11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection December 4, 2016
Now is the Time: 2017 Estimate of Giving Cards
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
This coming Sunday, December 4, is our annual Commitment Sunday. At our worship, we will have two collections. The first collection will take up the Estimate of Giving Card - 2017 which was mailed to our members and friends recently.
If anyone failed to receive this important mailing, please call the church office and let us know so we can get this material to you. And while we hope to receive everyone’s Estimate of Giving Card - 2017 by THIS SUNDAY - please know that we’ll continue accepting cards until the end of December.
As Chuck Oppenlander, the chair of our Stewardship Department, noted in his remarks on Sunday, November 20, we continue to be seriously challenged financially. Chuck has noted in the past how we need to pay $2,000 a month ($24,000 a year) for the insurance we must have to operate our buildings. The cost of our utilities, such as heat, costs another $2,500 per month ($30,000 per year). Our maintenance costs almost $1,000 a month as we try to maintain our beloved buildings.
In other words, it costs $5,500 a month just to keep the church open even before we add salaries (pastor, office manager, youth director, 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 open.
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 challenged for many years now because of 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.
In both 2015 and 2016, we saw a notable decline in pledges. Illnesses and deaths have seriously impacted our church over the past decade. 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 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 need for more members to continue our mission and our mandated vision.
As most know, a goodly number of us have gone door-to-door with brochures and pamphlets, covering at least 4,500 residences in our neighborhood. My beloved Beth and I personally distributed church material to at least 3,000 residences over the years.
While such activities have helped us become better known in our community, we have not had the influx of new members that we need for the stable future of our beloved congregation and our God-given mission.
We are, as we know, an American Baptist Congregation. I fear, however, that there may be a significant number of people in our neighborhoods who do know really understand what being an American Baptist entails. As I have mentioned often, I am a happy American Baptist pastor.
As we hopefully 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.” (from 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 every individual believer.
As a 26 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.” (Italics added)
It’s my hope to continue bringing us a deeper understanding of who we are as American Baptists. If we advertise ourselves as an American Baptist congregation, we must be faithful to what it means to be an American Baptist. It’s my hope to have some sessions after the holidays on our very special American Baptist history.
May God bless us all as we move forward into the future! Please bring your Estimate of Giving - 2017 card first to prayer and then to church next Sunday! This is important not only for our budget planning but also for our church mission! I personally will increase my own pledge by 50% for the coming year. Pastor Thomas
Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor