FBC Macon

Nurture. Love. Serve. ALL.

We’re proud of our Baptist history and heritage, but we’re also proud of our diversity. At First Baptist you will find a group of people coming from a variety of different church backgrounds and denominations who have found a home at the “top of Poplar.” And while our congregation comes from all over middle Georgia, we are a downtown church and see it is our mission to be the presence of Christ to our InTown and College Hill communities here in Macon.

New Rhythms

At this point I have a full week of Macon under my belt. The first thing I want to say is "Thank you!" In my short time here, I have already felt a warm welcome. Your handshakes, hugs, smiles, and kind words have helped Macon start to feel like home. The Spirit of God is evident in your gift of hospitality.

The number one question I have been asked is “Are you settled in?” This is a tricky question. If you are wondering whether If you are wondering whether I am unpacked, then theanswer is yes! Boxes have been emptied and pictures mounted (and hopefully by the time you read this I will have found my way to a grocery store). I am physically quite settled. If, however, you want to know if I am mentally and emotionally settled, then the answer is “Not yet.” I do not give a hard-and-fast “No.” Rather, I have not fallen into the rhythms of FBCX yet. This has nothing to do with lack of welcome on your part or hard-headedness from me. Rhythms of life merely take time to sync. At this point I am still observing the patterns of daily life in the office, as well as weekly gatherings of the congregation. These new rhythms are an exciting adjustment!

Above my desk is a painting from a former youth that reads “Lord, teach me the unforced rhythms of your grace.” It is a prayer inspired by Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of Matthew 11:29-30, “Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” I believe that a change in rhythm is a good thing. Growth comes with change. I have no doubt that I will grow as I begin to embody the rhythms of FBCX. Perhaps this change will even create some new rhythms as we grow together. These changes also remind me, however, of the constant rhythm—that of the grace of Christ. As we were reminded this past World Communion Sunday, we are all one in God, who binds us together. While we are always seeking to be better in-step with these rhythms, they are constant—pulling us toward justice, kindness, and mercy. As I adjust to new rhythms in Macon, my prayer is that they grow ever closer to the unforced rhythms of God’s grace.

I find my prayers are usually best expressed through song. My prayer during this adjustment takes the form of a favorite hymn (which I have taken the liberty of adapting): “We are one in the bond of love. We are one in the bond of love! We have joined our [rhythms] with the [rhythm] of God. We are one in the bond of love.”

I look forward to this bond growing stronger as I continue to settle. I appreciate your grace through this transition, and welcome opportunities to get to know you better.

JD

The Sacred and Ordinary

Atlanta, Ga - Episcopal Church—A gold chalice, used every service, reflected light as if just polished or barely handled; carried with a cloth and handled with immense care. The cushions, regal red of soft velvet, there to hold the weight of countless knees, with no sign of heavy use- clean and pristine. Rituals that felt foreign to me, were carried out with rhythmic ease by church members. I found my way into the beat, following what I saw. Processed down to the front, kneeled on padded velvet, heads prayerfully bowed, waiting. Hands cupped together, palms up. A wafer placed gently in hands and dissolved on tongue. Heads lifted for a chalice to be placed on lips, slowly tipped, and offered a small sip. The edge wiped, and offered to the next. Worshipers returned to their seat. My body and spirit had sunken into that place, making it physically and spiritually difficult to come to my feet; a longing to stay in the sacred. This practice, presented with great reverence and care was shared every time they gather. This holy and sacred sharing of communion reflected the routine and hinted at the ordinary.

Bali, Indonesia - Spiritual Retreat—We gathered weekly for meditation. Many hours spent in the same space in silence. With hopes of deepening our spirituality and knowing each other, we retreated to the mountains. A weekend in remarkable lodging with open views of luscious greens, and rice fields below, where air was clearer, and silence easily found. Liturgy, following meditation, led us into communion. Each, with elements to share. We sat on cool tile, around a low table that overflowed. A Eucharist of bounty, not just bread and wine- pastries made with care, traditional dishes from home countries. Each treat held meaning for the one who brought it. In this meal of treats, we shared communion together- told stories, laughed, found community. Casually seated and reaching over one another to try everything; from the outside this meal would appear ordinary, and in a sense it was. But with these people, in its space and time, it tasted sacred.

Communion is an act of remembering. Remembering that in an ordinary meal shared with friends, Jesus evoked the sacred-that though only a few gathered that night, the bread was broken for all people. An ordinary table was widened, and sacred space was made with room for all to gather.

On world communion Sunday we remember how communion can feel both especially sacred and beautifully ordinary. We remember how Jesus extends an invitation for everyone to come to the table. We remember our sisters and brothers around the world who gather, sharing the elements in seemingly sacred ways- in cathedrals colored by stained glass, with gold chalices, confession, and rituals. And others who share the elements in seemingly ordinary ways-in living rooms, with found bread, in plastic cups, hidden in secret.

