Letters from David – God is on the move

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Dear FBCD friends,

I am thankful to have been part of several important events lately. Each of these involving our community revolved around racial justice and our society’s need to take seriously the work that has been done, as well as the work still left to do. You may have noticed in a few of my recent sermons references a few of these (i.e. Confidence is Cool).

Law Enforcement and Racial Justice

I was so honored to have represented Decatur at the recent Georgia Police-Community Trust Initiative in LaGrange. It was co-sponsored by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Network For Safe Communities at John Jay College in Manhattan.

The results of what these organizations are doing and the inspired work in communities like LaGrange inspired me in ways I continue to struggle to adequately explain. Public confessions and powerful moments of reconciliation and working together demonstrate the much-needed conversations and redemptive exercises that I believe God is challenging all of us to engage in.

Nurturing Faith with Dr. Albert Paul Brinner

We hosted a Nurturing Faith gathering and banquet in Carreker Hall two weeks ago. Dr. Albert Paul Brinner was the special guest. He grew up with Martin Luther King, Jr. and served for a number of years as the Associate Pastor at Ebeneezer Baptist Church here in Atlanta.

He recounted with grace and humor the many ebbs and flows of the Civil Rights Movement. He spoke with poignancy of the many times he and all of the leaders in those days felt so discouraged, hurt, frustrated, and despaired.

And he reminded us again how far we have come, and how far we have yet to go, and together, how much more good God is calling us to do.

Bearing Witness

We co-hosted a very important evening called “Bearing Witness” at our neighboring church, Decatur First United Methodist. Internationally known authors and speakers, Austin Channing Brown (author of I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness) and Hank Klebinoff (Pulitzer Prize winner, professor at Emory and contributor to National Public Radio) shared with us.

For those of us who attended, we were educated about many new ways of viewing the world and understanding more of our country’s less known history. We were challenged and we were inspired. We needed to hear what both of them said, showed, and shared.

Conversations: Ida B. Wells

We also hosted a “Conversations” event just a few days later with Dr. Catherine Meeks and Rev. Nibs Stroupe. They co-authored a very important book on the remarkable woman, Ida B. Wells.

Like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, Ida B. Wells was a courageous, outspoken, resilient, strong and incredibly influential African-American woman in the post-Civil War era. Yet, despite her lasting influence on public policy and civil rights along with her valuable inspiration for African-Americans during the despairing times of the Jim Crow era, many of us had never heard of her.

We should have.
And now we can know more about what she accomplished and what she endured.

Ida B. Wells is a prophet for our time, and her inspiring story told so well by Dr. Meeks’ and Rev. Stroupe’s is a necessary addition to your reading list.

God is on the move!

In each of these events and in the many encounters and conversations I have had over these last several weeks, I have become increasingly aware of how fortunate we are to have so many resources at our disposal and opportunities for our education.

And I am increasingly convinced this is a “God thing.”

That is, I do not think it is a coincidence we are being afforded so many tremendous opportunities to learn, to grow, to expand our sensitivities, and to increase our understanding. We can never know enough about what has gone before us. And I believe God calls us consistently, as much as we can, to add to whatever we think we know, to deepen our discipleship, and to become better followers of Jesus.

With the incredible resources and opportunities Decatur presents, I truly feel God is offering us the chance to broaden the reach of the love we receive in such abundance. I am glad to be on this journey with you. Thanks be to God!

Love,

David

First Baptist Decatur and Scott Boulevard Pursues Merger

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First Baptist Church and Scott Boulevard Baptist Church have begun the process of merging our two congregations. This process will take a few months and will be decided by a vote of affirmation of both congregations to be held when all the details have been finalized. The Joint Merger Committee is working on answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) which will be made available soon.

From David Jordan:

I have been honored to be a colleague of Rev. Dr. Greg Smith and Rev. Sara Robb Scott. Greg is the Senior Pastor and Sara is the Associate Pastor of Scott Boulevard Baptist Church. For the last five years, we have had the good fortune of sharing space with them here at First Baptist. In recent months, that relationship has deepened and broadened. We have been increasingly blessed with them as neighbors committed to the community, fellow CBFers committed to missions, and Christian brothers and sisters trying to follow Jesus. Further, over the last seven months, Greg and Sara and I have had increasingly serious and highly positive conversations about the future of our deepening partnership. Those valuable, honest conversations have now led to what Greg will share…

From Greg Smith:

The congregation of Scott Boulevard Baptist Church has been blessed by the hospitality and partnership of First Baptist Church since we moved here in 2014. You have welcomed and supported our ministry in many ways. Now we believe God is leading us to serve in ministry together.

Earlier this year our two churches began collaboration in Senior Adult Ministry. In May, June, and July I personally met or phoned every active participant in SBBC, listening to each person’s sorrows, fears, hopes, and dreams for our church. David Jordan joined in several small group meetings with about half of our active members.

