If you want to feel excited about the future of our church, you should pay a visit to Friends Home West. Friends Home West is one of the major retirement communities in our area, where a number of members of our congregation live. Sometimes we lovingly call it “First Baptist West,” due to the high concentration of First Baptist people who make their home there.
Last month, Dr. Steve and Marie Sumerel, Jenny Sherouse and I, were invited to Friends West for lunch with some of our First Baptist members, coordinated by resident and First Baptist Deacon, Mrs. Joan Ratli . Nearly thirty of us enjoyed lunch in the private dining room, after which Joan invited everyone to share individually. “Share your name and how long you’ve been here,” she said. By “here,” Joan was referencing Friends Home, but very quickly people began to share about their tenure and treasured memories at another beloved home: First Baptist Church Greensboro.
One member stood up and after name and tenure said quickly, “Now I want to tell you a story. I chaired the committee to have lady Deacons at our church.” Knowing smiles passed around the room as the story continued, “In one particular meeting, I remember a woman who stood up and said, ‘We don’t need lady deacons. A woman’s husband should speak for her in church!’ And do you know who was sitting next to this woman while she was speaking in church? HER HUSBAND!”
Another member followed this up with their own memory: “I want to talk about when we built the gym. I see a lot about the gym these days, but there were plenty of people who didn’t want to build that gym. ey said, ‘Why would a church need a gymnasium?’ ey didn’t want people playing games at church, or holding bridge groups, or having a billiards table, so they didn’t want a gym. But you know, I hear that this last basketball season we had about 200 people involved in our basketball ministry in that gym we almost didn’t build.”
This was followed by another story from another tenured member: “Our family came here years ago. Our son was just a little boy, and my friend told me we should check out First Baptist for the ‘Pattycake Club’ they had for young children. So I took my son, and the woman in charge said ‘ is is the last day, cause I’m moving to Texas.’ Well, one thing led to another, and you know I ended up running the ‘Pattycake Club.’ And eventually that led us to start the Kindergarten and the Preschool. And when that started I ended up teaching there for twenty years.”
Stories continued long past lunchtime, each one full of vision and imagination, the ability to dream new dreams, the willingness to risk and try, and the faithfulness to the call of God amidst it all.
Oftentimes churches, like other organizations, get caught looking forward with anticipation, when some of the best evidence of what God is doing and will continue to do is found in what God and God’s people have already done. We see that evidence today. One of our deacons serves communion or o ers a prayer, and it recalls years ago when some worked passionately to ensure the fullness of every member’s gifts would be acknowledged in our church. One of our youth shares about what Upward Basketball has meant to him throughout his journey of faith, and we can give thanks for the resource of the gym we almost didn’t build. Another child and family is blessed by the decades of ministry of the First Baptist Preschool, and we remember its start through the faithfulness of many a church member who wanted the best for our children. We see the same evidence of such holy work even more throughout the stories in this newsletter, with the rededication of a Chapel that re ects both our heritage and future, or with the calling of a new youth minister who builds on the work of those ministers and leaders before him, or with the news from our Pastoral Resident blessed and blessing this Congregation on her way to an exciting new call.
As we look ahead, our congregation can see many opportunities that call for the fullness of our commitment, imagination and discernment. But we don’t have to look outside ourselves to nd these things. We move forward as a Congregation knowing that so many of the resources we need for a hopeful future are already present in the work of God and God’s people throughout a blessed past.