Each week, a member of the congregation is giving a reflection on a scripture that speaks to them about our Capital Campaign journey. Read them below, and check back each week for updates!
In New York City we are constantly telling ourselves and others that all will be well and mostly it is, but often it’s not. Will the train arrive, will you be laid off, will you get a part, will the teacher love your child, will your health improve, will you find affordable housing, will you have healthy food? At Metro it’s will the boiler blow, will the roof stay strong, will the stairs get easier, will we have the space for more service to the neighborhood? In the scripture passage from Isaiah 3:10 I’ve chosen for our first Call to Prayer during the Capital Campaign, we are told: “Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their deeds.” In another translation it says, “The righteous will be happy and things will go well for them. They will get to enjoy what they have worked for.” And finally, “Tell the godly that all will be well for them. They will enjoy the rich reward they have earned!”
I am claiming that passage for each of us and for the Metro Community as we take a big gulp and enter into these next weeks and months of opening our doors even wider in the years to come. I hope you’ll join me in daily prayer for all things Metro and RMM. There will be a weekly scripture and thoughts from different members of the congregation for the next 12 weeks and I encourage you to spend some time in prayer and meditation as we assure ourselves and our neighborhood that all will be well.
Now, one more scripture before we pray together the prayer that is printed in the bulletin which by the way was written in the 13th Century by Dame Julian of Norwich. Listen to these words from Deuteronomy 12:28, “Observe and hear and do all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you, and with your children after you forever, Do that which is good and right in the eyes of the LORD your God.”
Let’s pray together:
In you, God Almighty, we have our preservation and our bliss.
In you, Christ, we have our restoring and our saving.
You are mother, brother and Savior.
In you, Holy Spirit, we have marvelous and plenteous grace.
You are our clothing.
In love, you wrap us and embrace us.
You are our maker, our Redeemer, our keeper.
Teach us to believe that by your grace all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well. Amen
Extortion is rife, robbery is epidemic, the poor and needy are abused, outsiders are kicked around at will, with no access to justice.’ I looked for someone to stand up for me against all this, to repair the defenses of the city, to take a stand for me and stand in the gap to protect. Ezekiel 22:29-30a
My 24 years being a member of Metro and for the years before my arrival, I have been proud of the fact that we are a church that helps repair the city defenses, or as another versions states “the city wall” to protect, a church that takes a stand, that offers God’s grace and mercy, and stands in the gap seeking to lift up the food and financially insecure, those that have been ignored, or even worse, judged. I am proud that we were one of the very first congregations that publicly shared with our community that we are a sanctuary church, that persons living with or affected by HIV/AIDS are welcome. We have never ever even considered that there may be persons who are NOT welcome in our community of faith; for God’s love is inclusive, reckless and lavished on all of us. As we begin the Opening the Doors Wider campaign, we are reminded that this is our DNA. We are about welcoming, supporting, offering hope. This comes not from a sense of being “better than” or “more enlightened” than others, but springs from our celebration of each other – our similarities and our individual uniqueness as creations in God’s image; along with our steadfast belief that all people are created in God’s image, and are loved and valued by God; despite the messages society sends.
In football, the gaps are the spaces between the offensive linemen. Between Center and Guard, the A gap, Guard and Tackle, B gap, Tackle and Tight End, C gap, outside the Tight End D gap. The whole game is predicated on how the offensive line can protect the gaps in order for quarterback, runners and receivers do their job of advancing the ball against the mighty force of the defensive players.
For me this is a perfect example of what we are trying to accomplish. Our goal is to seek to stand in the gap to protect our community from all the harsh realities of injustice, economic disparity, and oppression of the most vulnerable.
On any given day you can find our doors at Metro/RMM opening to give hope to women who have experienced the joint trauma of abuse and homelessness; to military personnel who served their country, but found themselves forgotten when they came home; to families that need extra food resources to make it to the end of the month; to people in need of a warm coat and clothing to survive New York winters; to homeless persons wanting snacks and toiletries; to children and teens needing support along their educational and social/emotional journeys; to artists seeking a forum to share their gifts and talents. While this list is long, it is certainly not an exhaustive listing of the many ways Metro/RMM ministers and serves in this community of Hell’s Kitchen.
