Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection June 4, 2017
Pastor Thomas Aldworth’s Ninth Annual Report to the Faith Family of Morgan Park Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
“I will not leave you orphaned: I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:18-19)
As I approach my ninth anniversary as pastor of our beloved Morgan Park Baptist Church (and enter into my tenth year of service), I praise God for all the good God has done among us and within us.
Yet, as we know, this past year was a harrowing year of pain and loss. Beginning with the October death of my beloved Beth, we suffered through the deaths of six members of our church within the span of six months. This has been devastating to us as a congregation. I admit these deaths have numbed me deep in my heart and soul.
But we’re called, as disciples of the Crucified and Risen Christ, to move forward with the hope and assurance that God’s mighty Spirit has not and will not abandon us. We have not been left orphans.
I challenged our church near the beginning of 2017 to bring in 12 new members/regular attendees to our congregation during this calendar year. If that challenge is not met, our Board of Deacons will necessarily make some decisions about our future.
I have given the Deacons a list of possibilities for that future. Throughout this designated “Year of Discernment” – we constantly seek God’s abundant Spirit to lead us and guide us into the future God opens for us. In the year 2018, we will implement whatever decisions our Board of Deacons is guided to make.
We live in a divisive age. This reality is abundantly obvious. In my 43 years of full-time, professional ministry, I’ve become acutely aware that we humans are prone to conflicts of every kind. This tendency to fragmentation and fracture is found throughout every Christian congregation.
No church community is immune to this ancient, abiding human tendency. As our brother Paul wrote in Romans 14:10,13): Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we all stand before the judgment seat of God … Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.
As I wrote last year: One dimension that has encouraged me over the past few years is our growing awareness of what it means to be an American Baptist congregation. I fear that, in the not-too-distant past, our American Baptist identity was not always well understood.
As an American Baptist congregation, affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA and American Baptist Churches – Metro Chicago, we are part and parcel of a mainline Protestant progressive denomination. I believe it would be misleading to advertise ourselves as an American Baptist congregation and not be deeply rooted in the principles and history of American Baptists, “the most racially inclusive Protestant body in America.”
May we continue to be a gift and a grace to each other and to the neighborhood we’ve served so generously and so well for these past 140 years!