Love Letters

This past Sunday we began a new sermon series called “Love Letters”.  I have heard the letters from the Apostle John referred to as the love letters of the New Testament but upon closer examination all 21 letters written in the New Testament speak clearly of the love God has for us and the call for us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.  Join us live at 300 S Lorena and/or on Facebook Live as we examine all 21 letters in the weeks between now and the end of this calendar year.  Thanks for being a part of this journey where Christ has called us to walk and work together.  Pastor Tom

Work Ministry

When a caring community has a need they respond.  In the early church the widows of the Greek community had been neglected.  They church responded and appointed some to take care of the needs.  2000 years later  FBCWR saw a need and responded, if you have a gutter that needs cleaned and you are not able to do it yourself, let us know.  You have a maintenance problem, no problem, we probably have someone who can handle it for you, let us know.  You may have noticed a little blue slip in the back of the pews, fill it out, let us know your need.  You may also call the church office and/or just let someone know.  There may be some things we can’t handle and we will let you know if that is the case but you won’t know if you don’t ask.  Oh, by the way, we won’t know if you don’t ask.  Thank you FBCWR for being a caring church in a hurting world.

Pastor Tom

Reflecting on a Century of Ministry

As the old saying goes, “What’s the best way to eat an elephant?”  The answer: “One bite at a time.”

This sentiment very adequately describes the task of planning and facilitating our church’s centennial anniversary celebration.  The amount of work to be done seemed, initially, overwhelming to say the least.  And the significance of the occasion only added to the stress.  After all, a church only turns 100 once, and many don’t even make it that long.  So the project began with our church archives and grew into invitations and membership records and event schedules and guest speaker invitations and press releases and cake-baking and… and… and…

In short, a lot of people put a lot of work into making this occasion special.  And I think they succeeded wonderfully.

As I reflect on the June 12th program, the morning worship service, and the afternoon reception, several highlights stand out in my mind:

At the morning worship service, Rev. Paul Gibson, the Executive Minister of the American Baptist Churches of the Great Rivers Region, spoke of being re-born and recounted that classic old hymn, “I Surrender All.”  “But honestly,” as Rev. Gibson remarked, “is that true? Are we really willing to surrender all?”  Indeed, this challenging call to God’s service served as the pivotal theme for the day: If we are indeed God’s church and seek to serve God’s kingdom, we must be willing to surrender all our preferences, tastes, and preconceived notions to God so that we may be re-born into a new creation; so that we may be made into what God needs us to be in the current era.

Wood River Mayor Frank Akers, at the 2:00 Centennial Program, talked about the changing world in which we live.  Wood River, indeed, is not the community it once was.  Factories have closed and jobs have become harder to find.  Poverty has increased significantly in our community.  And rather than feel discouraged by these changes, the mayor encouraged us to see the current state of Wood River as an essential mission opportunity.  In short, never before has the city needed the church as they do now.  Never before has our mission been so essential.

As I looked at the photos and artifacts of the last century, I saw evidence of a once thriving congregation.  But I also saw a spirit of resilience and an opportunity for a new creation.  When those first 15 families met in 1916 and decided to officially begin the First Baptist Church of Wood River, they surely could have never conceived what their initial efforts would yield a century later.  And I believe the same remains true today.  Our church’s future has not been written, but the foundation is laid.  Through acts of compassion and service, we will continue to serve the needs of Wood River.

The Centennial Celebration was a very fun day of celebration and memory-sharing.  But it’s also a reminder that our history is very much “in-progress”.  That is, if we are willing to take a chance and see what surprising and unexpected new adventures await us around the next corner.