At the table we are mindful of all the ways the bread is broken, and the cup poured. In this act we are connected to one another. In this practice we experience both the sacred and the ordinary, and we find the immense love of God in between.

- Kelsey

How to Pray as We Ought

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. Romans 8:26

I’ll confess that I struggle with the notion of intercessory prayer; that is, prayer in which we ask God to act in our lives or the lives of others.

I’m uncomfortable with saying too strongly that prayer somehow influences how God will act or not act. For instance, if we suggest that prayers somehow “encouraged” or “allowed” God to heal one person, we must be prepared to receive the pain of others who prayed equally hard and were not healed. And yet I also know there are many ways that we feel the effects of prayer.

One approach to intercessory prayer I have found helpful lifts up the way prayer works on the one praying. For instance, in asking God to be with someone who is struggling we might find ourselves compelled to go and be with them, and thus our prayer has been answered. I also know from personal experience that knowing someone is praying for me and my family has been a tremendous comfort and blessing.

I also remember the words of a pastor from my childhood who said, humbly, “I don’t understand just how prayer works, I just know from experience that it does.” That may be enough.

But I will also confess to you that I at times struggle with how to pray with and for you in worship. I see it as a tremendous responsibility to offer the pastoral prayer each week, and at times a difficult task. In a sense, to think that one prayer could possibly speak to the unique situation of everyone gathered in the congregation seems absurd. Add to it the hope that we might expand our prayers to include those of the wider world, and the challenge is even greater. And yet, this is what we hope to do.

One approach I use often is to take my cues from the scripture we read each Sunday in finding a “theme” to lift up in prayer. Perhaps it is a psalm of grief, and so the prayer will draw special attention to the grief we all hold, or one marveling at the beauty of God, leading us to do the same. Other times, current events seem important enough to shape our prayers. With each of these, I almost always make space to lift up those in our congregation who are grieving, hurting, and in other ways struggling. In all of this, the challenge remains speaking words that all of us, even with our diverse experiences and perspectives, can offer to God.

For all its mystery and potential pitfalls, the time we spend in prayer each week lifting up to God all the fullness of our lives and our life together has the potential to be our most holy and vital act of worship. While we hope to be in the presence of God throughout that hour, it is perhaps in the silence of prayer and beneath the deep concerns of our hearts lifted on our behalf that we make ourselves most present to God. And when that is true, who knows what is possible? SHD

I Have Sold the Book

There is a story from the tradition of the desert fathers and mothers, these early Christian ascetics who left society to commune with God in the wilderness of Egypt and Syria in the 3rd and 4th centuries, of a monk called Serapion. So advanced, was he, in freeing himself from worldly possessions, that he sold his book of the Gospels and gave the money to those who were hungry, saying: I have sold the book which told me to sell all that I have and give to the poor.

 

I’ve been haunted by this story in preparing for these next few weeks and the passages we will encounter from the Gospel of Luke which have to do money and possessions.

 

Of all the gospels, Luke deals with economics and questions of wealth and poverty the most. Jesus’ first sermon in Luke is taken from the prophet Isaiah when he imagines the reign of God, saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.” Over and over again in his parables Jesus critiques the economic disparity we know was a feature of the Roman economy and challenges how we as people of faith view and hold onto our possessions, in the fullest sense of the word.

 

We began this look at the second half of Luke a few weeks ago by focusing on Jesus’ familiar words of admonishment from chapter 12: where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Put another way, when we talk about our possessions, we talk about our heart. Which is why conversation about money is so difficult: it feels too personal, too intimate.

 

And yet it is because these questions of money are so personal that Jesus risks speaking of them and why we must too, and the months of September and October are when we do this most directly as a congregation.

 

This is the season when we make plans for how we will share our resources with each other through the church, and how we as a church will put these resources to work. As we say each year, our church budget is among the most theological documents we have because it tells us where our priorities are. The same is of course true for us as individuals and families.

 

The entanglements of this world and the things we fill our lives with are legion. Which is why we are most like the people God made us to be when we are giving. When we see the needs of others and let go of what we have to meet it. When we trust God enough to live as if we will have all we need, but even more, when we live as if what we have was given to us so that we would share it with others.

 

And it’s probably true that if we truly lived this way, we wouldn’t need to hold on even to our bibles. For, as scripture says elsewhere, the word of God would already be written upon our hearts.

