Category Archives: Thoughts

Pastor’s Thoughts

June 24, 2021

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

Yes, I am grateful that I followed the Holy Spirit’s guidance to facilitate a discussion around: Overcoming the Pandemic Mindset—the purpose was to foster a discussion regarding where  we go from here since FBC has reopened and restrictions around the community have been lifted. It appears that people are going wherever else they choose to go, however, attendance at FBC worship has not come up to full speed. What is the reason, since I hear people want to fellowship and connect to the church family?

Thank you to all congregants who participated, and also, there was a person from the community who participated in our gathering. We discussed feelings, ideas and recommendations as to how to excite people to return back to worship in the Sanctuary. There were different perspectives offered and it was truly a great discussion amongst minds.

During the discussion, it was stated that some people have become comfortable with turning to the FBC Facebook Livestream or watching PCTV. But with that, church attendance via technology has been superb, and for that I am grateful. I have heard from people across the country who are now viewers of the worship. Some people are still cautious with regards to not being aware of the vaccination status of others, and this is understandable because of concerns regarding the well-being of family members. Some folks are not returning because of the inability to do congregational or choir singing.

One participant said that congregants should be trusted more regarding seating arrangements.

Whatever the perspective, we must remember that each congregant has a right to their personal feelings as it relates to their health and well-being, and venue for worship. And with that, my goal is to foster a growing spirituality and connectedness as it relates to an ongoing relationship with God through Christ. All of the recommendations, suggestions, ideas…which were GREAT will be further discussed as it relates to implementation. Many of the recommendations are exciting and could propel us to new heights as a church.

Part-2 of the message God’s Power in Our Weaknesses…coming from Isaiah 64:4 and

II Corinthians 12:6-10 will conclude this coming Sunday, June 27th at 10 am. Join us in the Sanctuary or watch on PCTV – 1301. You can still go to the FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA) and “friend us.” 

 Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

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 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