Thursday Thoughts

December 14, 2023

Have You Prepared?

I’m not sure about you, but this Advent season feels like it has positively flown by! Here we are more than halfway through the season of preparation, and I hardly feel ready at all for Christmas to be here! The fact remains, however, that whether we feel ready, that special day is going to arrive. After the hustle to airports, or chaotic family dinners and when the last piece of tissue paper drifts to the floor after the frenzied gift exchanges. After the last dishes have been washed and dried following a simply massive meal. My prayer is that you will be able to find a moment of peace and reflection. During that reflection, I hope you are overwhelmed by gratitude. Gratitude for this beautiful, messy, lovely, and wild time of year. Most of all, I hope you feel gratitude for Christ who came down to join us, live among us, and save us.

Our Christmas Cantata will take place during regular worship time on Sunday, December 17th at 11:00 am. This year’s cantata is entitled “The Glory of Christmas” by Lloyd Larson. This is another new addition to our music library that combines beloved texts and tunes with fresh compositions and arrangements. The choir has been working hard on preparing this energetic work. You won’t want to miss this wonderful opportunity to celebrate the coming savior! Come sing together. Come listen together. Come worship together!

soli Deo gloria,

Zach Derr

Director of Music & Worship

December 7, 2023

Courageous Conversations: Stewarding Our Facilities for Changing Times

During the month of January, we will hold our second, annual, church-wide Courageous Conversations. This is an effort we started last year to create intentional, safe space for our congregation to have enriching conversations around topics that might be difficult to engage because of the varying perspectives we all may hold. It is also an effort to model for our community that disagreement does not have to lead to disunity but that we can seek understanding amidst our disagreements, can enjoy harmony and unity amidst our diversity, and can be kind always.

The discipleship committee had discussed several topics for this year’s conversation, many of which were suggested by the congregation at the close of last year’s conversation. Ultimately, however, the discipleship committee, in conjunction with the church council, realized that there was a great deal of information coming together regarding our facilities and the strong work of our facilities renewal task force. We all realized that the congregation needed space and time to hear about this information, to absorb some of the ideas that are on the table, and to help discern how to proceed wisely with open questions that remain. During this year’s conversation we will have opportunity to talk about our changing cultural context, the good things happening in our church, our current financial situation, and the strengths and hurdles of having a large, older facility. We will also have opportunity to discuss a report from our facilities renewal task force and to brainstorm ways to turn hurdles into opportunities.

This year’s conversation will take place on the four Sundays in January (1/7, 1/14, 1/21, and 1/28) from 9:30 am until 10:45 am. You will notice this is 15 minutes earlier than our typical Sunday School start time so that we can have more space for table conversations than we had last year. We hope all adults and youth will join us in this conversation. Nursery and children’s Sunday School we begin at 9:30, as well, so that parents can drop off their children and be present for the full conversation. There will also be a church-wide breakfast for the first gathering, January 7, beginning at 9:00 am. We can’t wait to see you there!!!

November 30, 2023

This Sunday we will have an opportunity to present our 2024 financial pledges to God as a part of our worship and commitment to Him. The pledges that we make are important to the church and the work of the finance committee, but they are even more impactful as we consider our own spiritual growth. Making a pledge of financial support is an important part of our faith journey. It gives us opportunity to practice gratitude and humility as we consider all that God has provided for us. It gives us opportunity to practice obedience, generosity, and selflessness as we promise to return a portion of the income and wealth God has empowered us to earn and graced us to receive back to our local church. It gives us opportunity to be on mission and to connect with something bigger than ourselves as our gifts collectively empower the work of God in us and through us. And it gives us opportunity to seek first the kingdom of God.

The pledges that we make to Aiken’s First Baptist are only seen by our Financial Secretary, Gail Floyd. And, as a reminder, to fulfill our pledges we may make contributions by placing our tithe/offering in the plate passed each Sunday, by using our app, by setting up an automatic draft, or by giving online. These various ways allow us to choose what is best for each of us.

