<![CDATA[FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH IN NEWTON - Blog]]>Fri, 12 Feb 2016 13:58:14 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[A Time For Change? Part 2 Questions]]>Thu, 11 Feb 2016 21:58:32 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/a-time-for-change-part-2-questions
The recent changes at Andover Newton Theological School offer a valuable opportunity for us at First Baptist Church to learn.  

While there is grieving to do, which may be unique to us given our shared history, proximity, and relationship, my hope is that the news fuels our courage and imagination as we seek to pioneer new ways of “being church”.

Andover Newton has been sending out FAQ’s to help clarify their situation. They are doing a wonderful job keeping interested parties informed. Here are four excerpts from a recent FAQ that are of particular relevance to us as a church and some reflections on their meaning:
  • "Our school has relocated twice, affiliated with other institutions three times, launched never-before-seen educational models and demonstrated readiness to change virtually anything but its mission to educate inspiring religious leaders."
  • "Our mission, our work, will thrive under this change just as it has for the last 208 years."
  • "Student headcount and number of credits students are earning each term are now 25% less than they were 10 years ago. Current enrollment is roughly half what it was a generation ago."
  • "Considering that the shrinking applicant pool corresponds with a shrinking ministry employment market, we think it’s appropriate and ethical to engage in a redesign of our educational model rather than to continue to do that which is clearly unsustainable."

It will be valuable to identify questions raised by this situation that are most relevant to us. For example:
  • For 208 years, Andover Newton met particular needs related to its mission "to educate inspiring religious leaders".  What needs have changed and what needs have not?
  • What is the cause of the "shrinking applicant pool"? A recent report by the Auburn Center for the Study of Theological Education contains some sobering numbers. However, it closes with a beacon of hope. “Here is some final good news: the measures that are good for a school’s enrollment picture—realistic institutional planning, incorporating new groups into old-line religious bodies, cultivating the young —are the measures that will help rebuild religion in North America.” 
  • Andover Newton says the ministry employment market is shrinking. Is the market shrinking or has the need for a particular kind of education or training changed, just as it has in other fields?
  • Andover Newton considers itself a "Mainline Protestant" institution. Historically, First Baptist Church has considered itself a mainline protestant institution. Does the church still see itself (or desire to be seen) as such? Or does it envision being something else, maybe even a category in-and-of itself?
  • Andover Newton’s move is courageous and driven by their mission "to educate inspiring religious leaders." What is the mission that drives First Baptist Church? 
  • Does Andover Newton’s experience affirm or contradict the Pew Religious Landscape Study? In the religious makeup of the United States, Mainline Protestants come in fifth place (14.7%) behind Evangelicals (25.4%), the unaffiliated religious “nones” (22.8%), Catholics (20.8%), and those having “nothing in particular” to say about religion (15.8%). 

In the concluding part of this series we will reflect on these questions and offer some answers. Things may not really be so bleak, but hopeful answers will require a mix of reliance upon tradition and new creative imagination. Meanwhile, offer your own answers and further questions in the comments!
<![CDATA[A Time for Change? Part 1 Andover Newton]]>Mon, 01 Feb 2016 17:09:23 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/a-time-for-change-part-1-andover-newton Picture
First Baptist Church in Newton and Andover Newton Theological School have numerous connections. They range from students doing field work at the church to committed members of the church community like Mark Heim holding the Samuel Abbot Professor of Theology position at Andover Newton, the first seminary professorship in North America. It is worth looking at the school’s history and current situation when thinking about challenges and opportunities facing churches today.

In addition to being a pioneer institution in theology, Andover Newton set the model for graduate education in the United States. At a time when most professional training was still done through apprenticeships, Andover Newton established post-baccalaureate education and became the country’s first formal graduate school.

The school is also familiar with change. It moved to Cambridge, MA in the early 20th century to be in a better position to attract students. In 1931 operations moved to Newton Centre at the invitation of Newton Theological Institution. The official merger between the two in 1965 produced what we now know as Andover Newton Theological School.

