Author Archives: FBC Pittsfield

June 11, 2021

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

The Holy Spirit is leading me to have a conversation with all of you!!!! Do you remember when I first came to First Baptist as your pastor, I invited you to meet with me to get to know me and for me to get to know you; I called our times together: Coffee, Tea, and Me!!! Many of you signed up and we had great conversations.

Now, maybe we should have a discussion around: Overcoming the Pandemic Mindset—Let’s come together to have informal conversations on Wednesdays at 5:30 pm. Just call the church’s office or email me at: ssr1919@msn.com to tell me of your interest.

Let’s talk about our feelings and where do we go from here as God’s Community. I hope you will consider, and if you do, we will begin Wednesday, June 23rd and then we will look at several more meeting times if there is interest.

The message for this coming Sunday has the title: Our On-Going Love Battles…coming from Matthew 5:43-48. Please, read the text and reflect upon what is your meaning of “love” and do you have any “battles” as it relates to your meaning of “love.” Come prepared to challenge your understanding of what Jesus’ words mean in that text.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, June 11th at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. Please, join us in person or you can join us by going to FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA) and “friending us.”   

 Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

June 3, 2021 Updates to FBC 2020-2021 Reopening Handbook

FBC 2020-2021 Reopening Handbook

Introduction

Dear Congregants and Friends,

The Officers, Trustees, and Pastor of First Baptist Church (FBC) of Pittsfield have established a handbook of protocols for worship, ministry, committee meetings, and other activities at FBC during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  The handbook provides protocols for social distancing, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), contact tracing and the cleaning and disinfection of the building.  The handbook also presents requirements for the different startup phases for the Sunday Services.

The handbook and protocols were developed after prayerful deliberations and in response to the guidelines below:

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
  • American Baptist Churches (ABC), USA,
  • American Baptist Churches (ABC) of Massachusetts,
  • State recommendations via Governor Baker
  • COVID-19 Employee Health; protection, guidance, and prevention (Mass.gov)
  • Other federal and state resources
  • FBC Reopening Committee

FBC will follow a phased startup for the Sunday Services based on the guidance listed above.  Details and the requirements for the start-up phases can be found in the handbook.

Since we are a family, and family members must take care of each other, we believe that the closure and now reopening of FBC is in the best interest and safety of the church family and community during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The COVID-19 virus is highly contagious and large Church gatherings can be super spreader events.

We are excited to come back together again as a church family; we ask for your continued prayers and adherence to these protocols.  Please note, this is a working document; updates will be made as required.  Please contact the Administrative Office with any questions regarding these protocols.

Yours in Christ,

Trustees of First Baptist Church

 FBC 2020 Reopening Handbook Outline

Working Document * 16 September 2020

1) Introduction from Trustees

2) Phases for Start-Up

3) Social Distancing, PPE & Disinfecting Requirements

4) Sunday Worship Service

  • Entering, Seating& Exiting the Sanctuary
  • Choir and Congregational Singing
  • Children’s Sermon, Chapel and Sunday School
  • Offering
  • Communion
  • Coffee Hour
  • Bathrooms

5) Administrative Office

  • Appointments Only
  • Administrative Office Plan and Practices
  • Finance Office
  • Media Room

6) Ministry Activities, Committee Meetings& Other Events

  • Committee Meetings
  • Food Pantry
  • Feed My Sheep
  • Meals
  • Fund Raisers
  • Special Services

7) Child Care of the Berkshires

8) Cleaning & Disinfection of the Building

 *Note: this is a working document and will change as new rules/information are discovered.

 Phases for Start-Up

Phase One:

  • After MA allows churches to open
  • After FBC has written protocols for opening
  • After Ushers will have a minimum of 3 people for monitoring the service
  • Only 15 members allowed to attend soft opening Sunday service by invitation only
  • After 3 weeks the protocols will be reviewed and an evaluation made before moving to Phase 2.

Phase Two:

  • After Protocols have been updated for revisions as needed.
  • After Ushers are educated, experienced and comfortable with protocols and their responsibilities related to the protocols. A minimum of 4 Ushers must be available.
  • After Staff and members concerns have been addressed
  • Only 30 members will be allowed to attend Sunday service by Reservation. This may be done by email or calling the Office.
  • After 3 weeks the protocols will be reviewed.

Phase Three:

  • On May 17, 2021 the CDC and Gov. Baker made changes to the mask mandate for the COVID-19 pandemic. Baker has rescinded the face-covering order that goes into effect on May 29, 2021.  The Department of Public Health will issue a public health advisory effective May 29th that advises all unvaccinated residents to continue to wear a face-covering in indoor settings and when they can’t socially distance.  The FBC Reopening Handbook is being updated.