Some of us may also fulfill our pledge by gifting appreciated stock to the church without incurring capital gains tax. Others may be able to give through a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) from an IRA. Your total QCD cannot exceed $100,000 in any one year, but the donated funds count toward satisfying the annual required minimum distribution but are excluded from income, thereby reducing adjusted gross income. You must be 70 ½ to qualify for the QCD. As always, please consult your financial advisor to see if you are eligible to give to the church in this way.

As we enter this time of reflection on what support we pledge to give to the church in the year to come, it is also a good time to consider if we have made provision for supporting the church and the ongoing work on God beyond our lifetimes. There have been members of our church from the past who have greatly blessed God’s work in and through AFBC by naming the church in their will as a recipient of some portion of what they leave behind. If God has graced us to come to the end of our lives with more than we need, might we consider making plans for a portion of that to continue to honor God through the work of the church for years to come.

Finally, as we enter the last month of the year, please remember to continue to give to our 2023 budget. We currently have a deficit of $39,303.38, and we would like to cover that amount plus what we will spend during the month of December so that we will break-even or have a surplus going into 2024. All 2023 donations must be received by December 31, 2023 or postmarked by that date.

Thank you for your faithfulness and generosity—your financial gifts, your donations for mission efforts and for the sake of those in need, and the giving of your time and talents. As a church we could not continue to do what God has called us to do without you!

November 23, 2023

If you spend much time around me, there’s a pretty good chance that at some point, you’ll hear me talk about (and maybe even quote) my favorite theologian and hero of the faith, Howard Thurman. So, it comes as no surprise that a sermon of his has come to mind as I sit down to reflect on Thanksgiving. The specific idea that I want to unpack here is Thurman’s conviction that memory is a gift and that it is best used accordingly.

Around this time of year, we are often prompted to remember and give special attention to the things in our lives that we ought to be grateful for. In fact, just last Sunday, we were presented with a way to practice gratitude daily through the use of our church app. Pastor John did a great job emphasizing the life-changing possibilities that are to be found in practicing gratitude and that gratitude can allow us to “see a bigger picture.”

That being said, I’m often convicted that I’m not exactly breaking new ground when it comes to most of the things I express thanks for year after year (and I bet I’m not alone). Luckily, as a children’s minister, I get many chances to marvel at the ability that children have to not only quickly recall good things that they have experienced, but also, to enthusiastically point out the good they see in the world around them, even in things they have not yet experienced. You see, it comes naturally when practicing gratitude to focus on the many tangible things in our lives that we have experienced in a positive way or feel some sense of possession over; in other words, saying things like my abilities, or my resources, or even my people. Let me be perfectly clear that we should, in fact, not neglect giving thanks for these things, but what about the people we have yet to experience in a positive way? What about the things we do not have control over or the situations that we are simply just not comfortable thinking about? Are we using the gift of memory in a way that expands our horizons for all that we could truly be thankful for?

Consider these words by Howard Thurman, “Now I have two suggestions to make about memory as a gift. The first is a warning that unless we are very careful, we will use our memory…to store up things that will give us trouble in the future. It is very interesting to notice how we can slip into the mood of remembering all the slights, all the hurts, all the little ways by which individuals tried to make life difficult for us. We store them up and introduce into the existence of memory the principle of negative discrimination.…The alternative suggestion is that we plan to introduce into our memory pattern, the principle of excellence. It is quite possible to go through our days on the hunt for the good things in people, sniffing around to find the worthful thing, the meaningful thing, the positive thing.…I do not say that the negative thing is not there, but I let the principle of excellence, the positive discrimination, lift out from my storehouse the things about you that make me glad that you are alive, and glad that somehow, in the circling movement of the process of life, you and I met” (164-5, The Growing Edge).

As we seek to become better practitioners of gratitude this Thanksgiving (and beyond), may we give thanks for the gift of memory and the call it puts upon our lives to open our arms wider so that we might have even more to be thankful for than we once thought.

