Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection November 26, 2017
Now is the Time: 2018 Estimate of Giving Cards by: Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
Sunday, December 3, will be our annual Commitment Sunday. At that worship, we will have two collections. The first collection will be the collection for the church offering. The second collection will be to take up the Estimate of Giving Card(s) - 2018 which were mailed to our members and friends a week ago.
If anyone failed to receive this important mailing, please call the church office and we will promptly send the Stewardship Department letter and the Estimate of Giving Card - 2018. And please know that we will continue accepting the cards up until December 17.
As Chuck Oppenlander, the chair of our Stewardship Department, noted in his remarks on November 12 - we continue to be seriously challenged financially. It costs approximately $5,500 a month to keep the church open even before we add salaries (pastor, office manager, nursery care, cleaning personnel) and the other expenses associated with any church. Churches, especially old, large churches such as our beloved Morgan Park Baptist are expensive to keep running, demanding many maintenance interventions.
Yet it is our shared hope that we can continue the long and wonderful history that is our church’s legacy. We are the oldest church in Morgan Park. We continue to be a significant asset to our community.
We’ve been obviously challenged for many years now because of our declining membership due to aging and death. A significant portion of our membership is not able to attend our worship with any regularity because of health issues.
Illnesses and deaths have seriously impacted our church over the past seven or eight years. Many of the steadfast pillars of our church have gone to God. Others have graciously stepped up to fill the vacuum left by those dearly departed but we continue to face numerous hurdles.
Frankly, we stand in need of a miracle! I believe God can lead us and guide us into such a miracle if we all do our part. We must all take seriously our beloved church’s financial needs. We must also take seriously our beloved church’s hunger for more members.
We are, as we know, an American Baptist Congregation. I fear, as I mentioned a few years ago, that there may be a significant number who do know really understand what being an American Baptist entails. As I have mentioned to many, I am a strong American Baptist. I’m very happy being an American Baptist clergy-person. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an American Baptist pastor.
As we probably know, being a Baptist means that we do not subscribe to infant baptism. We believe a person should make a personal commitment to Jesus Christ as part of being baptized. No one - we believe - can make that decision for someone else.
As our American Baptist literature maintains: “We insist that baptism be administered only to those who have the maturity to understand its profound significance: resurrection to new life in Christ. And we follow the biblical example set by Christ when we fully immerse in water, a beautiful statement of that new life.” (We Are American Baptists)
As American Baptists we also subscribe deeply to the biblical mandate of the priesthood of all believers. “Our affirmation of the priesthood of all believers arises from a conviction that all who truly seek God are competent to approach God directly.”
In other words, we American Baptists are given the freedom of soul to approach God directly without the need for a special priesthood “set-aside” from the ordinary believer. Each of us, baptized into new life, serves as a priest before God in and through Jesus Christ.
As American Baptists, “we cherish the freedom Christ has given us as individual believers and distinctive congregations. The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church in Galatia and in other writings, emphasizes that freedom.
“Because of that (freedom), we have tended to avoid embracing prepared creeds and other statements that might compromise our obligation to interpret Scripture as individuals within the community of faith under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.” In other words, we are a congregation that embraces religious freedom and the rights of the individual believer.
As an almost 30 year old invitation to our beloved church noted: “Morgan Park Baptist is affiliated with the American Baptist Churches of the USA, a nationwide assembly of churches of the more liberal and less judgmental tradition.”
It is my hope to continue helping us understand who we are as American Baptists. It’s hard inviting others to join our congregation if we are uncertain what it means to be an American Baptist. We are not fundamentalists regarding the Bible.
May God bless us all as we move forward into that future which God has planned for us! Please bring your Estimate of Giving - 2018 card first to prayer and then to church on Sunday, December 3. If anyone needs further information or has any questions, please call me directly or text me on my cell phone.