Social Distancing, PPE & Disinfecting

Social distancing remains in effect as of May 19, 2021.  There are no changes as of this date.

What is social distancing?

  • Social distancing, also called “physical distancing,” means keeping a safe space between yourself and other people who are not from your household.
  • To practice social or physical distancing, stay at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) from other people who are not from your household in both indoor and outdoor spaces.
  • Social distancing should be practiced in combination with wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth, do not touch your face with unwashed hands, and frequently wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

Why practice social distancing?

COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period of time. Spread happens when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, and droplets from their mouth or nose are launched into the air and land in the mouths or noses of people nearby. The droplets can also be inhaled into the lungs. Recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay at least 6 feet away from others when possible, even if you—or they—do not have any symptoms. Social distancing is especially important for people who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

  • Keep Distance at Events and Gatherings: It is safest to avoid crowded places and gatherings where it may be difficult to stay at least 6 feet away from others who are not from your household. If you are in a crowded space, try to keep 6 feet of space between yourself and others at all times, and wear a mask. Masks are especially important in times when physical distancing is difficult. Pay attention to any physical guides, such as tape markings on floors or signs on walls, directing attendees to remain at least 6 feet apart from each other in lines or at other times. Allow other people 6 feet of space when you pass by them in both indoor and outdoor settings.
  • Refrain from any physical contact: no hugging, touching, kissing, ect.

PPE is no longer needed by vaccinated persons as of May 29, 2021 as per the DPH Massachusetts.

What is PPE (Personal Protective Equipment)?

  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) includes an array of supplies that help to prevent the spread of COVID-19. These include eye protection (e.g. face shields), facemasks, and gloves.
  • Source Control: Use of cloth face coverings or facemasks to cover a person’s mouth and nose to prevent spread of respiratory secretions when they are talking, sneezing, or coughing.
  • Facemasks and cloth face coverings should not be placed on children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or anyone who is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
  • When cloth face coverings are not available or cannot be used, a face shield may be used as source control in a non-clinical, non-healthcare setting; through cloth face coverings are preferred.

Why it is important to wear a mask?

  • A mask may not protect the wearer, but it may keep the wearer from spreading the virus to others.
  • COVID-19 spreads mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, talks, or raises their voice (e.g., while shouting, chanting, or singing). These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Recent studies show that a significant portion of individuals with COVID-19 lack symptoms (are “asymptomatic”) and that even those who eventually develop symptoms (are “pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms.
  • To reduce the spread of COVID-19, CDC recommends that people wear masks in public settings when around people outside of their household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • Masks may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others. Wearing a mask will help protect people around you, including those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and workers who frequently come into close contact with other people (e.g., in stores and restaurants). Masks are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings. The spread of COVID-19 can be reduced when masks are used along with other preventive measures, including social distancing; frequent hand washing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
  • The masks recommended here are not surgical masks or respirators. Currently, those are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders. Masks are not personal protective equipment (PPE). They are not appropriate substitutes for PPE such as respirators (like N95 respirators) or medical facemasks (like surgical masks) in workplaces where respirators or facemasks are recommended or required to protect the wearer.

Masks with Exhalation Valves or Vents:

  • The purpose of masks is to keep respiratory droplets from reaching others to aid with source control. Masks with one-way valves or vents allow exhaled air to be expelled out through holes in the material.  This can allow exhaled respiratory droplets to reach others and potentially spread the COVID-19 virus. Therefore, CDC does not recommend using masks if they have an exhalation valve or vent.

What is Cleaning & Disinfection?

  • Cleaning refers to the removal of dirt and impurities, including germs, from surfaces. Cleaning alone does not kill germs.  But first removing the germs, it decreases their number and therefore any risk of spreading infection.
  • Disinfection works by using chemicals, for example EPA-registered disinfectants, to kill germs on surfaces. This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs.  But killing germs remaining on a surface after cleaning further reduces any risk of spreading infection.

How long will Coronavirus survive on surfaces?

  • COVID-19 is mainly spread by inhaling tiny droplets released when an infected person talks, coughs or sneezes. Large droplets can also land on surfaces.
  • The COVID-19 virus does not like to live on a surface that has a lot of holes or microscopic little grooves, nooks or crannies. It likes smooth surfaces like door knobs.
  • How long the COVID-19 virus lives on a surface:
    • Glass – 5 days
    • Wood – 4 days
    • Plastic & stainless steel – 3 days
    • Cardboard – 24 hours
    • Cooper surfaces – 4 hours
  • Please note that the amount of live virus decreases over time on surfaces. The risk of infection from touching something that had virus on it will lessen in risk over a few days or hours.