In truth and love,

Matt Waller

November 16, 2023

Social Media Engagement

Good afternoon, church family! I just wanted to take a few moments to talk to you about social media. Now, before you swipe away this email, I hope you’ll read on for just a few seconds longer. I think we’d all agree that our church is involved in some pretty amazing things. Whether it is a powerful joint worship with our friends at Second Baptist, a ramp being built for someone in need, or perhaps a weekly Bible study taking place on campus, we often have something awesome happening here. If you are like me, you want other people to know how much you love this place, its people, and the mission that is undertaken here. One of the best ways to do this is by sharing our story on social media like Facebook and Instagram. That is what I want to talk about. When you see a post from the main church accounts, I would ask you to please hit the like button, drop a quick comment, or share it to your own page. When looking at the analytics of how far our posts reach, it is truly incredible the difference that is made when those simple actions have taken place. Engagement encourages engagement. If we can give a post a good jumpstart on these platforms, it essentially tells Facebook and Instagram that they are posts worth popping up on other people’s screens. Let’s work together to show others what an amazing place this is for worship, service, and community!

Peace,

Zach Derr

November 9, 2023

Below the Surface

On the weekend of October 13, I left with our youth for our annual fall retreat with one question in mind. What would it look like if instead of fighting or ignoring our emotions (as teens and so many of us often do), we acknowledged them for what they were? An integral part of who we are and what we need intertwined together to make us into full, authentic human beings. Our retreat this year was called “Below the Surface,” and our theme was focused on how we use and often misuse our emotions. Why our feelings are important, and how when we better understand them, we can better understand ourselves! If you’re not familiar with Inside Out, allow me. It takes place inside the mind of a twelve-year-old girl named Riley. In Riley’s mind, her five main emotions exist as beings that function as people living day to day just like you and me. Throughout the course of the film, we see Riley experience a range of emotions, I won’t spoil it for you, but I will heavily endorse it. Everyone should see Inside Out. Using the film as our jumping off point for the weekend, we built our sessions around our own personified emotions. Throughout our weekend we discussed anger, joy, and sadness, and the vulnerability that comes with feeling them freely. Most importantly, we talked about how all of our emotions are working together to make us whole, and we can’t have one without the other. In Ecclesiastes 7:14 Solomon wrote, “In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider God has made the one as well as the other, so that no one can discover anything that will come after him.” In one verse, Solomon cosigns the central premise of Inside Out—both joy and sadness, as well as all the other things that we feel serve a purpose in our lives. God wants us to commune with the fullness of who we are, and to share the fullness of who we are with each other. Our feelings matter, they are gifts. Feel them freely.

Sarah Laurence

 

November 2, 2023

For the last several months, the Deacons have discussed possible paths forward with respect to our stance toward those members who could appear on the sexual offender registry for our region.  Taking into consideration feedback received from church members at a town hall meeting in June, the Deacons have made substantive changes to the original document and now have a draft that reflects a policy of no on-campus interactions for individuals in this situation.  Before the Deacons vote on this new document, they will hold an additional town hall meeting to present the document and receive feedback from the congregation.

The town hall meeting will be held Sunday, November 12 at 3:30 pm in the fellowship hall.  The one-page document will be available at the fellowship hall beginning at 3:00 pm for those who would like to read the document beforehand.

October 26, 2023

A Quarterly Business Meeting will be held this Wednesday, November 1, at 6:30 pm in the Fellowship Hall. Several important items will be discussed:

2024 Ministry Action Plan

Organizational Chart with Committee Assignments

Third Quarter Financial Report

A copy of these documents will be available for pick-up outside the sanctuary this Sunday, October 29. We encourage you to review the proposed budget and other documents and be present at this important business meeting.

I look forward to seeing you there!

