<![CDATA[FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH IN NEWTON - Blog]]>Fri, 20 Nov 2015 07:13:05 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Commitments Sunday - Advent Upon Us]]>Thu, 19 Nov 2015 21:43:52 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/commitments-sunday-advent-upon-us Picture
This Sunday November 22 at 10:00 AM we will celebrate Commitments Sunday in the sanctuary. The following Sunday, November 29, marks the beginning of Advent.  We "pledge" portions of our time, talent, and treasure on Commitments Sunday as we launch into the season marked with giving gifts. 

You will receive a letter in the mail inviting you to pledge to the church in 2016, along with a pledge card for you to fill out. During Sunday's service we will come forward and offer our pledge cards. If you cannot be with us on Sunday, you can bring your pledge card with you to another service, mail in to the church in the included envelope, or make your pledge online

A "pledge" is a promise to give a certain amount of financial support to First Baptist Church over a certain period of time. A pledge means we are being intentional about giving and becoming generous. Everyone is encouraged to participate and any amount is accepted. Pledges remain anonymous and nobody will ever ask you how much you are pledging. 

Children will also contribute to Commitments Sunday. During the service they can offer their own Pledge Cards (when appropriate) and will offer works of art as expressions of their time and talent.

In addition to pledging for the upcoming year, we will welcome six new church members on Sunday. Come welcome them into the community and introduce yourselves!

And finally, as was mentioned, the season of Advent is upon us. At 11:15 AM, after worship this Sunday, we will make Advent wreaths in the chapel. Please join us in constructing your own wreath so you will be ready to light candles at your own table.  

The wreaths are a gift to you and come from Homeworkers Organized for More Employment (H.O.M.E.) - where our students traveled to serve this past July. Those who would like to contribute to the cost of the wreaths may make a recommended donation of $20.

As you can see, there is a lot going on and upcoming at our church! As Fall colors fade into Winter nights, our corner of Beacon and Centre is a great place to be.

<![CDATA[All Church Business Meeting]]>Tue, 27 Oct 2015 15:14:42 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/all-church-business-meeting
It is that time of year again!

This Sunday November 1 is our annual all church business meeting and luncheon. It is worth spending a moment to explain what that means, since a "business meeting" can carry assumptions about people in suits in board rooms.

While this is certainly an important meeting, all are welcome and members are urged to attend. Lunch will even be provided. So the real question is why you wouldn't come to the meeting. Now to get down to business.

After worship in the sanctuary on Sunday November 1 we will meet in the chapel. Once everyone is settled with lunch we will discuss hopes and dreams for the upcoming year. A crucial part of this is going over the proposed church operating budget for 2016. But there will be more than discussion. Voting to approve this proposed budget will also occur during this meeting. There will then be another meeting in February where we will vote to confirm this proposed budget. 

The Annual Appeal will also be launched on Sunday.

So join us for lunch and discussion on steering the direction of the church during the upcoming year.
<![CDATA[Community Compass (Part Deux!)]]>Thu, 22 Oct 2015 19:42:24 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/community-compass-part-deux

Thank you to everyone who joined us last Sunday for Community Compass. It was a wonderful time to see what is unfolding in, around, and through us. 

If you did not join us last week, perhaps you are interested in joining us as we gather again this Sunday, October 25, at 11:15 AM. If you attended last week you are encouraged to join us again. And if you need further encouragement to join us for the first time, there will be a light lunch provided. 

So, what is Community Compass?

Community Compass offers an informal "orientation" (so to speak) to First Baptist Church. You can share your experiences thus far, ask questions about anything, and meet others who have been around for various lengths of time.

Exploring and getting comfortable in churches can be daunting, and this is aimed to be as helpful as possible in that process.

Finally, for those who have inquired about membership, Community Compass is a good place to start. We will be welcoming new members on November 22. Membership offers the opportunity to vote on several key decisions throughout the year as well as the opportunity to serve in a formal leadership role.

Please contact me any time with questions or concerns.


