What We Need Is Here
From time to time in years past in a place of a typical sermon, I’ve given what we’ve called, somewhat tongue in cheek, a “State of the Church Address.”Current partisan politics aside, I won’t do that this year in a sermon, but I do want to update you on a few things left over from this past year and look ahead to the months to come.
Much of our conversation over the fourth quarter of last year had to do with financial stewardship. At the start of October, barring historically strong giving to close the year, we were on a course to finish a good bit behind in our expenses. Well, as I hope you’ve seen by now, we did in fact have historically strong giving to close the year and finished with a surplus of around $24,000.
Our giving in November and December were the highest two months of giving on record and contributions to be budget last year as a whole, which were in excess of $750,000, were the highest on record. And the good news behind all of this is that while we did have a few very generous gifts to close the year, the bulk came in smaller amounts from many different individuals and families. This was truly an effort of the whole church. Looking ahead, we have pledged over 85% of our budget for this year—up roughly 20% from what has been typical.
To be honest, I am floored by all of this. I fully expected our congregation to respond in a positive way to the challenge to meet our financial commitments, but I never could have anticipated we would get there so soon and with such abundance. This is a story I just can’t stop telling, and one that I hope will propel us into the year ahead.
Speaking of the year ahead, I have no doubt this will be another good, full year here at First Baptist. While we were saddened last year to say goodbye to Jody and Julie Long as they transitioned into new calls, we were delighted to welcome Kelsey Stillwell to our staff and congregation. Staff transitions continue this year as we say goodbye to Pam Pilcher as she retires after many years serving as our administrative assistant. A search for her replacement is on the way. Our personnel committee will also restart our search to fill our children’s ministry position after putting that process on hold to close the year. Our properties committee is also looking forward to restarting projects that had been put on hold, some of which you’ll start to see very soon—in fact, even this Sunday with new lights in the sanctuary!
In the weeks ahead we will ordain four new deacons and welcome seven others back into service; welcome Naomi Black, our ministry intern, into the pulpit as we celebrate Baptist Heritage Sunday and BWIM’s month of preaching; welcome Dr. Stephanie Paulsell of Harvard Divinity School as our guest preacher; and observe Lent with some exciting new opportunities for fellowship that we’ll announce in the coming weeks.
In short, as we close one year together and begin another, “the state of our church is strong.” I’m so grateful for this congregation, the unique witness we offer our community, the meaningful relationships we enjoy, and all the many ways we continue to live in light of the good news of God’s nearness. I look forward to all that will be reveals to us and through us in year to come.