 

Debra Haney

October 19, 2023

Dear Church Family,

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait for Sunday! It is going to be a joy to worship with our brothers and sisters from Second Baptist Church and to enjoy a fellowship lunch afterwards. Also, I heard the joint choirs practicing together last night, and it was spectacular!!! As we prepare for this Sunday, I just wanted to share a few reminders about the day so that we can all be ready to welcome Second Baptist well.

If you are able, please park at one of our more distant parking locations for that day. We have our parking spots across York Street next to the African-American Museum. We have also secured permission to park across Barnwell at the Anderson & Anderson building. If you need to park closer, please park toward the Roberts Building side of our parking lot as we are seeking to reserve the York Street side of our parking lot for our guests that day. Additional handicap spots will be noted for the day, as well. And if all spots get full, you can park on the median of Barnwell by putting two tires on the grass and two on the street.

We will have security present for this day, and they will be wearing black polos and green khakis. It will be provided by a company our safety team has reached out to as we learn of what we need to implement long-term here at our own church. Second Baptist is accustomed to having a safety team in place, so we are doing this as an act of hospitality since our safety team is still in a research and formation phase and is not yet operational.

When you enter the sanctuary, do your best to spread out, welcome our guests from Second Baptist, and sit alongside them for worship. I know we all have our seats that we are accustomed to using every Sunday, but we will be flexible and hospitable this day as we would anytime we welcome guests.

Children’s opportunities will be provided as usual for our worship hour. There will be nursery for the youngest children during the entire service and children’s church will be provided for other older preschool and younger elementary kids following the children’s moment. If you only come for worship, it will be helpful if you arrive just a bit early and go by the children’s area to sign-in your children as we are implementing a new check-in system for the children’s area.

When worship ends and we begin making our way toward lunch, please offer to show our friends from Second Baptist the way to the gym and fellowship hall and then join them in line. We are accustomed to letting guests go first, but if we do that this time around we will accidentally end up separating ourselves from one another and not be able to share lunch around the same tables. So, let’s help folks find their way to lunch, join them in line, and then share tables, good food, and great fellowship together. By the way, lunch will be served via two lines in the gym and seating will be available in both the gym and the fellowship hall.

Finally, let me again offer a huge thank you to all the folks that have already put in great work to prepare us well for this Sunday. I know even more work by more folks will be offered over the course of the weekend; and I am grateful. It is going to be a wonderful day, and it will be so because of the good work and the good hearts of God’s people in this place.

Grace and Peace,

 

John

October 12, 2023

We Love our AFBC Ministry Team!

October is Minister Appreciation Month. We want to recognize and thank our Ministers and Directors who lead us so effectively and tirelessly. John, Debra, Zach, Sarah, and Matt – Thank You. And one more thanks to Ellen, who led our Children’s ministry so wonderfully the past five years.

Most of what these five do to lead our church and our programs is visible. Preaching, teaching, pastoral care, worship, music, children, youth, administration, families, planning, coordinating, and resourcing committees. But there is also much work and commitment behind the scenes. They work hard to be an effective team, supporting each other individually and each other’s programs. Sadly, this kind of teamwork is not the case in every church, but it is in ours and we are grateful. John gets much of the credit for building teamwork among our staff, but all five of them give their time and energy to make the staff a team. They genuinely care for each other in sacrificial ways.

For every hour our ministry staff spends delivering their programs, there is comparable time not visible to us. They minister to our families in private, minister in our community, visit in the hospital and care facilities, and counsel. We are reminded just how dedicated they are.

Also, a thank you to the families of our ministry staff for supporting them on our behalf. Although we do everything we can to enable a healthy work/family balance, we know our ministry staff makes sacrifices all the time to help our church thrive and to bless us.

Also, a thank you to Anna, our outstanding church musician. We appreciate your talent and your dedication to our music programs.

Finally, a thank you to our Support Staff (Gail, LeAnne, and Darin) for the vital contribution they make everyday to the administrative, financial, and maintenance operations of our church. We could not do church effectively without them.

From all of us in the congregation to our ministry staff, support staff, and their families – Thank You!

