This week, First Baptist Church of White Plains turns 149 years old. It was a handful of families who started meeting in a home and several months later, on June 16th, 1871 they officially incorporated as a church. Soon thereafter, they rented space from the Reformed Church of White Plains. By 1873, our church bought the building. The church would move two more times (in the early 1900’s and in the 1920’s) until finally buying the land that we currently occupy in 1958. That is a lot of moving around for a church! I recently heard someone say that the church has always had to contend with either being a memorial to the past or a movement into the future. Memorial or Movement: that is the question. We have answered, in our history, as a church unafraid to move.
As we all go through these trying times of the COVID pandemic, the devastating economic impact, and the needed reckoning of the cost of racism upon our nation – our society is on the move and we, as a church, have the responsibility to translate our life of faith in ways that inspire hope and love. We are endeavoring to do this work as a community Centered on Christ, Focused on Community, and Reaching out Globally. This is a common mission statement being drafted by our vision team, in collaboration with our sister church, Iglesia: Mision Bautista Hispana de Westchester. People all around us are starving for something to give their life to, to engage in, to create a better world. We see it in the protests. I’ve heard it said that “Protest is the highest form of patriotism, because it is calling upon our country to live up to its stated ideals.” When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “on earth as it is in heaven” – he was calling upon our every aspect of their lives (spiritual and physical) to protest the world as it was and create a better world, to bring the Kingdom of God upon the earth! We honor God when we endeavor to do the same and make God’s Kingdom known.
As we approach our 150th anniversary year, we are adopting the motto – “Remembering Our Past, Reshaping our Future.” Yes, we want to celebrate the past successes and people who had a hand in that, but know that God is calling us to be transformed in this transformative moment. We embrace the church as a movement, not a memorial. Not seeking to build a church that looks like it did in 1958, when we arrived at that sleepy country corner of North Street and Bryant Avenue! Our community is changing. God is doing a new thing in our midst. Do we have the courage to embrace this moment and the Holy Spirit who is bringing it about? What that will look like … well, I have some ideas, but more on that later. It’s kind of like Jesus’ response to his first disciples, after they were initially intrigued about him and his message, they asked where he was staying – he answered, “Come and see.” (John 1:39). It’s time to come and see what God is doing in our community. 149 years later, it is exciting to see that God is still on the move in our congregation! The remainder of the journey is not clear, but it could be the ride of your life! Won’t you, come and see?
I'm a follower of Christ, husband, father, friend, pastor, story teller, asker of questions, inspired by biblical narratives, social justice advocate, sports enthusiast, drinker of over priced coffee and general seeker of God's redemptive possibilities. Yeah, that about covers it. (If you discover something else, let me know!)