Sean Witty
Senior Minister
<![CDATA[Community Compass]]>Thu, 15 Oct 2015 15:57:34 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/community-compassPicture
​If you’ve ever wanted an orientation to First Baptist Church, Community Compass is it. Community Compass is an informal gathering for people who want to know more about our community. Bring your questions and share your experiences. Learn about mission, membership, money, and any other “m” words you can think of. Letting us know you’re coming is helpful, but not required.

We will be meeting Sunday October 18 as well as Sunday October 25 at 11:15 AM in the Winslow Room.

<![CDATA[Open Circle Bible Study ]]>Fri, 02 Oct 2015 12:58:06 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/open-circle-bible-study
We have embarked on a reading of the Gospel of Luke, and any one is welcome to join us---for an occasional week or as a regular thing.  We are in the first chapter, and the last couple of weeks we have been talking about the "back story" for Jesus: Luke begins that back story with some relatives of Jesus' mother Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah. Below are the first verses of the four gospels. Each of them sets the back story a little differently. Like the  gospel writers themselves, we will be sharing and comparing our perspectives about the Jesus story, which in some ways we know so well, and in some ways are always beginning to understand.  

Mark 1:1-4
The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way; the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight--"  John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
 Matthew 1:1-6
The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, and Ram the father of Ammin'adab, and Ammin'adab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, and Salmon the father of Bo'az by Rahab, and Bo'az the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uri'ah,
 John 1:1-6
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

Luke 1:1-5
 Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us,  just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word,  it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed. In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechari'ah, of the division of Abi'jah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
                                                Co-leaders and hosts                    Mark Heim, Lloyd Clarke and Joshua Lyons

<![CDATA[Do Kangaroos Belong in Church?]]>Thu, 01 Oct 2015 16:27:31 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/do-kangaroos-belong-in-church​On St. Francis Day, worship services around the world may include kangaroos, wolves, camels, dogs, cats, and even beetles.  You may even be invited to bring your family pet to church for a blessing.  

The current Pope Francis took the saint’s name in recognition of St. Francis’ concern for the poor.  However, the iconoclastic friar and preacher who died on October 3, 1226 was also known for his love of "all creatures of our God and King."
St. Francis Preaching to the Birds
St. Francis Preaching to the Birds (Giotto)
Pets were a fixture throughout my childhood. Sam, our goldeen-roodle (golden retriever/poodle mix) had puppies when I was in kindergarten.  Our hamsters were escape artists. One pair of black cats we had, Bib and Tucker, were brothers with surprisingly different personalities.  Zero, an Alaskan Malamute we adopted, was majestic, dignified, and loyal. Our shepherd mix, Duke, was a neighborhood legend.

It is no wonder the world loves St. Francis Day; a day when our transcendent connection to animals is celebrated.

October 4, 2016 is St. Francis Day.  It is acknowledged by a broad range of people and organizations: The Humane Society, PETA, Catholics, Protestants, and others all celebrate St. Francis' love for creation.

From thehumanesociety.org:

"Francis' deep love of God overflowed into love for all God's creatures — expressed not only in his tender care of lepers and his (unsuccessful) attempt to negotiate peace between Muslims and Christians during the fifth Crusade, but also in his prayers of thanksgiving for creation, his sermons preached to animals, and his insistence that all creatures are brothers and sisters under God."

At 10:00 am on Sunday, October 4, we will recognize and celebrate "all creatures of our God and King" with worship in the Sanctuary which will include friends from Animal Adventures.

At 11:15 am, there will be a special event with Animal Adventures in the Chapel for all ages. All are invited to participate in either or both the 10:00 am and 11:15 am gatherings.

All are invited to bring there own pets from home to celebrate and receive a blessing.  Photos of pets and stuffed animals are also heartily welcome!

Perhaps you have a beloved pet story to share in the comments below.
<![CDATA[New Science and Religion Course]]>Tue, 29 Sep 2015 14:47:15 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/new-science-and-religion-course
A new course covering the relation between science and religion is being held after the 10:00 worship service. It runs roughly from 11:20 - 12:30 and meets in the Gallery.