 

Bob McQuinn, Chair of Personnel Committee

October 5, 2023

Dear Church Family,  

I am so very excited about our upcoming joint worship opportunity with Second Baptist Church, and I hope you are, as well.  On Sunday, October 22 we will welcome our brothers and sisters from Second Baptist Church to our campus for worship at 11:00 am and a wonderful fellowship lunch afterwards.  

Here are some things that you can look forward to.  Members of Second Baptist’s choir will join our choir for a special anthem, “Days of Elijah,” and the Second Baptist praise team will also offer a special selection during the service.  Leaders from both congregations will guide us throughout the entire service, including communion served by deacons from both congregations.  Additionally, we will be blessed as Rev. Doug Slaughter brings the message that morning.  Then, we will all get to share wonderful barbeque and sides as we break bread together following worship.  

Here are some things to be aware of and some ways that you can help us welcome Second Baptist well that day.  

If you are able, please park at one of our more distant parking locations for that day.  We, of course, have our parking spots across York Street next to the African-American Museum.  We have also secured permission to park across Barnwell at the Anderson & Anderson building.  If you need to park closer, please park toward the Roberts Building side of our parking lot as we are seeking to reserve the York Street side of our parking lot for our guests that day.  Additional handicap spots will be noted for the day, as well.  We will need additional ushers to assist with parking and welcoming everyone that day, so if you are able to serve in this way, please contact David McGuire or the church office to let us know.  

We will have security present for this day.  It will be provided by a company our safety team has reached out to as we learn of what we need to implement long-term here at our own church.  Second Baptist is accustomed to having a safety team in place, so we are doing this as an act of hospitality since our safety team is still in a research and formation phase and is not yet operational.  

When you enter the sanctuary, do your best to spread out, welcome our guests from Second Baptist, and sit alongside them for worship.  I know we all have our seats that we are accustomed to using every Sunday, but we will be flexible and hospitable this day as we would anytime we welcome guests.  

When worship ends and we begin making our way toward lunch, please offer to show our friends from Second Baptist the way to the gym and fellowship hall and then join them in line.  We are accustomed to letting guests go first, but if we do that this time around we will accidentally end up separating ourselves from one another and not be able to share lunch around the same tables.  So, let’s help folks find their way to lunch, join them in line, and then share tables, good food, and great fellowship together.  By the way, lunch will be served via two lines in the gym and seating will be available in both the gym and the fellowship hall.  

Finally, let me close with a huge thank you to all the folks that have already put in great work to prepare us well for this Sunday.  I know even more work by more folks will be offered in the weeks to come; and I am grateful.  It is going to be a wonderful day, and it will be so because of the good work and the good hearts of God’s people in this place.  

Grace and Peace,  John 

September 28, 2023

Blessing of the Pets 

9.28.2023  

If you have ever stopped by the church on a Thursday, chances are you have met my dog, August. She is the youth mascot, she knows the church backwards and forwards, and whether they like it or not, she will stop by everyone’s office multiple times a day. She loves to roll in wet grass, hates walking on a leash, and her favorite word is “ball.” I can’t even begin to count her quirks, but nevertheless she’s everything I could have ever asked for. If I had to guess, you would probably describe your pet the same way.   

Pets bring us joy, laughter, and life-lessons that help us live better lives. The author of Job writes, “Ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you;…and the fish of the sea will declare to you. In God’s hand is the life of every living thing.” The trees, the animals, and land. We are called to care for all of it. Pets are just one important piece of that creation. Whether that pet is a dog, a cat, a lizard, a bird, a fish, or anything else, I sincerely hope you will join us for our second annual Blessing of the Pets service. May this be a time to honor not only our pets and companions whom we love so dearly, but to also remember the rest of creation that God so beautifully designed! Join us Sunday afternoon, October 8th at 4:00 P.M. Please bring your pets leashed or crated and meet in the parking lot near the portico. I look forward to seeing you all!   

Sarah Laurence