Believing that discernment is a process of listening to our hearts as well as to the Spirit of God, we have listened to one another and to God’s Spirit guiding our congregations to a new future together.

In our July Church Conference, the SBBC congregation invited FBCD to form a Joint Merger Committee to begin the task of combining our churches. Each church provided four laypersons to the committee, with the two pastors acting as Co-Chairs. The SBBC committee members are: Crawford Jenkins, Bob Peterman, Norma Rushing, and Angie Stuckey. The FBCD members are: Gwen Cottrell, Ronnie Jowers, Jim Manley, and Jenny McCurdy.

Our first meeting was about getting to know one another. We heard both grief and anticipation from Scott Boulevard committee members, and openness, welcome, and anticipation from First Baptist committee members. We committed to listen to God’s Spirit as we continue this critical work together.

As God continues to lead us forward we will have a number of issues to deal with, including legal and financial concerns, membership and ministry integration, and SBBC ministry legacy. God is leading us to dream of what our ministry together can become. I believe we have a great opportunity for creating ministry with and for older adults that can make a difference in the Decatur community and even in other churches.

Just as God worked through SBBC to “do a new thing” (Isaiah 43:19) when we moved to First Baptist, God is now calling us to grow our ministries through combining our congregations. We will continue to seek discernment of God’s Spirit to guide us as we move toward merging Scott Boulevard Baptist Church with First Baptist Church of Decatur.

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 Outlook. Please check back to fbcdecatur.com/news for more updates.

Deacon Nominations Open

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It is time to nominate and elect new deacons who will begin service in January 2020!

You are asked to nominate for deacon service those in our congregation who demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23), and who embody characteristics of servant leadership.

Nominees must have been members of FBC Decatur for at least one year. Members of the same nuclear family may not serve at the same time).

Coming in October: Religion 101

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Beginning Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Above all else, Jesus commanded us to love God and neighbor. But how can we love our neighbor if we do not take time to see the world through their eyes?

Religion 101 starts us down the road of knowing those who do not believe as we do and who do not believe in God at all. There's no cost and childcare will be provided.

Facilitator: Rev. Dr. Paul Wallace
Location: Carreker Hall

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An Interview with Paul Wallace

Matt Snyder, our communications director, wanted to get down to the "why" behind this course and asked Paul a few questions.

You’re not covering Christianity in the course (initially at least). What religions are being covered during this fall section? Is there a particular reason you’re starting with these?

This fall we’re covering Islam and Judaism because these are the ones most closely connected to our own. They are closer to home and less strange-seeming because their logical and theological jumping-off places are closer to ours. Another way to say this is that we don’t have to dig as deeply to discover common roots with Islam and Judaism as we do with the Eastern ones. I had wanted to do Judaism first for historical consistency but October is full of Jewish high holy days and I couldn’t find a rabbi anywhere who could do anything at all in that month.

We’re a historic Baptist church located in Decatur, Georgia. Why is it important for our community to participate in this class?

Two reasons: (1) Love is cosmic but all expressions of it are particular and concrete. I have no interest in talking about some floaty universal love if we can’t express it in our daily comings and goings. We are to love our neighbor; this is plain. But that love cannot be expressed without seeing our neighbor. This class is about putting our neighbors front and center. It is about seeing them as they are, and not as we would have them be. (2) It is about knowing our own faith better, which happens by learning about the faiths of others. It’s like going abroad for an extended time, then coming home. You see things you never saw before, things that were all around you your whole life. Some of these are beautiful and some of them are ugly, but the result is ALWAYS knowing your own place in the world better than you did before.

Let’s say I’ve been a Christian for the last 40+ years of my life. How can this help me on my own faith journey? What if I’ve only been a Christian for 6-months, how might this be helpful?

For the first question, see (2) above: You may need to leave your own house for a moment in order to see it with new eyes. For the second, I would say that you need to know what kind of a thing you’ve gotten into. Your commitment to Jesus is a specific one. Jesus walks a particular path which is distinct and you have committed to a peculiar way.

You’ve put a lot of time into designing this course at FBCD. What made you decide this class was needed and why now?

I hate to reach for a cliché, but the world is shrinking fast. That fact, coupled with the pervasive polarization and "othering" that seems to be springing up in our nation, in our state, in our city, in our churches, and even within our families, makes the moment ripe for bridge-building. So that’s what I’m doing.

Want to attend Religion 101?

Here's the schedule starting Oct. 2 at 6:30pm in Carreker Hall:

• 10/2: Introduction to a World of (Dis)belief
• 10/9: Introduction to Islam
• 10/16: A Personal Encounter with Dr. Roshan Iqbal
• 11/6: Introduction to Judaism
• 11/13: A Personal Encounter with Rabbi Loren Lapidus
• 11/20: Fall Semester Wrap and a Look Forward

Note: there is no cost to attend and childcare will be provided.