Sunday Worship  Service

Purpose:

This protocol provides instruction for safe social distancing and the ability for contact tracing, if the need arises.

Entering, Seating & Exiting the Sanctuary

Everyone entering First Baptist Church (FBC) must wear a mask covering their nose and mouth inside of FBC at all times, until further notice as deemed necessary by Federal, State, local guidelines and FBC church officials. It is a requirement for worship.  NO EXCEPTIONS.  If a person does not have a mask upon entrance into FBC, a disposable one will be provided.

  • May 29, 2021 – Gov. Baker rescinded the Commonwealth’s face-covering order. This is in effect for those who have had their COVID vaccine.  If you are unvaccinated, you need to continue to wear your mask at FBC.
  • If you are unvaccinated and unable to wear a mask properly, please worship with us via Facebook Livestream or PCTV.
  • All worshippers must enter the front door. If you are not able to manage the front steps, you may enter the bank-side door via the handicap ramp.
  • Your temperature will be taken via touch less thermometer to your forehead by the Ushers. If your temperature is greater than 99.9 you will not be allowed to enter the Sanctuary or stay for service.
  • You will be asked to sign the seating chart as to where you are sitting. This allows FBC the ability for contact tracing if needed.
  • Worship Service bulletins will be emailed each Friday. It is encouraged that you print your copy and bring it with you to the service.
  • A limited number of bulletins will be available upon entering the church.
  • Ushers will direct worshippers into the sanctuary.
  • Some pews will be roped off prohibiting entry.
  • Families will be allowed to sit together.
  • Individual worshippers will be seated as per social distancing recommendations, 6 feet apart.
  • The Ushers will direct worshippers to exit the Sanctuary after the service via the door they entered.
  • Please take your bulletin and any other debris when you leave the Sanctuary and dispose of in a designated receptacle in the Narthex or take it home.
  • There will be no gatherings in the church prior to or following the service.

Choir and Congregational Singing:

Public health officials consider singing to be a “super-spreader” of COVID-19.  Particle emission is correlated with the amplitude of vocalization – or loudness- so singing releases more particles that other types of speech or breathing.  It even spreads the virus more than coughing.  As such, FBC will adopt the following procedures as it relates to worship music:

  • There will be NO congregational singing. Hymnals will be removed from the Sanctuary.
  • Choir rehearsals and choir participation in our worship service will be suspended for the foreseeable future.
  • Singers and Instrumentalists will be utilized during each worship service. Unless from the same household, musicians will maintain at least 6 feet distance from each other, facing the same direction.
  • Unless other arrangements are made, rehearsal time with our pianist will be at 9am on Sunday morning. As additional rehearsals are introduced, those will be held in the Sanctuary.
  • Singers and wind instruments will be located a minimum or 27 feet from all Congregants.
  • Any music stands, microphones, pianos, and all other non-personal equipment utilized will be isolated for 7 days before it is used again.

Children’s Sermon:

  • For children between the age of 2 and 5, the wearing of a mask is at the discretion of the child’s parent or guardian.
  • Children will remain with their parents or guardians for the entire worship service including the Children’s Sermon.
  • There will not be any Children’s Sunday school until further notice.
  • Children’s Chapel is on-line after the service until further notice.

Offering:

  • The Offering collection plate will be on a table in the Narthex.
  • Please place your offering in this plate as you exit after the service.
  • You may continue to mail in your offering if preferred.

 Communion:

  • Diaconate members will package Gluten Free bread and juice containers in individualized plastic bags to be picked up upon entering the Sanctuary.
  • Please place the empty juice container back into the plastic bag and dispose of it in a designated receptacle when you leave the Sanctuary.

Coffee Hour:

  • Until further notice, there will not be a coffee hour fellowship time after worship services.

Adult Sunday school:

  • Classes will continue via on-line until further notice.

Bathrooms

  • ONLY bathrooms on the main floor may be used. NO ONE MAY USE THE BATHROOMS ON THE LOWER LEVEL OF THE BUILDING.

 Administrative Protocol

Purpose:  This protocol provides direction for social distancing for the safety of the administrative personnel and visitors.

  • All parties must wear face coverings and abide by social distancing practices. The exception is that the staff may use their discretion with the use of face masks in their work environment when there are no visitors present.

Administrative Office:

  • The Administrative Office is closed at this time for walk-in visits.
  • Office business is to be conducted via phone or email as much as possible.
  • Wash hands before and after the use of computer keyboards.
  • If a visit to the Office is necessary, please call to make an appointment during Office Hours.
  • This Office closure includes Sunday mornings as well; no socializing shall take place in the Office.

