Category Archives: Thoughts

Pastor’s Thoughts

September 9, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of FBC—

A Song of Ascents.

121 I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to [a]be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your [b]keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
Nor the moon by night.

The Lord shall [c]preserve you from all evil;
He shall preserve your soul.
The Lord shall preserve[d] your going out and your coming in
From this time forth, and even forevermore (New King James Version—NKJV).

This week I am again recommending that we internalize and agree upon the above text—Psalm 121. Now, various Bible scholars believe that the “Accent Psalms” were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend various pilgrimage festivals…others believe they were sung by the Levite singers as they ascended the 15 steps to minister at the Temple in Jerusalem (wikipedia.org)…but, today here is Pastor Sheila’s thoughts about what is an “Accent Psalm.” This is a Psalm that a person can go to and feel assurance that all will be well, no matter what we have experienced or are presently going through…believers know that ALL of our help comes from God. This must truly be emphasized this week. This Psalm, when read and believed, enables us to move forward in hope and trust. The question is rhetorically asked by the Psalmist: “From where does my help come from?

This week we will relive, in remembrance, September 11, 2001. Many of us will never forget the four coordinated terrorist attacks on the United States by the Islamic group, al Qaeda. The attacks resulted in 2,977 fatalities and over 25,000 injuries. There was approximately $10 billion in infrastructure and property damage. Do you remember where you were during those attacks nineteen years ago? Many were not even born in 2001. Do you have any family or friends who died in those attacks? I am so sorry…but even if you did not have any family or friends connected to the carnage, we were all changed for life by those terrorist attacks. Along with this remembrance on this coming Friday, do you remember where you were or what normal acts in which you were engaging when informed that life was changing due to COVID-19? You may not have a clear memory on what you were doing or where you were, but in either case, we can all be clear that with Psalm 121, we can continue to know where our help comes from in times of need. We have hope because we know that we can go to God Who truly cares for us. Some folks may probably say, “God didn’t keep us from evil…God did not protect me or my friends or my family from those named tragedies…” I beg to differ with you. When we know we can go to God for our help…the evil we are protected from is that of hopelessness. When we know we can go to God for our help, and that the Holy One is our Keeper in spite of the “ugliness in the world,” I am here to tell you that is “Good News;” however, it must be internalized and believed in spite of what one’s mind may tell them. It’s all about trust and faith. If we are to go through the pain, disappointments, and horrors of life, we should want to do it with God at our side; the One Who will offer peace that the world refuses to give.

I hope you continue to watch FBC during our virtual Sunday morning worship. Invite your family and friends to a “watch party” of the FBC Sunday worships. This coming Sunday’s worship sermon is Having Confidence in Doing God’s Work!!!!—coming from Luke 13:31-35. Please, review the text prior to Sunday’s worship. Remember to invite family and friends to view the worship with you, and then discuss afterwards your thoughts and perspectives.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, September 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

September 2, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of FBC—

Matthew 18:15-20

Jesus said, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

The above biblical text is so poignant that when I read it, I stated, “This would be great for the pending September 2nd E-Blast.” So, here it is. We have entered into a new month and are still experiencing so many difficult issues. We are stressed…we are trying to overcome fear of the unknown…we are wondering how the future will look…we may wonder what humanity can agree upon in order to move forward and experience joy again.

I am recommending that we internalize and agree upon Matthew 18:15-20. Let us, as the church, reflect upon if “we” are sinning against each other because of these difficult times we are currently experiencing; and if we are, let us speak to one another in love as we journey through to resolution. We are an imperfect people living in difficult times. Let us talk and listen to each other in the manner that is pleasing to God. I truly believe when this occurs, we will experience the peace of God, and will alleviate some stressful situations. Let us just talk…and as the FBC congregation knows my motto: “From the pulpit to the pews,” meaning, I must also internalize the Matthew text. I know it’s hard for us, but this is what God requires of us. And remember, even if a person is not of our church family, we must still be guided by this Matthew biblical truth.

I hope you continue to watch FBC during our virtual Sunday morning worship. Invite your family and friends to a “watch party” of the FBC Sunday worships. This coming Sunday’s worship sermon is How Prepared Are You?…Let’s Look at Your Choices, coming from Matthew 25: 1-13. Please, review the text prior to Sunday’s worship. Remember to invite family and friends to view the worship with you, and then discuss afterwards your thoughts and perspectives.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, September 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)! Here’s to a wonderful Labor Day weekend!!!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

August 19, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of FBC—

During my August 5th letter to you I stated, “Can you believe we are already into the month of August?” Now, I am thinking, “We are about to enter into the ninth month of the year…I have not interacted and preached to a congregation inside the First Baptist Church’s Sanctuary since March of this year.”  I miss you!!!! However, I am thankful for the ability to worship with you virtually via PCTV and our First Baptist Church Facebook Live stream. And with that, we are so sorry that those who tried to watch the worship on PCTV this past week were unable to do so. Due to “no fault” of our wonderful media team, there were problems with Spectrum TV that were beyond our scope to correct.