A Report from the CBF Ministries Council

This past Monday and Tuesday I gathered in Decatur with CBF staff and others from around the CBF landscape for the fall meeting of the CBF Ministries Council. I’m entering the second year of a 3 year commitment serving on the council, which is one of three councils that make up CBF’s governing structure. In a nutshell, we work with CBF staff to develop and oversee programs that have to do with resourcing congregations to carry out our mission and ministry. One of the constant points of conversation in CBF leadership meetings is how to better communicate all that’s happening in CBF landscape with local congregations. So, to that end, here’s a quick summary of what I found most interesting and important from our meeting.

A renewed focus on equipping local congregations. Since Paul Baxley was named Executive Coordinator of CBF Global earlier this year, his consistent message has been for CBF to recommit itself to serving local congregations instead of the other way around. Paul has a deep love for and commitment to the local church, having been nurtured to a call to ministry in one, and having served in different pastoral roles before becoming our new EC. Most recently, Paul served as senior pastor of FBChurch in Athens, Georgia. Paul presented a plan for how to jumpstart this renewed focus that will be made public later this fall.

CBF and BWIM are doing important work to better equip congregations to address clergy sexual misconduct. A little over 3 years ago, CBF entered into a joint project with BWIM to form the Clergy Sexual Misconduct Task Force, with a focus on the prevention of abuse in our churches. The initial goals of the task force are to: 1) Collect and compile best practices and policy guidelines that can be distributed to churches and partners via CBF and BWIM networks. 2) Raise awareness by creating educational resources for congregational use and by offering educational opportunities. Steven Reeves, the Associate Coordinator of Partnerships & Advocacy, who has been the primary CBF voice in this project, presented a plan to add staff positions within the CBF office to continue this important work. Stay tuned for more ways that we as a church will be engaging with their resources. If you’d like to access them yourself, go to www.cbf.net/safechurches.

Good work is happening at the border. Fellowship Southwest is a recent network launched by CBF “to strengthen ecumenical collaboration and to produce positive change in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Southern California,” primarily serving marginalized people groups in that region. As need has arisen over the past year, Fellowship Southwest, under the leadership of Marv Knox, has been CBF’s primary presence along the US-Mexico border. Marv’s presentation on the work they’ve been doing there to offer care and compassion to immigrant and refugee populations was a highlight of our meeting. I encourage you to visit their website to learn more (www.fellowshipsouthwest.org/border-ministry-1). Also look in the bulletin to find more information on ways you can contribute to their work, and we as a church can be involved.

SHD

Remembering Emmett Till

After graduating from college I moved to the Mississippi Delta to work for a small, rural Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Tallahatchie County. Tallahatchie County is not unlike any thousands of other rural counties in the Southeast, except that in the year 1955, the eyes of the world came down upon it as the courthouse there in the county seat town of Sumner held the trial concerning the lynching of a 14-year-old boy named Emmett Till on the night of August 28, 64 years ago this past Wednesday.

That September, an all-white, all-male jury (women and African Americans had been banned) acquitted both defendants after deliberating just over an hour. One juror later said, “If we hadn’t stopped to drink pop, it wouldn’t have taken that long.” Months later both men would confess to the killing to Look Magazine.

Till’s lynching and the ensuing trial is now understood by many to have kick-started the Civil Rights Movement, in part due to the media coverage of the trial, which shined a light on the ugly racism of the Deep South in that time. But perhaps the most powerful witness came from Till’s mother, Mamie Till Bradley, who insisted on leaving her son’s casket open for the funeral, saying she “wanted the world to see” what had been done to her son. Tens of thousands of people lined the street to view Till’s body, and images of his corpse were circulated around the country.

Years later, Rosa Parks, reflecting on her act of civil disobedience in not moving to the rear of a segregated Montgomery bus, said, “I thought of Emmett Till and I just couldn’t go back.”

In Tallahatchie County, memories of the Emmett Till’s murder and the trial that followed still linger, revealing wounds that are very much open, too. I remember from my time there that many white residents wished we would all “move on,” while the African American community longed for an honest reckoning with the community’s history of racial violence and continued racial disparities.

Weeks before the anniversary of his murder, Till’s story was in the news again when a picture went viral of three white fraternity brothers from the University of Mississippi posing with guns at the bullet-riddled historical marker of his death. The marker has been repeatedly vandalized and shot at since it was erected in 2008.

It’s this photo that I have meditated upon this past week. Like that of Emmett Till’s young corpse, it seems to hold a mirror up to parts of ourselves and our country we would rather not acknowledge, reminding us where we still are and how far we have yet to go. I used to tell Habitat volunteers who would come from around the county to work with us that what they’ll see in the Mississippi Delta can be found anywhere if we look hard enough. The challenge—and, for the followers of the Crucified One, the calling—is to be the ones who are willing to look; the ones who are willing to be changed.