 Finance Office:

  • This office may be used by the Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer, Co-Collectors, and Auditors
  • Collectors will use the office and the Collector’s Computer on Monday for counting and posting. There will be no counting on Sunday until the church is fully open.
  • Treasurers will use the office and the Treasurer’s computer on Wednesday for all other financial activities.
  • A maximum of 2 people may be working in the office at the same time.
  • Any meeting of more than 2 people should be held outside of the office.
  • Wash hands before and after the use of computer keyboards.

Media Room:

  • This area may be used by Media Personnel, Pastor, and Sexton.
  • A maximum of 6 people may be working in the Media Room at the same time,
  • When Media Personnel leave the Media Room, they need to wear a mask.

Ministry Activities

Purpose: This protocol provides instruction for safe social distancing and the ability for contact tracing, if the need arises.

Committee Meetings:

  • All meetings must follow the guidelines as outlined and remain for wearing masks and socially distanced when meeting at the church.
  • Meetings can only be held in the Assembly Hall where there is room to distance by setting up tables and or chairs six feet apart.
  • Attendance record must be kept and given to the Office for tracing purposes if necessary.
  • Call the church office to schedule the Assembly Hall for all meetings.

Food Pantry:

  • Packages for distribution will continue to be prepared in advance.
  • Clients will pick up the food at the North side entrance – one person at a time, who must be wearing a mask.
  • No one may enter the building.

Feed My Sheep (FMS):

  • Meals served in the Assembly Hall are suspended until further notice.
  • Team members must wear a mask while in the building.
  • The FMS teams will prepare meals to go and distribute them at the North side door.
  • One person at a time, who must be wearing a mask, will pick up the prepared meal.
  • NO ONE OTHER THAN THE TEAM MEMBERS ARE ALLOWED TO ENTER THE BUILDING.
  • If the meals to go are prepared at the church, teams must follow the guidelines for disinfecting the counter surfaces before and after preparing food. ServSafe Guidelines pertaining to hand washing and wearing gloves must be followed when handling food that will not be cooked.
  • The appropriate cleaning agents and hand sanitizer will be available.

Meals:

  • Any food that is prepared to serve to the public must be pick-up only.
  • All rules listed above apply to food that is prepared at the church.

Fund Raisers:

  • Fund Raisers can only be held after consultation with the Board of Trustees.

Fundraising Dinners:

All food is prepared and cooked in FBC kitchen following ServSafe Guidelines.

  • Only those who have coordinated with the chef in advance to help with the dinner are allowed in the kitchen.
  • When a dinner is being prepared and served, there will be no access to the Church through the parking lot kitchen door.

Assembly Hall Set-Up:

  • Table in front of person taking money
    • Hand sanitizer is available at the end of the money table
  • Tables are placed where meals will be picked up – separated
  • Tables are covered with disposable tablecloths
  • Area for workers is taped off
  • All workers are wearing face masks
  • All workers handling food are wearing gloves

Food Order Pick-Up:

  • Everyone picking up meals has been told to wear a face mask or face covering when getting their meals
  • Workers have been together and are a safe “Bubble”
  • Those cooking and packaging the hot food stay in the kitchen
  • One person takes money (cash or check)
    • After paying, the person is told where to pick-up their dinners or where to wait socially distanced from others
  • Only two workers go into the kitchen and bring the packaged dinners to the Assembly Hall
  • Meals are bagged (bags bought special for dinners) in the Assembly Hall and then brought to the tables and given to the people to take home

Clean-Up:

  • The kitchen and Assembly Hall are cleaned as specified by the FBC Protocols

Special Services:

  • Baptisms, Wedding, Funerals, and other special services can only be held after discussion and detailed plans are developed. A final decision will be made by the Pastor and Board of Trustees.

 Norman Rockwell Childcare of the Berkshires

Purpose:  Provides instruction for safe social distancing.

  • The Norman Rockwell Childcare Center is a tenant of FBC.
  • Due to strict state guidelines, NO ONE from FBC is allowed downstairs.
  • If guidelines are NOT followed, this is a liability for the Center and FBC.
  • If a FBC staff person/congregant must go downstairs, the Administrative Office must be contacted and will then contact the director of the Center.
  • Once approved to go downstairs, a mask MUST be worn, and all touched surfaces MUST be cleaned by the individual. Child care areas are still required to wear face-coverings as of May 17, 2021.

First Baptist Church (FBC): Cleaning and Disinfecting Protocol

Purpose:  This protocol provides instruction on the cleaning and disinfection of First Baptist Church (FBC), Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  These guidelines are for the use of our Sexton, Office Personnel and those who use the facilities for gatherings not related to worship.  The following information is from CDC Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Cleaning and Disinfection for Community Facilities and BOSTON PUBLIC HEALTH COMMISSION GUIDANCE: Cleaning & Disinfecting to Prevent COVID-19.

Definitions:

Cleaning refers to the removal of dirt and impurities, including germs, from surfaces.  Cleaning alone does not kill germs.  But first removing the germs, it decreases their number and therefore any risk of spreading infection.

Disinfection works by using chemicals, for example EPA-registered disinfectants, to kill germs on surfaces.  This process does not necessarily clean dirty surfaces or remove germs.  But killing germs remaining on a surface after cleaning further reduces any risk of spreading infection.

Clean first – Disinfect second

Protect Yourself to Protect Others:

  • Wear gloves
  • Masks are not needed unless you are working in a confined space
  • Wash your hands frequently-before beginning work, after completing a room, before and after a break

Supplies:

  • Cleaning Products allowed by FBC
  • Dawn Dish Soap
  • Further products to be selected
  • Disinfecting Products:
  • Clorox Bleach solution: 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water or 5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water
  • Bleach solutions will be effective for disinfection up to 24 hours
  • Micro cloth dusting mops and wet mops
  • Color coded micro cloths:
  • Green for cleaning the kitchen
  • Yellow for cleaning the bathroom
  • Red for dusting
  • Blue for DISINFECTING ONLY

Clean first – Disinfect second

Allow Proper Dwell Time:

  • One of the keys to disinfecting is dwell or contact time.
  • Make sure the surface remains visibly wet for the full recommended contact time.
  • Clorox recommends a 5 minute contact time for bleach solution. The surface that has been cleaned and then wiped with the bleach solution needs to remain wet for 5 minutes before being wiped and air dried.
  • It is not effective to take a wipe and run it across door knobs or light switches.

To kill viruses on surfaces:

  • Spray your micro cloth with the disinfectant solution until the cloth is saturated, not dripping.
  • Wipe the surface until wet, leave wet for five minutes and then let air dry

Sexton Cleaning & Disinfecting Schedule:

Daily:

  • Walk through entire building
  • First floor bathrooms (Disinfect & Trash)
  • Kitchen (Disinfect & Trash)
  • Church Office (Disinfect & Trash)
  • Sanctuary, North Door (Disinfect)

Monday

  • Sanctuary (Lock up this area after cleaning.  Not to be opened again until next service.)
  • Balcony
  • Narthex
  • Chancel

Tuesday:

  • Kitchen
  • Assembly Hall
  • Stage
  • Treasurer’s Office

Thursday:

  • Church Office
  • Chapel
  • Philathea Room
  • Library

Friday:

  • Media Room
  • Pastor’s Quiet Office
  • Sunday School Room

Sunday:

  • Open & Close the Church Building
  • Disinfect Door Knobs: Doors that enter the building, Sanctuary, Office, Treasurer’s Office

June 4, 2021

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

HAPPY JUNE!!!! Can you believe we are in the sixth month of this year already? Many of us have been vaccinated and many of us are able to smile again without a mask. I am elated to see your beautiful smiles again. We are moving forward—let’s keep praying that we continue to move forward.

Now, many of you have been asking when will the choir and congregational singing begin? Well, I don’t know. I have contacted The American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts to receive information and direction, but I was not provided any direction. I have contacted other church leaders and it seems that all are waiting for some official entity to make a recommendation. Since the choir goes on hiatus beginning in June and does not return until September, that helps regarding the choir. By the fall maybe a concrete protocol will be provided.

But again, what about congregational singing? I am aware that singing is allowed in some venues, but it has not been stipulated that churches can begin congregational singing and is a part of that “venue” stipulation. So, where do we go from here? In some form, the Sunday Morning Praise Team will continue to provide us with fantastic and Spirit-led music. The Trustees and I will continue to research the current protocols, and along with the Music Ministry Team, will keep you informed so that as we come together for worship, we can safely sing with one another. Yes, we trust God for protection; however, God wants us to remain mindful to protect one another as we live and strive in the Holy One’s community.

The message for this coming Sunday is titled: God Is…coming from Exodus 17:8-16. Does this title intrigue you? I hope it does. Read the text and reflect upon “Who” God Is to “you.” Come prepared to challenge your understanding and learn even more about the character and traits of God.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, June 6th at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. Please, join us in person or you can join us by going to FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA) and “friending us.”   

 Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

May 28, 2021

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

Yes, we are back from vacation, which as you know, included repairing a roof in North Carolina—not fun, but completed!!!! Thank you for your prayers for safe travels and to complete the roof project.