 

Now, here is a “shout-out” to our great worship and media team members who have faithfully been assisting me to bring you the wonderful worships you have been experiencing. Thank you, Team First Baptist!!!!!!!

Here is another “thank you” to all ministry and committee leaders who submitted protocol and plans to reopen First Baptist Church of Pittsfield in a way that will be safe for all. Thank you to the Trustees who are in the process of finalizing those submitted plans that will guide us to re-opening First Baptist during these different times. There will be phases as to re-opening according to federal, state, and local guidelines for churches regarding the number of participants allowed during an enclosed gathering.

And with that, the Trustees and Moderator are requesting you to respond via email or contact the Church Office to inform whether you are willing to become a part of the first phase opening of the church. A Trustee will inform you during an upcoming virtual worship as to how the process will take place along with a proposed re-opening date. A Trustees’ meeting is scheduled for September 9th and detailed information will be provided to you after that meeting.  Please email the office regarding your willingness to return for worship in the Sanctuary at: fbc_pittsfield@yahoo.com or contact the Church Office at: 413-445-4530 (This is the number for a 2nd phone line; we are experiencing difficulty with the usual 445-4539 line.). Please be sure to leave the number of people regarding attendance (with their names) if you are a part of a family unit. The Office will contact those without email, and if you know of someone without email access, please call them and advise them to contact the Church Office regarding their attendance interest in resuming “face to face.” Please maintain the Trustees in prayers as they finalize the process.

I hope you continue to watch FBC during our virtual Sunday morning worship. This coming worship will be “Part 2 of Blessing God at All Times: How Do you Bless God?” coming from Psalm 34. Please, study this beautiful Psalm prior to Sunday’s worship. I will do a brief review so those of you who were unable to participate in the August 16th virtual worship will have a foundation for part two of the sermon. Remember to invite family and friends to view the worship with you, and then discuss afterwards your thoughts and perspectives.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, August 23rd 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)!

 Pastor Sheila

 

August 5, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of FBC—

Can you believe we are already into the month of August? With this new month I am going to stop saying, “These are challenging times.” I have now moved towards, “Jesus, continue to use me in spite of.” I am ready to move forward in God’s ministry through me in a more positive manner…what about God’s ministry through “you?

Attached to my note is an invitation from The Reverend Jennifer Gregg, Priest of the “Cathedral of the Beloved.” (See below.)  This ministry has been going on for the past several years, and many of you have witnessed the Sunday meals on the lawn at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. Well Rev. Gregg has been the organizer of this endeavor. She is now making another request to community churches on behalf of a pending endeavor. This request is about the implementation of a homeless shelter at First Methodist Church on Fenn Street. Please read the letter she has sent, and pray about this endeavor. If you are willing to participate and feel so moved by God, please email me at: ssr1919@msn.com

I informed Rev. Gregg that I would forward this information to you, but that it was up to the individual congregant whether or not to support and participate.

I hope you continue to watch FBC during our virtual Sunday morning worship. Invite your family and friends to a “watch party” of the FBC Sunday worships. On this past Sunday, as of today, the worship had 340 views across Facebook and YouTube. One day we will get a more inclusive count with PCTV’s views. Remember, invite family and friends to view the worship with you, and then discuss afterwards your thoughts and perspectives.

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

 Pastor Sheila

Dear Partners,

The Invitation:

We are inviting you to work with us and members of First Methodist (FUMC) to make sure the homeless shelter at First Methodist on Fenn Street becomes a reality.  

As some of you already know, this work is already well underway and Downtown Pittsfield Inc. (DPI) and the downtown business owners are working to bring it to a halt.  As one member said during the Development Review Board hearing last week (and I paraphrase), “it’s not about wanting it in my backyard, I don’t even want it in my front yard.”

Prayer and Faith Response:

People of faith communities have always made provisions for the most vulnerable among us.  With this in mind, we have a responsibility to act. God continually asks of us, “Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?” And we respond, “I will, with God’s help.”

It is time to pray with our hearts, our hands and our feet.  Prayer and raised voices, with God’s help bring aid to the most vulnerable and make God’s love known. 

Action:

Here is how to mobilize.

We would like 10 people from your community to make three calls each for a total of 30 phone calls on your assigned day.  The three calls would be to:  Downtown Pittsfield, Inc., Senator Adam Hinds and Mayor Linda Tyer. At the end of each week, this would amount to each entity receiving at least 150+ phone calls. We want to keep the pressure on.  The Development Review Board for the City is scheduled to meet again to vote on this project August 18th.  

In addition to the phone calls, we are asking a letter from every vestry/council be sent to the Development Review Board (DRB) to express your support for the homeless shelter.  The address and phone numbers needed for this action are in the enclosed documents.

To aid in this process we have also created a potential call in script, background information on the overall project and contact information.  We are grateful to The Rev. Ralph Howe who provided the shelter background and background on ServiceNet. 

As a best organizing practice, we invite you to consider having a point person in your community to help organize those who will be making the phone calls.  Below is a proposed schedule.  The most important piece is for phone calls to be made every day.  I realize I have not been in touch with all of you about your participation, if these days don’t work for you, please be in touch.  The proposed schedule is:

Monday, August 3rd:  Zion Lutheran and First Baptist                                         

Tuesday, August 4th:  South Congregational and Knesset Israel

Wednesday, August 5th:  Cathedral of the Beloved, First Congregational, Unitarian Universalist Pittsfield

Thursday, August 6th:  St. Stephen’s and Anshe Amunim 

Friday, August 7th:  First Methodist

 Monday, August 10th: St. Stephen’s and Knesset Israel      

Tuesday, August 11th: Zion Lutheran and First Baptist

Wednesday, August 12th: South Congregational and First Congregational

Thursday, August 13th: First Baptist and Anshe Amunim

Friday, August 14th: Cathedral of the Beloved, First Methodist, Unitarian Universalist Pittsfield 

 Monday, August 17th: Everyone

Tuesday, August 18th: Everyone

 Please let us know if you have any questions. 

 On behalf of Cathedral of the Beloved’s board, staff, and those we serve, thank you.

Faithfully,Jenny+

The Rev. Jennifer Gregg, Priest

Cathedral of the Beloved

413-344-8262

 

 

 

July 29, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of FBC—

This is a big weekend with the Lobster Picnic on August 1st…I have heard there are record numbers who have placed orders for pick-up. Thank you!!!! Have fun, and I hope the weather this weekend is lovely for you to sit outside and enjoy the scrumptious feast. Special thanks to the hard work of Lynn LaRagione and Chef Frank LaRagione for always doing a great job with the special fundraising meals here at First Baptist. This one is an especially hard fundraiser with the summer heat and the cooking of the lobsters; but these organizers are experts along with their volunteers. Special thanks to all of the volunteers who are serving this year…we are ever so grateful for your service.

I want to highlight, for just a little bit, on last week’s sermon and worship which focused on “praising God.” I believe the Holy Spirit led me to focus on this theme since all of us, from the pulpit to the congregants and friends watching via Livestream or PCTV, need to be reminded of the importance of praising God even during difficult times. Yes, it’s hard, but I hope we will all remember that God loves us, and will see us through our heartaches, physical and emotional pain, and finally, anxieties relating to the future. You see, when we forget to praise, we may forget to thank God for the blessings that we currently have…and will only focus on the troubling times. When we praise, we can hold onto hope in spite of the bad times. Try it and see what happens!!!  I do believe you will experience more peace and less worry about the future.

I have been thinking about New Orleans lately, and my home church. There was a devoted Christian man there who would often sing this “tear-jerking” song with such passion that many congregants did not have a “dry” eye upon completion of the song…even when they tried not to show emotion. Although he had a beautiful voice, I truly believe the words of the song made his passion even more heightened with their beauty and truth. They are as follows:

I don’t know about tomorrow; I just live from day to day. I don’t borrow from its sunshine, for its skies may turn to gray. I don’t worry over the future, For I know what Jesus said, and today I’ll walk beside Him, for He knows what is ahead. Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand; But I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand.

Who’s holding your hand? Reflect upon the above words, and ask Jesus to hold yours!!!!

I hope you continue to watch FBC during our virtual Sunday morning worship. Invite your family and friends to a “watch party” of the FBC Sunday worships. On this past Sunday, as of today, FBC had 275 views. And, that’s just on the Livestream; the numbers would be more if we were able to count PCTV’s views. Remember, invite family and friends to view the worship with you, and then discuss afterwards your thoughts and perspectives.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, August 2nd at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. If you live in South County, it is broadcast at 9am on channel 1301 CTSB (Community Television for Southern Berkshires).  And there’s always the FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA)!

 Pastor Sheila

 

July 22, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of FBC—

Are you enjoying the summer heat? Don’t complain…you know that winter is coming, soon. Remember to praise God even for the “hot days.” So, on that note….

I wish to thank all of you for the flowers, other gifts, cards, texts, and telephone calls to celebrate my 64 years of life. Whether I look 64 or not, there are days that I feel 64 with a different ache, and don’t speak of memory lapses, but guess what? I still praise God!!!! I am so GRATEFUL to be here doing God’s Work!!!! Grateful that we are a church family, and grateful that we WILL worship together again!!!!!! What are you grateful for? What can you praise God for? What should you be praising God for?

As stated during the announcements this past Sunday, a subcommittee of the Trustees, along with Sandy and I will meet this Thursday to review the protocol/plans as submitted by the various ministry heads and representatives. I’m praising God for this initial completion. After this review, it will be given to the full Trustees Board for their input. Praise God. Once this process is completed, then it will be up to the Trustees to review, make any necessary changes, and vote to decide when we will come back together as a church family. Praise God!!! We were hoping that Worship at the Lake in August would take place, but the Pavilion’s administrative body contacted us and said all activities were canceled until the end of the year or until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That is one of the reasons I did not want to make any promises made regarding opening dates…there are so many factors to include. Keep on praying…I just know all will be well. And we will continue to praise God believing that all will be well!!!

I hope you continue to watch FBC during our virtual Sunday morning worship.  Invite your family and friends to a “watch party” of the FBC Sunday worships. As of today, I was informed that the July 19th worship, with the wonderful music and sermon focus, “Being Acceptable to Jesus,” has had 276 views as to date. And, that’s just on the Livestream…the numbers would be more if we were able to count PCTV’s views. Last week, a congregant informed me that she and her niece watch the worship together, and then discuss it afterwards in order to share thoughts and perspectives. I invite you to do the same.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, July 26th at 10am on PCTV – 1301. If you live in South County, it is broadcast at 9am on channel 1301 CTSB (Community Television for Southern Berkshires).  And there’s always the FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA)! I am praying the sermon for this Sunday, How Can We Celebrate in Hard Times will speak to your hearts. I pray that it enables all of you to internalize that we can celebrate life in spite of the current hardships, issues, and problems!!! Why? Because we know that God’s steadfast love endures forever, and this love encourages our souls and enables us to persevere until there are better times.

In God’s Love,

Pastor Sheila

June 24, 2020

To Congregants and Friends of FBC,

In reflecting upon an encouragement message to you, I decided to use my experience from this week with the “Radio2Women” talk show. I was invited by the hosts to offer comments on a piece I submitted to the Berkshire Eagle in the summer of 2018, titled: Linguistics of Humanity: How Words Heal and How They Hurt. The radio hosts believed that in discussing this piece, from almost two years ago, it would be beneficial to the public because it remains relevant during this COVID-19 period, along with racist events that remain pandemic in our country, and the world at large. I must admit, I was excited to talk about the piece, but more importantly, I thought it would allow for a deeper discussion about how we as human-beings do not always think about what comes out of our mouths, whether verbally or via social media. We must be intentional with our words…whether we are making an argument for or against an issue. As Christians, we must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), emphasis on “truth.”

So, with that, what has been your truth during these current events? How have you used your words to encourage people, to stand up for people, to engage people on behalf of God’s justice through you? How are you encouraging yourself with words? Not with negative words, but with encouraging words that say, “My hope is built on Jesus’ name…. all other grounds are sinking sand.” And through that belief and hope, you take action with Jesus at your side.

In their thank you note to me, the hosts closing words were:

“We thank you, for leading us down a path filled with awareness and the courage to speak up! I am going to pass your message on to my grandchildren, in the hope that they will know how to navigate in this complex world we all now live in.”

As a disciple of Christ, I hope you use your positive words to lead others toward an awareness.

I am concluding again with, “We will be rejoicing and praising together soon.”  Psalm 150 says, “Praise the Lord!  Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty firmament!  Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His surpassing greatness!”

I hope you continue to watch the FBC service during our virtual Sunday morning worship.  This coming Sunday, June 28th, at 10am, tune into PCTV – 1301. If you live in South County, it is broadcast at 9am on channel 1301 CTSB (Community Television for Southern Berkshires). And there’s always the FBC Facebook Live Stream (First Baptist Church of Pittsfield, MA)!

In God’s Love,

Pastor Sheila

June 17, 2020

To Congregants and Friends of FBC,

Looking forward to our coming together.  Please note that the Trustees and committees are working on plans and protocols to bring us back together safely.  We are missing each other, but we must remember we are in God’s grace.  Know that you can look forward to hearing more about reopening in the weeks ahead!

We will be rejoicing and praising together soon.  Psalm 150 says, “Praise the Lord!  Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty firmament!  Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His surpassing greatness!”

In God’s Love,

Pastor Sheila