Phil Rounseville and Dick Ransom are leading the course.  Phil makes telescope lens for a living and possesses and encyclopedic knowledge of astronomy. Dick has great interest in the theological aspects of the beginning of the universe and evolution.  Mark Heim will be dropping by from time to time to share his insights on the topic of science and religion, which is one of the areas on which he focuses as the Samuel Abbot Professor of Christian Theology at Andover-Newton Theological School.
Fall Schedule

A Fine-Tuned Universe: The Quest for God in Science and Theology by Alister E. McGrath will be read during the fall. McGrath is a professor at Oxford who has earned doctorates in both biophysics and Christian theology. This book explains and promotes natural theology, which seeks to find God primarily through the study of the natural world rather than through divine revelation. Proponents of natural theology have included Thomas Aquinas and C.S. Lewis. Karl Barth and Richard Dawkins have strenuously opposed natural theology. 
The “fine-tuning” in the book’s title refers to numerous parameters (the ratio of electromagnetic force to the force of gravity, the strength of the strong nuclear force, the amount of matter in the universe, the strength of cosmic repulsion, the ratio of the gravitational binding force to rest-mass energy, and the number of spatial dimensions) which had to have just the right values for our solar system to be formed as it was and for life to develop and survive. If science makes your head spin, do not fear – this course is going to be an adventure to go on together!  And if you happened to understand any of that science just mentioned, you have a moral duty to attend the class and explain the technical stuff.
Winter and Spring Schedule
​The next book to be covered will be The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief by Francis S. Collins, who served as head of the Human Genome Project. He explains how his knowledge of the human genome supports the concept of evolution, but also supports the existence of God. Besides his argument for God, the book is full of fascinating facts:  
  1. At the DNA level, all humans are 99.9% identical.
  2. Humans and chimpanzees are 96% identical at the DNA level, and there is evidence for a common ancestor.
  3. There are surprising genetic similarities between humans, dogs, and mice. There are fewer similarities between chickens, fruit flies, and roundworms.
It should be noted that George C. Cunningham, another geneticist looking at the same evidence, comes to the conclusion that the genome suggests there is no God. Arguments from his book Decoding the Language of God: Can a Scientist Be a Believer? will also be presented to stimulate what should be a very interesting class discussion.
In addition to discussing these books, there will be opportunities for real or virtual field trips, some of which will provide the opportunity for some breathtaking views through telescopes.
See you Sundays!

<![CDATA[Blessing of the Backpacks]]>Sun, 13 Sep 2015 01:16:29 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/blessing-of-the-backpacks
In a recent survey, more than half of the parents who participated listed their stress levels
at a seven out of ten between June first and July thirty-first. I can only imagine these numbers rising with the onset of the school year as they do in my home. 

In the process of reading the more thorough documentation of stress in recent years, I’m realizing that stress and anxiety are taking much more of a toll on my health—and a more widespread toll on the health of other people—than I had initially understood. Reading these reports is almost leading to an additional feeling helplessness; feeling stressed about stress. 

Connecting Reduces Stress

My good friend Michael Lee Stallard has researched and written extensively on what he calls a "connection culture." In a recent interview for Forbes.com he says,
"Human beings are hardwired to connect. When we feel connection and experience social support we are less likely to go into a state of stress response."

What is a "stress response"?

Stallard says, "The body senses when threats are present and it goes into stress response mode, sending blood, glucose and oxygen to the heart, lungs and big muscles like the thighs. At the same time, the body shortchanges the brain, digestive, immune and reproductive systems, leaving us more vulnerable to memory loss, digestive disorders, infection and illness. The body is preparing to fight or flee. When we are stuck in a state of stress response for a long period of time, it drains the life out of us."

Shortly after my arrival at First Baptist Newton in 2011, we were fortunate to have Stallard participate in a leadership retreat and help us begin creating a culture of connection, based on shared identity, empathy and understanding. 