SHD

Go To Your Garden

I need to tell you about a conversation I had with Kathryn Baker late last week. (Yes, I’m naming names—it was that special.)

Kathryn had been in the hospital earlier that week for some outpatient surgery, and I was calling to check in on her. We were having a lovely conversation—about her health and how she feels it improving, slowly but surely; about adjusting to having regular dialysis; about life and church and so many things—when all of the sudden she said something that stopped me in my tracks.

I honestly can’t remember what exactly led up to this nugget of wisdom, but she said, “I always say, when you have a problem that you can’t solve, go to your garden. And your garden could be anywhere.”

I said, “Ms. Kathryn, can you say that again?” And she did.

And I said, “That is just lovely. Tell me more about what you mean.”

And she went on to tell me about how her literal garden in her backyard is a kind of sanctuary for her, where she goes to commune with the holy among all the delicate, growing things. It eases and clears her mind and connects her with the God who created and creates it all.

Many of us may feel the same way about our own backyard gardens or even public spaces with flowers and grass and signs of vibrant, color-full, growing life.

But your garden can be anywhere. Your garden is wherever you find communion with the holy, or connection with the God who created us. Your garden is wherever you go (or perhaps even whomever you go to) to be reminded that whatever problem you face is not bigger than the love and provision of the God of creation. Beautiful.

Before we hung up, I told Kathryn she blessed me that morning, and each time I’ve told someone else about this exchange (which has been several), I’ve been blessed again.

I’ve thought of this, too, with regard to our Wednesday evening program that will begin this coming week, in which we will focus our attention on “delight.” Through prayer practices; reflecting upon Scripture, poetry, prose, and visual art; group discussion; and writing, we’ll aim to build muscles of attentiveness to that which delights us—those small but essential moments of joy and wonder that connect us to each other and ground us in the love God.

Or, as Ms. Kathryn might put it, we’ll learn to find our way back to our garden, discovering again that our garden can truly be anywhere. That, if we are attentive to it, our garden is really everywhere.

SHD

The Risk of Delight

In his poem, A Brief for the Defense, Jack Gilbert writes, “We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure, but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.”

In our Wednesday night adult study this fall we will aim to do just this: risk delight. We will stubbornly accept our gladness against a world that seems to demand something less. Through the course of our days we’re bombarded with voices that would have us either submit to a steady drip of entertainment or distraction, numbing our senses and shielding us from feeling the world deeply, or wallow in self-righteous denial that would have us stay in a perpetual state of anxious worry.

Enough. As Gilbert says, we need delight to live and certainly to live abundantly. But this does not come naturally. Our sense of joy and delight is like a muscle that must be exercised in order to be strengthened. As Mary Oliver puts it, “only if there are angels in your head will you, possibly, see one.”

In a sense, through our time together on Wednesday nights, we will aim to fill our heads with angels.

We’ll do this in a number of ways: prayer practices, reading and reflecting upon scripture, poetry, and prose, group discussion and sharing, and writing. I’m most excited about this last one, which is inspired by a book I’m reading by Ross Gay called The Book of Delights.

Gay is a poet who took up a practice starting on his birthday to write one small essayette each day (or most days) reflecting on some delight in his life. Perhaps it was something that caught his eye—a vibrant red flower pushing up through a crack in the concrete, or a pleasant interaction with a stranger—the way a cashier greeted him with unexpected politeness after having to engage with a rude customer. Whatever or whoever called to mind this sense of delight, wonder, and gratitude.

He set a few rules for himself. He would try to write everyday but would give himself permission to skip here and there as well—the practice of occasionally “blowing it off” itself becoming an “ancillary” delight. The essayettes would be brief—just a few hundred words—and he would write them by hand in notebooks.

At the end of a year he had a catalogue of joys—a written testimony to the thread of delight that connected the different relationships, commitments, obligations, and moments of his life. Themes emerged, and people, too. His parents and childhood, his garden. And he realized, as we have noted, that by taking on the practice of calling these delights to mind and paper, his eyes were opened to more and more of them, until he realized he was quite literally awash in them. What a radical, counter-cultural assertion.

I believe this is true for all of us, and in our time together this fall we will take the risk of finding out.

SHD

WEEKLY SERVICES

Sunday
Sunday School at 9:45am
Morning Worship at 11:00am

Wednesday Evening
We begin with a meal at 5:30pm. Music and missions activities are available for adults, youth, and kids. Learn More

 

CONTACT US

511 High Place
Macon, GA 31201
Directions to FBCX

Telephone: 1.478.742.6485

Email: office@fbcxmacon.org


Copyright 2014, First Baptist Church of Christ, Macon, Georgia  |  Site by Faithlab