Now, so many of you have contacted me about the wonderful message 1st Gentleman, Nelson, offered to you this past Sunday, and from the comments, I believe the Holy Spirit spoke to you in the hearing of that message that focused on: The New Normal: Don’t Look Back. Nelson’s “rear view” mirror illustration got many of you thinking about letting go of concerns you have no control over. I know it forced me to review some things, and to change my attitude concerning certain issues. Thank you, 1st Gentleman, for providing information for us to internalize for growth.

Also, a special thank you to Rev. Dr. Bob Rennie, Rosemary Crawford, and Patti Trumble for also offering sermon messages while I was away. Many congregants have told me that all messages were wonderful and thought provoking. Again, my heartfelt thanks for such support.

Now, as I reflect upon things and “catch-up” on paperwork, my mind has been on the Israel and Palestine conflict, another killing of innocent people in a workplace in San Jose, California, the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd, all the other senseless deaths of Black people, the Asian hate crimes, the anti-Semitic hate crimes; and then this year, in the upcoming week, is the 100th year anniversary of the Tulsa, Oklahoma massacre where innocent Black people were slaughtered along with 35 blocks of their businesses and homes destroyed. How do we, as people of faith, move forward in spite of the “ills and pains” in this world? How do we move forward with our own individual issues that include hurts and disappointments?

I know this is the Memorial Day holiday weekend, but come and participate in the worship (just one hour) that will offer ways for you to move forward. The message is titled Memorial Stones: Remembering God’s Work on Our Behalf!  Read Joshua 4:1-9 and then read verses 20-24 of the same chapter.

I look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, May 30th at 10 am, either in person or on PCTV – 1301. Also, you can join us by going to FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA) and “friending us.”   

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

March 12, 2021

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—
The Holy Spirit spoke into my heart this past Sunday to continue the message focus on “Living into the Power of Prayer.” I am being led to include prayer requests from people at the end of my message. This is a little scary since I am delving into the unknown here at FBC. Meaning, I don’t know what type of requests will come in…but that’s where I’m trusting God for guidance. I will do my best to make the prayer requests as concise as possible without losing the intent of the person’s request.

I have taught the components of prayer in Bible studies; I have preached on prayer before, and I have tried to create a prayer group here at FBC that wasn’t successful. Sometimes, people are just afraid and uncomfortable to pray in the presence of others. Or, it could be that people don’t want others to know about their problems or suffering. This time I will be doing the praying on behalf of others…this is called intercessory prayer. These are prayers we must conduct on behalf of others.

Now, with these intercessory prayers, I will offer the prayers after an abbreviated sermon. People who choose to have their name associated with the request can do so or names can be confidential, but the prayer request will still be made. The media team will try and do a graphic of the requests on Sunday over the Live Stream. If not, I will still have a copy of your requests in order to do the prayers. If you don’t make a request, I will pray a general prayer for all souls viewing the worship, those in our community, the state, nation, and around the world.

Remember, I am just being obedient to what I believe God is leading me to do. God’s Will be Done on earth as it is in Heaven!!!

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, March 14th at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. Also, you can join us by going to FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, Mass) and “friending us.” As stated, the sermon for this Sunday is Living into the Power of Prayer (Part 2)—I John 5:14-15 and Matthew 6:10b!!!! Contemplate those scriptures in preparation for the sermon, and mainly focus on what you believe when you say, “Thy will be done” as it relates to God’s Will.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Sheila

March 5, 2021

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

“To Shot, or Not to Shot” (vaccine shot that is). Now, this is part 2 of my February 12th message to you. Why? Because I had my 2nd dose of the COVID prevention vaccination on February 27th. Now remember, the shot or not to shot reference is an “intentional play” on Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be.” In my last message I informed you, as clergy, I was allowed to receive the vaccine during this time.

As with my first dose, I was elated to receive it and only had some stiffness. Now with the 2nd dose, I had some additional reactions, but guess what? I was still elated and grateful to take the vaccine. Yes, there were aches and pains, fever, and just plain feelings of yuckiness, but again, I am grateful and thankful to God that this wonderful prevention vaccine was created. That’s why First Gentleman, Nelson, provided you with the message this past week; and he offered a wonderful one that truly helps me with my reflection today since his message focused on having a “testimony.” I was down for the count for two days with my second dose…but guess what? I am grateful and thankful for the vaccine. Do you see the point I am making? This is my testimony regarding my fight against the coronavirus.

There are times we all will journey through uncomfortable or very difficult times…some will be more difficult and unpleasant than others…some may appear to take you down for the count, and you will feel that you will not be able to survive. But I have good news for you…you WILL SURVIVE.