But perhaps the largest change in its history is unfolding now. Enrollment is 225 students, many part-time. This is down from 450 students a generation ago. The school is using a mortgage line of credit to pay bills while trying to preserve its endowment. Faced with changing enrollment numbers are real economic hardships, the school announced in November 2015 that is will sell its 20-acre campus and relocate. Students will have until May of 2018 to complete their degrees while the school continues normal operations.

Andover Newton President Martin Copenhaver said the school is considering two options: embed themselves in a more stable institution such as Yale Divinity School, or adopt a lean cooperative learning model. The latter option would eliminate broad elective courses, focus on core subjects, and send students to do a bulk of their learning in local churches. 

Beyond the obvious physical change of location, faculty will be smaller. The symbolism is strong, and seemingly a bad sign for mainline liberal protestant Christianity in this country. A large campus is being sold. Faculty will be losing jobs. Student enrollment will be smaller. 

In part two of this series we will dig deeper into the numbers and analyze religious trends impacting seminaries and churches across the country, not just Andover Newton. The concluding part three will offer reflections on this situation, lessons for change, and reasons it all may not be so bad.

​Benjamin Chicka

<![CDATA[Annual Business Meeting]]>Fri, 22 Jan 2016 19:14:21 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/annual-business-meeting
​First Baptist Church in Newton Centre will have its annual business meeting Sunday, February 7, at 11:15 AM. The meeting will take place in the Chapel after our regular Sunday service.

During the meeting the proposed budget that was approved in November will be passed. There will also be voting on new Council and Ministry Team members.

Everyone is welcome and members are warmly encouraged to attend.

Lunch will be provided. And everything will wrap up well before the Super Bowl kicks off at 6:30 PM.
<![CDATA[International Christmas Dinner]]>Thu, 07 Jan 2016 16:14:28 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/international-christmas-dinnerPicture
​While you were busy celebrating Christmas and the holiday season, you may not have known there was an international Christmas dinner at First Baptist Church in Newton

On Christmas Day at 4 PM, a Christmas dinner was held in the chapel for international seminary students who wanted to share a meal and some time together. Many would have spent the day alone if they had not accepted the invitation. Fifteen people came and represented countries such as Haiti, Syria, India, and Japan. Many are attending nearby Andover Newton Theological School.

Eunice Wilson, a member of First Baptist Church, and her family acted as hosts for the dinner. Others from the church contributed pies, vegetables, salad and homemade rolls. All the food was delicious and inviting. The energy in the room was evident from the constant buzz of conversation.

When people began to leave after two and a half hours plus of eating and visiting, one person turned to the hostess and said,  "Thank you so much. I hope we can do this again. It was so wonderful to not spend the whole day alone."

<![CDATA[A Final Christmas Gift?]]>Sun, 27 Dec 2015 19:12:08 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/a-final-christmas-giftChristmas is a season that begins on Christmas Day.  It is a season of celebration, a "feast". Advent, the month preceding Christmas, is considered a "fasting" season. Christmas arrives and we celebrate ("feast") for twelve days (two Sundays).  It is difficult to quiet the commercialism which accompanies Advent. However, a quietness can emerge afterward which we can receive as one final gift.

In this spirit, I share a video capturing rarely heard voices -  Christians in the middle east who have celebrated the "Feast of the Nativity" since Christ was in their midst.  Beautiful images accompany the hymn.  

We watched this together today at FBC, the first Sunday of Christmas. A group of thirty sat in a circle, sang, prayed, heard readings, and enjoyed this video.  Sung in Arabic and including an English translation, it felt especially poignant this year.  

Enjoy. May it be a final Christmas gift to you. It is to me.

Share you thoughts in the comments about Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

- Sean
<![CDATA[Candlelight Christmas Eve]]>Wed, 23 Dec 2015 19:06:13 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/candlelight-christmas-eve Picture
The 11 PM service on Christmas Eve has a particular magic to it.  There is a natural camaraderie as we all breathe a collective sigh that wordlessly utters, "We made it."  We have made through the Thanksgiving dishes, Black Friday (and now Cyber Monday), four Sundays of Advent, and the bumpy joy of preparations which seem to echo the anticipation of a young couple awaiting the arrival of their first child.

