donating encourages relinquishing involvement, participating financially draws us in to other parts of the life of the community. It enlivens our worship, engages us in mission, draws us more fully into relationship.

 

So here are a few things to ponder as you go:

How might viewing your financial contribution to your faith community as one facet of your participation over against making a donation impact the way you think about other areas of church life like mission, like faith formation, like worship?

How does fostering equity within the congregation support the work of equity outside the congregation?

 

And here’s one point of action for you to consider undertaking in the days ahead.

Would you prayerfully consider how you might be able to participate financially in the life of First Baptist Church of Rochester? There are a couple of ways to do that. The most pressing is to support our general operating budget, which is currently being mapped out for fiscal 2022. For planning purposes, it does our leaders well to know what our financial outlook will be, so our budget process works on pledges. You have or will soon receive a pledge card in the mail if we have your up-to-date contact information; otherwise they’re available outside the sanctuary. Would you consider filling one of those out to let us know how you’d like to participate financially in this community next year?

If you’re looking for a way to do more for the community, our Once and For All Fund might be an opportunity you’d like to look into. Once and For All is a fund established a couple of years ago with the purpose of lifting the cost of our physical campus off of our general operating budget. It’s a way that we hope to care for and share our beautiful campus for generations to come, while also allowing our budget to be more mission focused. You can make simple contributions to that fund or there are a number of ways to contribute that don’t involve writing a check at all. Legacy gifts, contributions of stock or other assets are helpful too. In fact there are likely ways to support the Once and And For All Fund that would mean little or no cost to you or your family that you may not even be aware of. If you’d like to learn more about those possibilities I can connect you with the people who can share all the details. Just let me know by calling the church office or emailing me at .

I’m grateful for your taking the time to reflect on these facets of community. See you at church.

Facets of Community Episode: Template

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 eight different facets of community, nine ways by which our community takes shape.

Text of episode. “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.”

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Events Calendar Restored

As we begin to gather once again on a regular basis at the church, we ask that the leaders of the various groups within the church, contact the church office to reserve rooms and/or to place your event on the church calendar. This will ensure that you are able to use the room you prefer along with informing others of your event.

Worship IN the Sanctuary – Beginning July 18

At long last, the time has come to be back together in the sanctuary beginning July 18!

Our 71st week of worship following the arrival of the global pandemic in Rochester will be a special week of worship indeed. The Associate Pastor Search Committee has already announced that their recommendation for that position, Benjamin W. Smith (more on that here), will be here to preach in view of a call that week. Now the Covid Task Force and Worship Committees have informed us that we are ready to move back into our beautiful and beloved sanctuary the same week! Here are just a few things worshipers need to know:

While transmission rates are quite low, there is still cause for some caution. If rates of transmission rise in our area again some precautions may need to be reinstated.

Services will continue to be available via Zoom by logging in as usual here.

While in the sanctuary, we will continue to maintain social distance, and the room will be ventilated to the maximum degree feasible.

Face coverings will be optional for fully vaccinated worshipers. Those who haven’t yet been vaccinated AND those who will be in close proximity to our young worshipers (children under 12) are asked to please continue to wear a face covering.

For the time, no health screening form or temperature check at arrival will be necessary for any worshipers.

Claire Boulay

Claire Boulay….

Peter asks for prayers for the family following the death of Roger’s sister and Peter’s aunt, Claire Boulay in Fall River, MA on Friday, May 14, 2021.

February Call to Worship by Maya Angelou

On Sundays during February and in recognition of Black History Month, FBCR has used poems from Maya Angelou as our call to worship. Recognizing Dr. Angelou works, was along with a focus during Children’s Time on influencial African Americans (known and not so known), helped us focus on the many contributions of Black Americans.

Below, we have provided links to the poems read during worship, written by Maya Angelou, who was known as an American poet, memoirist,  civil rights activist, dancer, singer, actress, producer, professor, mentor, and more.

Due to copyright regulations, we do not have permission from the author (or family/estate) to print her poem here but we can provide you with a link to where you may find it printed on the internet. On the site called Allpoetry.com where they state that the poems were supplied to them by the owner/author.

A National Moment of Unity and Remembrance

First Baptist – Rochester, NY will join other churches across our nation as we ring our bells in memory of the 394,495 individuals1 who lost their life to COVID. The ringing will begin at 5:30 PM on Tuesday, January 19, 2021.

The bell will toll 39 times, a mere .01% of the lives lost, and will conclude with the hymn “On Eagles Wings” played on our Carillon. You may show your remembrance at home by turning on your porch light or by displaying a light in a front facing window from 5:30 to 6:00 PM.

1 www.cdc.gov/nchs/covid-19.htm (reported by the CDC as of noon on January 17, 2021)

Inauguration Day Prayer Service

Houses of Faith from across religious perspectives will be together in prayer for our country on Inauguration morning. Join us to share in prayers led by faith leaders from around Rochester on Wednesday, January 20 at 9am via Zoom.

Join the gathering here.