With my minor reactions I kept repeating, “The LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1). You know this Psalm which is truly a Psalm for the living. The first verse of this famous text is one that transcends across very difficult times and just plain uncomfortable situations. Why? Because when we truly believe and trust that God is with us during whatever the circumstance we are going through, then we know we WILL SURVIVE during and after the journey. Think about it…we can go to the “Holy One” whether our situation is one that is so gut wrenching that we think we will be down for the final count or just one that offers minor discomfort. This is good news because we have a God who cares about us whatever the situation. All we have to do is believe and trust that God will see us through.

To Shot or Not to Shot…” I am praying that you will take the vaccine. Please take it!!!

Also, I am praying that you hold onto Psalm 23, whatever your current situation…don’t give up on God!! Be grateful and thankful that you can go to God with any given situation.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, March 7th at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. Also, you can join us by going to FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA) and “friending us.” The sermon for this Sunday is Living into the Power of Prayer—I John 5:14-15 and Matthew 6:10b!!!! Contemplate these scriptures in preparation for the sermon. Also, begin to include in your prayers during difficult or uncomfortable times: The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want.  

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

February 12, 2021

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

“To Shot, or Not to Shot” (vaccine shot, that is). Ok, please note this is an “intentional” play on Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be.” As you know, this is the opening soliloquy given by Prince Hamlet in William Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1.

As clergy, I received my first dose of the vaccine on February 6, 2021…it was as if I received a winning lottery ticket or the gold medal from the Olympics for the preaching category. I can dream, can’t I? Anyway, I truly hope that all of you will consider taking the COVID vaccine. It is one step closer to all of us coming back together as a Community.

My second dose is scheduled for later this month…and I am looking forward to receiving my second lottery winning and Olympic gold medal. Will you join me?

There is a lot of misinformation in the community regarding the vaccine; however, please listen to and read credible information. Give me a call if you have concerns or questions. If I can’t respond to your concern, I will direct you to the appropriate resource. Please know the facts. Congregants over 75 – please know that vaccine appointments are available – now. You can make them through www.getvaccinatedberkshires.org or by calling 211 or a local senior center during business hours. OR – and this is critical – anyone who is comfortable with the vaccination signup website can make an appointment for anyone who is eligible. (Please remember to have your Medicare card handy when you call or log in). However, if you have any trouble signing up, please contact FBC and we will help you connect to various places to assist you.

To Shot or Not to Shot…” I am praying that we all receive the vaccines with limited arm soreness or any other types of reactions to it.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, February 14th, at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. Also, you can join us by going to FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA) and “friending us.” I know it’s Valentine’s Day, but first, why not show your love of God by way of your worship? Then, you will have the remainder of the day to celebrate with others you love. The sermon for this Sunday is appropriate, Celebrating Freedom through Love. The talented and gifted Wanda Houston will be with us again, giving Glory to God with her beautiful voice. What a way to begin Valentine’s Day!!!!!!!!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

December 18, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

Again, blessed Advent Season to all of you, and may we all be renewed in hope, peace, joy, and love. Last Sunday on December 13th, we continued with the third segment of our four-part Advent series with the sermon The Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Joy. The sermon’s scriptural support came from the Hebrew Old Testament text of Isaiah 35:10 and the New Testament text, Luke 1:35-45. This series is based on the 2020 Advent FBC theme of: The Uncluttered Heart: Making Room for God During the Advent Season. The Scriptural support is Romans 12:2—Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect (NRSV—Bible).

For the past three weeks I have asked you to reflect upon the following three questions and encouraged you to honestly answer them in the context of the Romans 12:2 text.  They are:

  • Are you conforming to negativity in the world?
  • What is your process to renew your mind in God in order to have a sense of positive transformation?
  • Do you know how to hear God’s Voice in order to be acceptable in the Holy One’s Sight for that positive transformation?

Last week’s sermon which focused on “joy” truly transformed me. What did it do for you? Now here are more poignant questions. Are you going through a transformation with this series? I pray that you are!! Have you reflected this week on the manner in which you receive “joy” from God? Are you overlooking God’s gifts to you because they are not as you had expected, hoped for or prayed for? In the sermon last week, I stated two tenets we should learn: 1) Let’s Rely on the Power of Faith, and 2) Let’s Accept God’s Gifts as God Chooses to Give. These are powerful tenets and should be accepted in belief and trust that “All Things are Possible with God” (Genesis 18:14). When this is accepted, then we will accept the tenets given in the context of the “joy” sermon.

Now, this coming Sunday, December 20th, we will conclude the series with The Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Love. The text is I Corinthians 13. Please study this text in preparation for Sunday’s sermon.

So, are you being transformed by the renewing of your minds? Are you willing to do the hard work in order to have hope, peace, and joy? Only you can honestly speak to all of the questions that have been posed to you.