I want to extent a special invitation to attend our 11 PM service and join together with a smile and a collective sigh, saying, "We made it."  At our 11 PM service we will sing, pray, and share Communion.  And while the Christian Liturgical Year begins with Advent, there is a sense for those who attend that celebrating communion and the ringing of the twelve bells at midnight mark the threshold of one year to the next more significantly than either the beginning of Advent or New Years Eve.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend, including receiving Communion (which is served with unfermented grape juice).

For our earlier-birds, we call our 5:35p service "A Family Celebration" to reflect the less formal and child-friendly tone. Whether you have children with you or not, at least one smile is guaranteed, and there will be carol singing, special music, and a brief reflection.

Each of our services closes by circling the sanctuary and singing "Silent Night" with candles in hand.

Warm Christmas Blessings,


<![CDATA[Christmas Eve for Young and Old]]>Thu, 10 Dec 2015 00:23:41 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/christmas-eve-for-young-and-old Picture
What would make a wonderful Christmas Eve celebration?

Traditionally, there is an 11 PM candlelight service that ends around midnight as Christmas day begins. We will be having such a service, but also have something else planned.

This is the time of year we celebrate the birth of a new-born child who is also our savior.  So nothing seems more appropriate than creating a beautiful, fun, and welcoming service for all. Parents at First Baptist Church have been considering such a service and are planning a celebration of music, light, and story.

Just as shepherds waited in anticipation for something wonderful so many years ago, at 5:35 PM on December 24 we are looking forward to a fun, beautiful, child-welcoming gathering. As you can see in these pictures from last year, children will play the parts of Mary, Joseph, shepherds, animals, angels, and magi. There are costumes available for all who want to join, and no rehearsal is needed! Even if you have never been to church before, children are encouraged to attend the service wearing either a fitting costume or an excited smile anticipating changing into character among available costumes. Show up, dress up, and participate in the joy of Christmas.

Amid this pageantry, all will hear the Christmas story, listen to a reflection by Senior Minister Sean Witty, sing Christmas carols, and light candles. 

So come and take a pair of wings, don some lambs' ears, and gather around the manger. Or simply take in the wonder that can only come from child-like excitement over our child savior.

<![CDATA[Waiting for Christmas]]>Mon, 07 Dec 2015 17:54:05 GMThttp://www.fbcnewton.org/blog/waiting-for-christmasPicture
Growing up, my family had a “Christmas Calendar.”  Made of green felt, it hung on a wall or door. Small pockets held miniature items made of pipe cleaners, buttons, and clothespins. Each pocket, numbered in glitter glue, counted down. Each evening, with great anticipation, we removed one item from one pocket to mark the number of days remaining until Christmas.

As we grew up, our excitement about the activity waned and one-by-one the different crafts living in each pocket began to fade and our felt Christmas Calendar was replaced by day-planners (I was a Franklin Planner guy), Personal Digital Assistants (I had a Cassiopeia and numerous Palm Pilots), and finally smart phones.

As adults, we can learn to embrace this period of "waiting-for-Christmas" as a gift. It is one of Christianity’s great treasures. Western Christianity calls this season “Advent,” as in “arrival.”  Eastern Christianity calls it the “Nativity Fast.” 

Child-sized felt calendars are for a child-sized Advent. As adults, however, we need an adult sized Advent.

Most people understandably see waiting and fasting as in-between times, periods between two important moments. Consequently, we endure waiting and fasting like we might hold our breath.  However, Advent is not an in-between time. It stands on it’s own, just as the season of Christmas (or Christmastide) lasts twelve days (thus "the twelve days of Christmas”) and stands on its own as a season of "feasting".

Advent invites us to wait and not hold our breath, but to breath and be attentive and awake. Usually, we endure mundane tasks. When we wash dishes, we are not actually washing dishes, but thinking about what we would rather be doing or what we will do once we are done.  When we are in conversation, we are not really listening, but thinking about what we will say next.  When we are driving a car, we tolerate the time that passes until we arrive at out destination.

Rather than hold our breath during Advent, we are invited to a waiting which awakens us, a waiting which alerts us to forgotten longings and hidden joy, a waiting which allows the Kingdom or realm of God to emerge, a waiting in which a precious gift will arise.

<![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.