How to Bless a Backpack

Our Blessing of the Backpacks will hopefully, in some small way, remedy this by creating a simple opportunity to connect with others.

To bless a backpack, we invite a child or student (or adult!) to receive a brief prayer of encouragement: that their trusty backpacks would remind them of their connections to this caring community.

Another way to “bless a backpack” is by helping families who struggle to fill their backpacks this September, especially nutritionally. Blessings in a Backpack (www.blessingsinanbackpack.com) reminds us that "hunger doesn't take weekends off" and provides elementary schoolchildren who are on the federal Free and Reduced Price Meal Program with a backpack of food to take home for 38 weekends during the school year. 

If you plan to participate, I encourage you to give your child the money to hand in, by which you will not only be fostering a connection with your child and with the family you are providing to, but also helping your child continue learning about generosity and connection.

For more on kids, stress and school:


<![CDATA[The Work of the People: a note on worship]]>Mon, 24 Aug 2015 18:01:26 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/the-work-of-the-people-a-note-on-worshipOur goal is to create an opportunity, a space, where friends and strangers can be awakened to see things as they really are.

A young woman who grew up in Newton and visiting from out of town this past Sunday approached me after worship saying, "I wish I could take this [worship service] to back home with me!"

A growing group of more than fifty people regular help make Sunday mornings a highlight of our week.  They contribute to worship on Sunday mornings as readers, greeters, musicians, visual artists, hospitality hosts, speakers, tech support, and more.

The primary activity of a church is worship. Our primary gathering for worship is 10a on Sundays. Other communities meet differently - different times, places, styles of music, etc.  Some even forgo the words "worship" and "church" in order to be freed from unnecessary expectations.  It all matters and nothing is wasted.

The way we are worshipping as First Baptist Church in Newton is not the only way, nor is it the best way. It is simply "our way."

Our goal is to create an opportunity, a space, where friends and strangers can be awakened to see things as they really are. To see things as they are is to see with the eyes of God, the eyes of "love without measure", the eyes of Jesus. 

To this end we sing, pray, listen, share stories, read the Bible, and much more. Moreover, we seek to do these things in a way that is both honest and empathic, both available and vulnerable, both active and contemplative.

Our "way" evolves.  There are similarities from week to week, but there are different people in the room each week.  In this sense, no two Sundays are the same. In this sense, simply showing up is a valuable contribution.

One might ask, "How do you worship?" or "What is your service like?"

Perhaps a better question would be, "How are you worshipping?" or "What is your serving like?"

This way of asking the question emphasizes action and the holistic nature of worship as something that is expressed on a Sunday morning, but lived throughout the week.

If you would like to be alerted of opportunities to contribute by reading, greeting, or providing food to our "worshipping", send an email to info[at]fbcnewton[dot]org.  You will be notified via "Planning Center" of how and when you can join in.  

What about you? How do you enjoy "worshipping?"  What is your "serving" like these days? Add your comments below.

- Sean

<![CDATA[A Soulful Life: Warren Berggren]]>Wed, 19 Aug 2015 19:00:01 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/a-soulful-life-warren-berggrenOn Sunday, we looked at living careful, thoughtful, and soulful lives; lives like Warren Berggren.

Warren was a longtime member of FBC while living in Boston between 1972-1989.​   He​ and his wife ​championed health as human right​ ​and led serving trips ("mission trips") to Haiti with students from FBC.

We are sadden to receive the news of his death in January.

Full article:  http://bit.ly/berrgren

Excerpt:  "July 29, 2015 – The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health community was saddened to learn of the death on January 30, 2015, of Warren Berggren, MPH ’63, DPH ’67, who passed away in Golden, Colorado, at age 85. Together with his wife and public health partner, the physician Gretchen Glode Berggren, SM ’66, Berggren launched groundbreaking community health programs in several countries in the developing world, including in Haiti, where they worked at the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer in Deschapelles for many years."