Please continue to have a transformation goal with part 4 of the series: The Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Love. We must remember that Love is powerful…Love is lifechanging, and most of all, God is Love!!!!!

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, December 20th at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. Also, you can join us by going to FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA) and “friending us.” We have a special guest soloist this week, the wonderful and talented Wanda Houston – the Berkshires’ “gem” of a vocalist. Wanda is a renowned star who has traveled the music world…was on stage in New York, and was always the featured soloist at the FBC Annual Gospel Concert. She will grace us with God’s Gift to her.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

 

 

December 11, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

Again, blessed Advent Season to all of you, and may we all be renewed in hope, peace, joy, and love. Last Sunday on December 6th we continued with the second of our four-part Advent series with the sermon The Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Peace. The sermon’s scriptural support came from the Hebrew Old Testament text of Isaiah 26:3 and the New Testament text, John 14:15-27. This series is based on the 2020 Advent FBC theme of: The Uncluttered Heart: Making Room for God During the Advent Season. The Scriptural support is Romans 12:2—Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect (NRSV—Bible).

For the past two weeks I have asked you to reflect upon the following three questions and encouraged you to honestly answer them in preparation for each sermon and the Advent theme. They are:

  • Are you conforming to negativity in the world?
  • What is your process to renew your mind in God in order to have a sense of positive transformation?
  • Do you know how to hear God’s Voice in order to be acceptable in the Holy One’s Sight for that positive transformation?

I pray that you are going through a transformation of sorts with this series…I know that I am. How? Because each week I am asking myself the above questions, and sometimes my responses are not what they should be. When I offer a sermon to you, I want to be “fed by God” too so that I can change for the better. And with that, I am including the above questions. Please allow me to remind you of some “take-aways” from the prior two sermons.

In the Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Hope sermon, our “take-aways” are that we should read the Bible to unclutter our hearts in order to renew our minds for encouragement. We accept that the Scriptures are to be trusted for their usefulness although they were written thousands of years ago. Also, we must pray for the “Jesus within us—the Holy Spirit” to provide us with hope, that feeling of expectation and desire through steadfast belief in God. This is the belief which enables us to move forward in life.

With the Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Peace, our “sermon take-away” was that in order to have peace, we must not rely on how the world defines having peace—that being: having power, control, worry, success, etc. at any cost, but we that must rely on keeping God’s Commandments in that of loving God and our neighbors which enables calmness and tranquility. Also, we must trust that we have an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, that enables such peace to occur if we will just “surrender” our hearts and souls to Jesus.

Whew…that was a quick review.

So, are you being transformed by the renewing of your minds? Are you willing to do the hard work in order to have hope and peace? Only you can honestly speak to all of the questions posed to you.

Please continue to be transformed with Part 3 of the series: The Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Joy. The sermon texts are Isaiah 35:10 and Luke 1:35-45. Don’t forget to reflect upon the Advent theme questions as you also read the sermon and Advent theme texts.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, December 13th at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. If you live in South County, it is broadcast at 9 am on channel 1301 CTSB (Community Television for Southern Berkshires).  And there’s always the FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA)!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

 

 

December 4, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of First Baptist Church of Pittsfield (FBC)—

Blessed Advent Season to all of you, and may we all be renewed in hope, peace, joy, and love. Last Sunday on November 29th, we began the first of our four-part Advent series with the sermon The Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Hope. The sermon text came from Romans 15:4-6; and verses 12-13. The series is based on the 2020 Advent FBC theme of: The Uncluttered Heart: Making Room for God During the Advent Season. The Scripture support is Romans 12:2—Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect (NRSV—Bible).

I asked you to reflect upon the following three questions and encouraged you to honestly answer them in preparation for the sermon. They were:

  • Are you conforming to negativity in the world?
  • What is your process to renew your mind in God in order to have a sense of positive transformation?
  • Do you know how to hear God’s Voice in order to be acceptable in the Holy One’s Sight for that positive transformation?

Did you do your homework? Were you prepared to actively hear the sermon? Are you being transformed in “hope” through the Holy Spirit? Are you hearing and listening to God’s Voice? Part 2 of the sermon series is The Uncluttered Heart Transformed with Peace. The sermon text comes from Isaiah 26:3 and John 14:15-27. I want you to think about the things that you do in order to obtain peace; and to think about what you believe is “true peace.”  Please read the texts for this coming Sunday; integrate the Romans Advent theme text, and finally, again reflect on the above questions.

In next week’s message, I will sum up some lessons for you to internalize from parts 1 and 2 of this series of sermons to hopefully guide you in your on-going transformation process.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, December 6th at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. If you live in South County, it is broadcast at 9 am on channel 1301 CTSB (Community Television for Southern Berkshires).  And there’s always the FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA)!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila