Category Archives: Thoughts

Pastor’s Thoughts

November 20, 2020

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

I am looking forward to Thanksgiving…and not just because 1st Gentleman and I are preparing a New Orleans style dinner, but because I am just grateful that in spite of everything that is going on, I still have joy. This joy comes from the hope I have that the tomorrows will get better. Those tomorrows that include the upcoming Advent season. Will you, too, be filled with “joy” in spite of the current climate? And I’m not speaking about the cold weather here in Pittsfield.

The chair of the Diaconate, Linda Haas, and I had a conversation to discuss the 2020 Advent theme, and I was so filled with joy to hear what was placed into her spirit as a theme, and it is—The Uncluttered Heart: Making Room for God During the Advent Season. When I heard the recommendation I said, “This is it.” Then the Holy Spirit placed into my spirit the Bible text to support the declared theme: Romans 12:2. This text tells us: 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 want you to honestly reflect upon this text for a while, and I want you to ask yourself the following:

  • 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?

During the next several days, I want you to ponder these questions as you prepare for Thanksgiving, and the beginning of the Advent Season. As God’s people, we must work towards having a mindset and inner peace for transformative purposes so that we can be acceptable to God. I am not saying we will not experience different disparaging thoughts due to life’s vicissitudes, but I am saying we will move from persistent negative thoughts pertaining to the world when we unclutter our minds and focus on Jesus and what this entails. When we focus on Jesus, we move forward in hope; we move forward in joy; we move forward in peace; and most of all, when we focus on Jesus, we move forward in love. I pray this focus will go beyond the Advent Season so that the positive transformation remains a part of us as disciples of Christ with those uncluttered hearts.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, November 22nd 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)!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

November 6, 2020

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

Psalm 23

King James Version

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Relying on the Great Shepherd

Please, keep reading the above text of the 23rd Psalm until you have a peacefulness that transcends whatever you are feeling during this time of division in our country. We are living through the stress related to the presidential election, and of course we are living in COVID times; along with the possibility of a “new wave” of this Coronavirus. Then, let us not leave out that we have entered into the cold and flu season. This Psalm is for the “living,” although we usually hear it read at funerals. As people of God, let us rely on the “Great Shepherd” for our peace during any difficult time; and remember, that God, as our Great Shepherd, will always meet our needs. When we maintain that hope in God, this enables us to move forward in peace!!! Let us also encourage others to read it or “you” read it to others as a demonstration of “peace within” that transcends all understanding that they too believe in…just encourage them to internalize the gift from God and you.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, November 8th 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

October 30, 2020

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

Well, I want you all to know that I am no longer “weary,” thanks to all who wrote very comforting notes to me and also for your prayers…but now, I am feeling a sense of sadness. Why? This will be our first year (usually held on the 2nd Sunday in November) that we will not celebrate the annual First Baptist Church Gospel Concert…better known as the Gospel Fest. It’s truly a sense of sadness because this church would be filled to almost capacity. The FBC choir, directed by James Kupernik was ALWAYS phenomenal!!! And our annual special guests…from that of Wanda Houston, Rodney Mashia, The Berkshire Concert Choir, just to name a few of our annual participants would always add to the occasion. I am saying all of this to enable you to reflect upon prior years of how we were so blessed. Yes, a sense of sadness now, but we will come back even stronger next year; just you wait and see.

But even through sadness there still is joy to be found…

Mamé Opoku, the wonderful congregant who always ensured that on the 1st Sunday of each month FBC would celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with a beautiful cake has been led by God to coordinate a new ministry. This ministry, through the recommendation of Missions, will enable congregants to connect via Zoom for social and spiritual connection. We need interested folks to contact the church’s office (413-445-4539) to advise us of your interest or just email us and we will provide Mamé with your information. These Gatherings will be developed by Mamé…so all Gathering information will come from her. Aren’t you EXCITED? See, joy can be found even during the midst of sadness. We will not have the Gospel Concert this year, but we do have the opportunity to continue being together.

So, in closing, Happy November…Remember to set your clocks back and enjoy that extra hour of sleep. We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, November 1st at 10 am on PCTV – 1301. I really encourage you to read the “Beatitudes,” Matthew 5:1-13 in preparation for Sunday’s sermon, and then ask yourself, “God, where am I in regard to these blessings?” 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

October 16, 2020

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

If I am allowed to be honest and transparent, I will now tell you that I am weary. Will you allow me to admit to you that I am at times so weary? I am weary because I hear about so many of my congregants who are hurting at this time for many reasons. Many are hurting because they are experiencing grief over the death of loved ones…parents having to bury their children. Children burying their parents…spouses burying their partners after long periods of togetherness. Also, many are hurting due to the stresses of COVID and being confined and lonely in their homes and backyards. Then we must remember that the winter is coming, so sitting in backyards 6 ft away from family and friends will no longer exist for us. Many of us are hurting due to emotional or physical pain; and then we are all hurting due to the prolonged issues of injustices from that of ageism, racism, sexism, and all of the other “isms” associated with life.

So, now I am asking you: “Are you weary…can you be transparent and admit that you are weary about one thing or another?” Remember, even Jesus became weary at certain points…that’s why He would go off to pray so that He could rest upon God, His Creator. So, I ask you again: “Are you weary?” Be honest, it’s OK to admit to it…it’s not a fault or weakness…it is being fully human as was Jesus. If you are willing to admit your weariness, then I have a verse for you as spoken by Jesus to His disciples.

Let’s go to a beautiful Scripture found in John 14:27:

[The]Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.

This Scripture is bringing me comfort today because I keep repeating it over and over as a mantra. Jesus is the peace giver for our weariness. It’s OK to admit being weary, but it’s more important to know where to go in order to be relieved of the weariness that comes upon us in our humanity. Let’s hold onto our mantra of peace in that of the risen Jesus, the Christ. Let us not hold onto being troubled or being afraid. Let us hold onto peace.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, October 18th 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

 

October 8, 2020

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

WOW!!! Wasn’t yesterday evening’s storm in the Berkshires scary?

As we were going through the storm, I thought about the song I taught the Christian Youth campers in the summer of 2019. One of the Campers, as a going away present to me, created an art piece depicting the song. I taught it to the FBC congregation, too. The piece, which is in my office, and gives me hope on difficult days is titled: The Storm is Passing Over…

Encourage my soul and let us journey on

Though the night is dark and I am far from home

Thanks be to God, the morning light appears

The storm is passing over…the storm is passing over…the storm is passing over Hallelu.

Hallelujah…Hallelujah…Hallelujah…the storm is passing over…the storm is passing over…the storm is passing over Halllelu.

The song reiterates the following beautiful Scripture:

Psalm 42:4-5

Living Bible

4-5 Take courage, my soul! Do you remember those times (but how could you ever forget them!) when you led a great procession to the Temple on festival days, singing with joy, praising the Lord? Why then be downcast? Why be discouraged and sad? Hope in God! I shall yet praise him again. Yes, I shall again praise him for his help.

As I left home this morning I focused on the beautiful sun, and the crisp breeze, and the birds chirping and singing, and I said, “Why be discouraged and sad? Hope in God! I shall yet praise God again.” God provides me with help through all storms…God also provides “you” with help. Just ask for it and believe in hope. Help comes in many forms…a form that I love is “peace of mind.”

Yes, some of us were without services like telephone, electricity, and some of us may have lost trees, but we still have hope in God because the storm has passed over…hallelujah!!!!!

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, October 11th 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)!  I invite you to read II Corinthians chapter 9…it’s not a very long chapter in preparation for the morning’s sermon.

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

October 2, 2020

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

Here we are in the month of October…how are you feeling? Are you enjoying the foliage? Are you seeing the Beauty of God? Yes, the Beauty of God even during these difficult times. I am here to tell you that things are getting better. How? Because we can experience the Beauty of God, if we so choose.

Next, the Trustees will be meeting during the month of October and will discuss our re-opening plans and protocols. Let us all pray for great news regarding the date First Baptist will re-open.

And during this month of October, it is also Stewardship Pledge time…letters and pledge cards have been mailed, and the letter is also being emailed. The Trustees are requesting that pledge cards be returned by October 11, 2020 in order to develop the 2021 budget.

Let us choose to see the Beauty of God in the changing season…let us choose to pray for the re-opening of FBC, and believe it will happen soon…let us choose to give “Bountifully to God so we can Reap Back Bountifully from God.” Let us choose wisely.

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, October 4th 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)!  I invite you to read Romans 4:13-25 in preparation for the sermon title: Having a Steadfast Faith!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

September 25, 2020

To the Congregants and Friends of FBC—

For the past several weeks, my devotional time with God brought me to Paul’s letter to the Romans. Now history tells us that Paul didn’t start the Church there, but wrote the people while in Corinth, and repeatedly tells them that he loves them. Why? Because God has commanded followers to love one another; however, it became clearer to me why it was necessary for Paul to tell the people about his love for them. In the final chapter of Romans, chapter 15 and verse 13, Paul says:

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Life Application Study Bible).

Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit. And although he was writing to the Christians in Rome to admonish them about some issues they were having, he was also telling them about the importance of caring for one another. Paul also told them he had heard of the wonderful things they were doing. When we are filled with joy and peace and we overflow with hope, then we are able to talk to others about all things, but especially we are able to tell them that we love them because of the Holy Spirit that dwells within us when we are in relationship with Christ.

So, I have a few questions for you:

  1. Are you able to tell people beyond family members that you love them?
  2. Are you able to tell people you are at odds with that you love them?
  3. Are you able to tell yourself that you love “yourself”?

Maybe the 3rd question must be asked of yourself first before you are able to address the other two; however, when one is truly connected to the Holy Spirit, to Jesus within us, and we know the God of hope Who provides us with joy and peace as we trust in the Holy One, then by the power of the Spirit, we are able to love.

I Love You!!!!

We look forward to our time together this coming Sunday, September 27th 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)!  I invite you to read Exodus 17:1-7 in preparation for the sermon title: Is the LORD Among Us or Not?!

Yours in Christ,

Pastor Sheila

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