If you have ever spent much time in the building, you know of its limitations, and the very essential need to repair and rebuild in order to continue being a voice for the voiceless in our community. Quite frankly, it is embarrassing that we are known for our caring work in the community, yet have physical obstacles that impede access for many of those whom we seek to serve(A big thank-you to former and present staff as well as Dan Henkel who have tried a long time to address this issue!). It is time for us to correct that, to sacrifice in whatever way God is leading so these obstacles are removed.
The Bible is full of pep talks. One of the most memorable being when Mordecai is urging Esther, his “adopted” daughter; now a queen, to take a stand, a life-risking stand, for justice for her people, the outsiders without a voice. He says to her, “And who knows that you have come to royal position for such a time as this”. We find ourselves, the Metro community, in “position for such a time as this”. God is urging us, calling us, to “take a stand” to ensure for future generations that the message of God’s love, God’s grace, God’s mercy will continue to emanate into this community, to the outsiders, through Metro Baptist Church and Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries. It is for us to sacrifice now so that the dream of the 1984 congregation realized into the present continues expansively into the future.
Barbara and I have talked and planned how we are going
to be a part of helping meet the building campaign goals. On its own, our contribution is not much, but
when joined with the sacrificial giving of each of you and that of the wider
community our prayer is that the financial goal will be reached enabling Metro to
repair and expand its physical walls, to widen its doors here at 410 West 40th
Street in order to continue to bridge the gap with God’s love and hope for
generations to come.
The idea is that Jesus was going to build the temple in 3 days, but he wasn’t speaking about the physical temple the Jews were talking about.
Now read 1 John 5:14-15. “And this is the boldness we have in him, that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have obtained the request made of him.”
The overall idea here is that God hears our prayers, “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us”and “if we know he hears us, we’ve obtained the request we made.” So, our faith itself is the answer to our prayer. The temple officials thought Jesus was talking about the temple, the building, but Jesus was talking about a completely different temple, the temple of his body, so God answers prayers in ways that we don’t expect.
Will this Capital Campaign play out exactly as we hope? Who knows? God answers prayers in unexpected ways. But our prayers WILL be answered. They’ve already been answered. Our faith itself is the answer.
Psalm 100: 4-5 paraphrased -- "Enter through ‘Wide Open Doors’ with thanksgiving…! Give thanks to God; bless God’s name! For God’s steadfast love endures forever, with faithfulness to all generations.”
Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose.”
Glenn and I once belonged to a church where we knew an older person, Verne, who would often say “All I can say is ‘thank you’ for God’s many blessings in my life.” And then, about 30 seconds later, he would say something like, “But if only such-and-such a disaster hadn’t happened to me.” Remembering our friend Verne, I smile and reflect, especially now that I am an “older person.” Almost all of us have that sense of life’s dichotomy -- wanting to believe that “all things work together for good for those who love God,” but realizing that grace isn’t always recognized by individuals.
The symbolism of “zero and one” that Glenn and I use in our art collaboration embodies this dualism of what we might call “open and shut doors.” The “zero” can be seen as “openness” – but rotate the zero in a particular way and the openness is no longer visible. The “one,” a linear segment, appears “closed.” But move to see the “one” from another perspective, and it still exists as an open form. Deborah demonstrates these movements with a sculptural zero. In reviewing the past 5 years, a period of time that I think of as “the movement between my life in Chicago and my life in NYC” there have been both zeros and ones, both open and shut doors. Truthfully, when I came to NYC, I wanted to shut the door on becoming involved in a Christian church for a number of reasons. But it has been REALLY DIFFICULT to shut the door on the “open door-ness” of Metro Baptist Church!
Here are just a few personal examples:
- When Paula Nance realized my distress over not being able to find an apartment in NYC the first autumn Glenn and I arrived, she “opened the door” to MBC’s 4th floor where we lived for 10 days until we could find our first apartment and establish credit in Manhattan. Later, during another mini-crisis, Paula connected us to Maren, who opened her apartment door to us for several weeks. Recently, we AGAIN lived on MBC’s 4th floor for several days and nights -- we have Tiffany, Brittani, Brooklyn, and others to thank for this dorm-room housing. Other examples of MBC open doors include Laura and Joe facilitating our use of their friend’s apartment during stints in 2018 and 2019, and Leslie & Carole, Lolli & Ange, who let us live in their apartment just last month.
- When, after 3 years of application to HDFC income-restricted housing, and when, after finally finding acceptance in a co-op, Dan Henkel opened his door and helped us layout and design an apartment that functions as a live-work space for our artistic practice.
- When we wanted to include embroidered artworks in our exhibition at the Sheen Center, and we were unable to connect with our South African embroiderers, Kathy Conry introduced us to Juliana Meehan, who was able to open the door to a group of Rwandan embroiderers who helped us realize our vision for our exhibition.
I could also mention other people at MBC who have opened doors for us – please forgive me for my brevity – I trust you know who you are!
What I want to say in conclusion, in light of the above experiences, is -- how can I not trust that the Spirit
of God will continue to move MBC toward its goal of opening its doors wider? Yes, twelve million dollars
($12,000,000) is a lot of money, but please remember that there are SIX “0’s” of openness -- and just a
single “1” !
Let us have the perspective of thankfulness for Metro Baptist Church’s past work, its continuing work, and the trust in God’s goodness in realizing MBC’s future.
Isaiah 28.16 "Therefore thus says the Lord God, See, I am laying in Zion a foundation stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation."
I like this passage from Isaiah. However, I also wanted to include today a short poem I learned as a child. Aunt Melba taught it to me and we would sometimes do it during the service at church if I was getting bored. Feel free to join in if you know it.
Here's the church
Here's the steeple
Open the doors
And here are the people
I was taught that it is the people who make up the church, not the building. This was considered to be a liberal, progressive view. Church buildings were just the shells, the concrete manifestations of a gathering of people, but the important work of Church-with-a-Capital "C" were the people in the community involved in the missions and ministry of the church. We progressive, social-ministry-minded churches could take the moral high ground, looking down on those churches that had “capital campaigns.” They were raising money for recreational centers, fellowship halls, and mega-sanctuaries. We were using our money to create inter-denominational food banks, go on mission trips, and collect items to ship to far away places like New York City.
This view makes sense when church buildings are only used on Sundays and Wednesday evenings. Through college and Divinity School I worked in several Baptist Churches in North Carolina, most of which were totally empty every other moment of the week. The minute I moved into Metro, however, I realized that I was in a different kind of church building. For those of you who don't know, I was the Associate Pastor at Metro from February 1999 through January 2001. During that time, I lived in the apartment on the fourth floor of the 406 building. Anyone who has lived at Metro has a special understanding of this building, its blessings and its shortcomings.
In these twelve weeks of folks standing up here to talk about Metro’s Capital Campaign, and how we want to open our doors wider, you have heard and will continue to hear about the many ways in which this church building gets used. I'd like to mention three. Obviously, being seminary trained, I will put this in a theological context. Jesus teaches us to love everyone, even those folks who are difficult to love. At Metro, every single bit of space gets utilized for something, even the less than lovely spaces.
One of the first things then-Pastor David Waugh did when I arrived at Metro was to give me a tour of the building. For those of you who think that the basement ends at the clothing closet, think again! David showed me an underground area where the food for the food pantry was stored on pallets several boxes tall filled with cereal, rice, canned goods, and bags of grits. Very few of the clients who came to Food Pantry on a Saturday knew what to do with these bags of grits, and we would frequently have to go and pick them up off the sidewalk where they had been abandoned by people on their way home. The mice, however, loved the grits! Every time I would enter the food storage area, I would turn on the lights, stomp my feet, and shout to the mice, “I'm coming in! Clear the area!” Of course, when I shared this story with people down home, it only affirmed for them that in New York City, the mice were smarter than the people.
Beyond the food storage area is the dungeon. I hate the dungeon. I didn't like it in 1999, and I don't spend time in it now! Personally, I could find nothing edifying about that space, but it turns out that it gets used during the Fall Festival as a haunted area where the teens create a fun, spooky space for the kids who want to participate. I'm not one of them, but some folks really look forward to that event!
The third area that I considered to be a relatively ugly bit of wasted space was the roof. Once or twice while I lived here I actually went up to the roof to sit in the sun, but you can look at my Anglo-Celtic, Casper-the-Ghost complexion, and know that I did not sit out in the sun often. What I was really looking for was a quiet place to breathe fresh air where I could read and write sermons. The roof wasn't it. It was a barren, overly-bright, dirty-looking space. I am so amazed at how beautiful the roof is these days, how life affirming the garden is, how practically beneficial the Hell's Kitchen Farm Project is for the people who receive food, the teens who participate in the Youth Farm Internship, and the volunteers who get to enjoy gardening in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world.
I saw a movie Friday night called Ford vs. Ferrari. At one point in the movie, race car driver Ken Miles tells his son Peter that if you're going to drive a machine to the very limit of its capabilities, you have to be willing to take care of it. You have to love it. The building of Metro Baptist Church is not a machine, but we use it to the very limit of its possibilities, from the tip of the dungeon to the top of the roof. We need to love this building. We need to take care of it.
At Metro, you cannot make a distinction between the
importance of the building and the importance of the
people when it comes to our ministries. The people need
the building and the building needs the people. We did
not lay the original Cornerstone for this building. But
metaphorically, we can lay the Cornerstone that will allow
generations to come to be able to find solace and
sanctuary and God's grace inside these walls, because
our doors will be able to open wider.
I moved to New York nearly 2 years ago, alone and in the dead of winter. In hindsight, that might have not been the best planning on my part. Without going into details, my first few months were exhilarating but extremely tough. Fortunately, Susan Braden introduced me to Kathy Conry who brought me here...and well, here we are. I’ve been in and out of the last year or so for various jobs, but feel extremely blessed to call Metro my home among the madness that is New York City. I’m an actor, a freelancer, all around crazy person who never has any consistency in her life. Metro helps me feel rooted. Relaxed. In a healthy community where I can plant myself long term. I feel like that’s a pretty rare find as a 23 year old from Virginia living in a bustling city, pursuing a difficult career path.
To give you a little background, I was raised Catholic and although I loved my church growing up, I lost a lot of my connection to the church after high school. I stopped going consistently in college and honestly have struggled with my religious identity and faith since then. This church has been such a blessing to me as I find my footing again with faith. I don’t know if I’ve landed quite yet, and have no idea when I’ll figure it all out, but I’m grateful to be in a community that encourages exploration, and provides a home while I do that.
2 Samuel 7:10-11
"And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies. The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you."
Home. So many people come to this city seeking home, and it’s tricky to find. I’m fortunate to come from an upper middle class home and hold a college degree, two things that have given me a lot of privilege in this city. It’s no secret that not everyone in this city is as fortunate. In the last two years, I’ve seen more poverty than I could’ve imagined growing up in a small town on the Chesapeake Bay. There is more need in a ten block radius of this church than the entire area code in which I grew up.
Enter RMM. This community has opened my eyes to how much ONE church can do to help a community so in need. The outreach that occurs in this building is like nothing I’ve seen before. The people here go above and beyond to help others. Unfortunately heart alone doesn’t pay bills and fix buildings. We all know we need funds. I wish I had those funds, but need I repeat that I’m an actor? I definitely don’t have the answers here. What I can tell you, as one of the newbies here, is this: I have never met a group of people quite like this in my life. If anyone can figure this out, it’s this bunch. Because we have so much more good to do in this community. This is only the beginning. I’m so grateful to have become a part of this family and be on this journey with you. I hope and pray that the success of this capital campaign truly opens these already very open doors EVEN wider to everyone in this community. If Metro can make this small town Virginia girl feel at home in New York City, I can only begin to imagine what it does for the masses.
Seek and ye shall find
Knock and the door shall be opened
Ask and it shall be given
And the love comes tricklin' down
The scripture that I chose is Matthew 7:7 which reads: "Ask and it shall be given you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you."
I found musicals versions done by everyone from The Kingston Trio to Nancy Wilson when I searched- each with a little different wording. I chose this scripture because it perfectly describes how I came to Metro. I was seeking a new church, i knocked on the door and a beautiful angel name Connie, wings spread wide,opened the door and said "come in dear." Little did I know that Angel would become one of my own personal saints and a very close friend. So,I asked that Metro might become my church.
As many of you know, I have numerous medical problems. I have Lupus. The Lupus infected my Lungs and gave me pulmonary fibrosis, the pulmonary fibrosis gave me pulmonary hypertension(high blood pressure of the heart) and now the Lupus has affected my kidneys. To quote one of my favorite writers , Maya Angelou "and still I rise." I rise because of my faith. God is not finished with me yet. I have more work to do, just as Metro does.
We all know why we need the funds to improve our building.The simple fact is our programs work. I offer three examples.
1) When I first joined Metro I volunteered at the food pantry for six months. I was amazed at how many seniors from my building attended. I realized that most were probably living on a fixed or very limited income. I was happy to belong to a church that was helping.
2) One of the women who I mentored in the Living Well program has returned as an alumni to help plan activities and motivate the new women coming in. She is now also married and in a healthy relationship.
3) On a bitter cold day in November last year I was having a slice at Two Brothers . A woman walked right up to me and said, "I have 50 cents .If you give me 50 cents I can get a slice." She also said she had not eaten in two days. I told her to put her money away and I purchased two slices and a drink for her. Everything about her read homeless person. Ragged run over tennis shoes with no laces, no socks, no gloves,dirty hair,hands, and face. Everything except her coat. I commented how beautiful it was .She said, I got it a Metro Baptist last week." That's my church" I said." I thank you and Metro" she replied. The coat was truly stunning and so familiar. There was a button on the collar that said "you are the change." Then I realized it my old coat that I had donated to the clothing closet. I had purchased 25 of those buttons, giving them out to random strangers every day. I had left one on my coat when I donated it!!
I have heard many members say, I have no extra money to pledge, or I can only give a small offering on Sunday So, my question is " but can you pray more? .How do you pray? when do you pray (only when the A train is running local and you are going to be late for work?) Do you pray alone? what do you pray for? Yes we need funds, but we also need some concentrated prayer.
I would like to offer a second scripture. Matthew 18;19.
"If two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven."
Both scriptures give me a certainty that our prayers will be answered. So stay the course Metro, and open those doors wider.
My Father the Lord has been here
My Brothers the Lord has been here
My Sisters, the Lord has been here
And the love comes tricklin' down.
By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
Living in New York City is exciting, stimulating, and exhilarating but can sometimes feel overwhelming. When I first moved to the City, I loved it, but it was hard to feel like it was “home.” I didn’t know many people, and although I was making lots of new friends, I sometimes felt alone. This was particularly true of the holidays. Living as a full-time graduate student on a small sabbatical stipend from my school district in Oregon, funding was not available for trips back there, or even half-way across the country to Kansas to visit my mother. I remember the first Thanksgiving in 1980, when Metro Church was still meeting in the offices of the Metropolitan Baptist Association on West 72nd Street. Those of us left in town decided to have a pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner at the “church.” It was a very special occasion, when we all felt close and a sense of “home.” That’s what I have continued to feel about Metro Baptist Church over all the intervening years: a group of people who provide an oasis, a “home” in what at times feels like “a foreign land.” A place where we are able to sing our songs, express who we are, and contribute to the well-being of others in the community.
After a few years, as a church decided that we wanted to share our “home” with others, particularly those in need. We had been serving soup on Saturdays at Broadway and West 72nd Street, but that was all that we could do because of lack of facilities. We decided to buy a building with real doors that we could open to the community. The journey to the purchase of this building was an amazing and miraculous one. After we moved in, we realized that we just didn’t have the membership to provide all the services that we had hoped. So we decided to rent portions of the building to groups that were providing those services and try to make Metro a vital part of Hell’s Kitchen. A group called Women In Need had their office space here. There were two apartments used by a group called Sanctuaries for Families that provided housing for battered women and their children. We partnered with Plaza HeadStart for a center for local children. Several 12-step programs met here. We opened our doors for many community meetings, partnering with Clinton Housing Development Association. We were a home to Portuguese and Spanish speaking congregations. We helped establish the Graffiti Center on the Lower East Side. Many groups, including Habitat for Humanity, stayed in our dorm facilities while working in the City, including former President Jimmy Carter. We established our winter clothing center and food pantry that members of the church staffed. Because we have always had incredibly artistic members, we held art exhibits, plays, dance and music concerts, Evenings of Readings, and I was honored to serve as a founding member of the Arts Council. And we initiated the Thanksgiving and Christmas day dinners for those in need, where we continued to have our pot-luck dinners together after the dinner when we served others. At the 9th Avenue International Food Festival we became a regular presence, giving out free water. Churches in other parts of the country participated in our efforts by sending money as well as work teams for many of our projects and events, helping us to open the doors even wider to a larger community.
For me personally, this church provided a lifeline during a time of particular distress, with a church member even opening her apartment for me to share for about six weeks until I could manage on my own. Other church members continued to minister to me throughout the long difficult process that followed the terrible, personal event. Through all the years I lived in New York City, this church opened its doors and provided me with a “home.”
Now Dick is going to tell you about his experience with Metro and some of the other reasons we have felt so bound to this church during our extended 29-year stay in Texas, which is also very much “a foreign land” to me.
I moved to New York City in August of 1989 for a graduate program in the law school of New York University. I lived in student housing on West 3rd Street. In the yellow pages, I found a small advertisement that read: “Metro Baptist Church – a Southern Baptist Church for All.” On the following Sunday, I walked up 6th Avenue to West 40th Street, turned left, and proceeded to Metro. As I walked across West 40th Street, the sidewalks were filled with homeless people who were starting to rise from their sleep. I entered the church and walked into the auditorium. No one was there and no lights were on, but the window air conditioners were humming. I sat on the back row in this cool, still room and thought how good it was to arrive in this safe place. The only person I remember speaking to that first Sunday morning was Dorothy Kaufman; she wanted to know who I was, where I came from, and how I found this place. At Metro, I found a community of genuine Christian seekers. I soon met Judith York, and we worked in the food pantry on Saturdays. I became a member of the Bible class taught by Gene Maston, and I assisted Gene at the back door in welcoming visitors on Sunday morning. After completing the program at NYU, I lived in the superintendent’s quarters on the 4th floor of Metro for several months. In November of 1990, Judith and I were married in Metro, and then we moved to San Antonio, Texas. Throughout the twenty-nine intervening years, we have always considered ourselves a part of Metro. Although we still live in San Antonio, recently Judith and I acquired an apartment in New York, and now we intend to become more active at Metro.
When I think of the reason to contribute money for improvements to the building that is the home of Metro Baptist Church, I think of Matthew 25:31-40:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
I think this is Jesus’ clearest statement of Christian ministry – to do the will of God on earth as it is done in heaven – to show compassion. I believe that this has been the goal of Metro Baptist Church as long as I have been a part of it. I want to contribute to the rebuilding of Metro Baptist Church, because I believe that these facilities will be used to fulfill these words of Jesus.
I have been deeply inspired by the recent Testimonies by Deb, Isabella and Joan so I hope MY Testimony will continue the thoughtful & inspiring stories we’ve heard over the last several weeks. The message in the Scripture I just read seems so simple: 1. Hearing, Deciding and Acting upon seems to be the modern language equilivant - we’ve been talking about for months – OPENING OUR DOORS….well, for ME, since 1980, I’ve seen Metro with “open doors” ever since David Kayode opened those elevator doors to me and my brother and sister in law on that Christmas Sunday at the Metropolitan Baptist Association building on 72nd St. The story might have been totally different had the timing of that DOOR OPENING not happened at that exact moment!
Now, after 35 years here in this extraordinary space – a former Polish Catholic Church, a Drug Rehabilitation Facility and now, US, “The Little Church – with the BIG HEART- That Could” for 35 years has opened those doors to the Community under the guidance of 5 different Pastors. We are so blessed to continue to find just the right people to lead us forward and now are heeding a new call to RE-BUILD the House, Dig and Lay a deeper foundation for the coming decades (when, surely, many of us will be gone….) we’ve survived the torrents of 9/11, Super Storm Sandy and the possibility of loss to the Port of Authority and the challenges of filling every room, floor and inch of this building to serve the needy, the hopeless who become the hopeFULL and know that we need to RESTORE, REPLENISH AND RE-NEW, not only this BUILDING but our own hearts to this GREAT call of service.
I remember Gene Bolin telling me that God needed people with ALL kinds of talents and having only one, I decided, especially the day I walked into this Sanctuary in 1984, that I could contribute in a special way. I’ve produced countless productions over the last 30-some years starting with HIS LAST DAYS and just last Thursday, GROWING A PLAY. Every event, concert, reading, ballet, presentation was my gift to Metro and this last one, GROWING A PLAY, was particularly meaningful because it called upon the gifts of ALL of us, The Sanctuary, Metro Members, Friends, Family and even strangers answering the call to raise money for what seems like an impossible amount to fund our needs for this amazing building into the FUTURE. Our doors have ALWAYS BEEN OPEN but our challenge NOW is to open them WIDER, open our WALLETS wider, our HEARTS WIDER and our SPIRITS WIDER to continue the work that started with that small group of people, Metro’s early DOOR OPENERS, John Halbrook, Gene Mastin, Gene Bolin, Dean Kaufman, Nancy Lewis, the Massengills, then David Waugh, Alan Sherouse and NOW, our fearless Tiffany & Scott – and ALL OF US, united in our GOAL to not just open the doors WIDER, but make more room for those who knock on those doors and find a HOUSE THAT CANNOT BE SHAKEN BECAUSE IT HAD BEEN WELL BUILT!!!”
Oh, and by the way, I wanted to report on the proceeds from the play last week – I have to tell you, we didn’t meet our GOAL – we exceeded it! I am so grateful to the writer, the actors, the helpers, the donors and the audience that will help us to open our doors wider, Wider and WIDER!
“Thus says the Lord: Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest?”
I chose this verse because it struck me as this is what we are about - rebuilding the Lord’s house to make it more welcoming for the Lord and the community. I am the eldest of twelve siblings. Mom read the bible to us every and had us say prayers at bedtime. At fifteen, I was baptized on Easter Sunday morning at sunrise. Shortly after, I was made associate financial secretary of church, so I had to be a Sunday school and church every Sunday. As a teen, I would sometimes go to socials or parties. Mom would say, "I don't care what time you get in. You are going to church." I guess this influence me in my adult life. Friends would ask, “Why are you leaving?” I said, “I have to go to church.” After school I moved to New York as I had family here on both mom and dad’s side.
I attended church for some time, but I became disenchanted. I felt it was all about being seen and they were not addressing the needs of the community. I was absent from church for about thirty years and found my life was empty. I was missing something. It was my religion. I did continue to read the bible and pray daily during my church absence. Thus started my search for a church.
My prerequisite was that it had to be in my neighborhood and I could walk to it. Thanks to the yellow pages, I found Metro Baptist Church. David Waugh was the pastor then. We met at the Star Diner on west thirty fourth street to discuss my life and how to transfer my membership. I found Metro to be welcoming. I felt this was the right place for me. I was amazed that such a small congregation could do so much with so little. Shortly after becoming a member, I was ordained a Deacon. It took some coaxing as I didn't think I was worthy.
The worst thing is saying goodbye to members who leave for work or school. It is good that they maintain that Metro connection. As we embark on this rebuilding campaign, we must remember what God said, "Ask and you shall receive." And with God, all things are possible. Knock, and the door will be opened, and with God, all things are possible if only we believe. I believe that after all these years of service, God has a plan for us to keep the doors open wider.
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one, for thine is the kingdom, and the power and the Glory forever. Amen.
Our congregation recently sang “Praise to the Lord” and the words “ponder anew what the Almighty can do” strongly resonated in me and I decided to would use them as part of my talk on the Opening the Doors Wider Campaign.
I am a relatively new member of Metro. I used to attend a much larger church, but one day when the weather was bad, I came here because it is close to my apartment. I liked the welcoming spirit, especially the moment I walked in the door and was greeted by Connie, and I liked the teaching I heard by the pastors.
When I learned that the church started in this building in 1984, I was amazed. The area was very dangerous back then. There was a very sad, depressing movie that took place in Times Square called “Midnight Cowboy.” It accurately showed the grittiness of the area, like movie houses up and down 42nd Street showing XXX movies. Although the film was from the 1970’s there was still a lot Midnight Cowboy throughout the 1980’s Times Square/Hells Kitchen until Disney spearheaded redevelopment.
I lived in Hells Kitchen in the 80’s and saw firsthand how foreboding it was. My partner was afraid to walk home from work and he waited for me at my job so we could walk together. We rarely ventured out at night. We pretty much wanted to move out soon after we moved in and within three months we did move.
But there were some dreamers who had a vision to move in to Hell’s Kitchen back then, a group who held services in office space on West 72nd Street. They sought a permanent home, and found this long-abandoned Polish Catholic church. A church pamphlet read “Homeless people down the block…prostitutes on the corner…crack dealers across the street. What a great place for a church!” Pastor Gene Bolin, the first pastor, prayed Metro would be a 24/7 church for the people. His prayer was answered as church began its social outreach, providing Christian teaching, clothing, food and educational services. I am very proud to now be a member of a church with such a vital mission.
My favorite book in the Bible is James. I believe that you don’t need to be a Christian to learn about life from James – I think of it’s a users’ guide for righteous living anyone can benefit from. It offers lessons about poverty and riches; faith and wisdom; warnings about showing favoritism and partiality; trials and temptations. The most important teaching to not just hear the Word of God, but do the Work of God – “Be doers, not merely hearers,” it says. My favorite Bible verses are the last couple of verses in Chapter 1:
“If anyone think of themselves as religious and does not bridle their tongues…their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and chaste in the eyes of God our Father is this: to care for widows and orphans in their distress and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
I think of a daily devotional I read a long time ago. Some cowboys were sitting around a campfire singing their praises for their boss, Rancher Bob. They love how Rancher Bob cares for them, feeds them and shelters them. “Rancher Bob is a wonderful guy,” one cowboy says. Another intones, “Yes, I can’t believe how blessed we are to have him.” The third says, “I’d do anything for Rancher Bob!” Finally, another cowboy declares, “Sure Rancher Bob is a wonderful guy, but he doesn’t want us to just sit around all night talking about how great he is. He expects us to get out and do his work.”
I took a liking to Metro because I saw how we don’t just sing praises to God on Sundays; we hear the Word of God then do the Work for God. We open our doors for widows and orphans like it says in James, but we also open them for the homeless, hungry, lonely, sad, and sick people who are relegated to the outer margins in our society.
The church I used to attend was beautiful inside and out. Flowers adorned the sanctuary every Sunday, but Easter Sunday was particularly awe-inspiring – a 20-foot cross was entirely covered with Easter lilies. A brass band blared out Easter hymns. When we sang “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” accompanied by the band, I was always moved to tears.
I wondered if I would miss that pomp when I celebrated Easter for my first time at Metro. An unadorned cross was in the sanctuary and below it were baskets of flowers. Then we, as a community of believers, both kids and adults, walked up to the cross and decorated it with the flowers. It was much simpler than the lilies cross, but there was something about its simplicity that made me know I am now in the right place as a start a new chapter in my spiritual growth.
A couple of years ago, I attended a community meeting with officials from the Port Authority and City Hall in our sanctuary which proposed plans for a new bus terminal. One plan they touted could have razed Metro and several other business in the neighborhood. That’s not going to happen. Instead of being bulldozed, we are rebuilding Metro. I believe in this mission and I am committed to doing my part to make the doors open even wider.
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do!
Our Reading is Mathew chapter 5 Verse 13 through 16.
You are the Salt of the world. But suppose the Salt loses its saltiness. How can it be made Salty again? It is no longer good for anything. It’s will be thrown out. People will work all over it.
Metro Baptist church is like a city that is built on top of the hill and cannot be hidden from the world. Despite how small Metro Baptist look. But have been serving the community. Metro have been feeding its community whether the church facing financial deficit Metro Baptist church always find it way to serve people.
You are the light of the world Metro is in a city that never sleeps Metro Baptist is on corner of Hell’s Kitchen where you see homelessness the need and the weary people.
Where else can I be and call it my home church? But here at Metro. Because this church is like a city that is Built-on Hill cannot be hidden from the world. A church that give hope to those who need home.
Metro church is an open church to those who need a community to feel like they have a place where they belong.
Metro church’s door is always open Wider for all people to come in. No matter what your background is. No matter what gender you represent you are always welcome.
Also, People do not Light a Lamp and put it under a Bowl instead they put it on stand. Then it gives Light to everyone in the House. My counter with Bob on that stressful day, was a day that both of us did not plan to travel but turned it into the good news by share his own personal experience from Metro Baptist church with me, while I was so confused. The new world I was about to enter, and I have no idea.
On that encounter Bob gave me the Light of a city that built on hill. I Felt security and hopeful to begin a new life and meet my new family in Christ, here at Metro Baptist church.
In the same way let your Light Shine in the front of others. Then they will see the good things you do. The Good things Metro Baptist did for me and What they continue to do for other people here in this community. Even to the people who not members of this church you serve them all year around. And they will praise your Father who is in heaven.
While we are on Metro Ministry Journey on Open the Door Wider and Metro church is a City that Built on top of the hill and cannot be Hidden. My hope is that you continue to have more resources to serve.
Introduction on personal accouter:
Those of you who do not know me well, my name is Bosondo. I came to Metro when a riot took place in Congo. That was in September 1991.
I left my birth place where I left the people I have known since I was born.
While on the Journey to America. A journey that I didn’t plan for, but I have no choice but to leave. Due to me having a son who was a U.S citizen and he was under age to travel on his own at time when the Riot took place.
And they could not take my son a lone, but he must be accompanied by an Adult. That adult at time was Me. And I did not see myself leaving him go anywhere on his own without his mother on his side. On that day our life changed forever.
That trip was so weary and full of wonder. Scared and confused but made it through by God’s grace and Mercy. With the support and fellowship from Metro Baptist church and other people in this great City that I love.
We all came in via the U.S Air force. We landed In D.C. After landing they took all of us the evacuee from the airport to our Capital Building. From Capital Building to a place in Virginia where we could have breakfast.
After breakfast that morning my spirit wanted to find a peaceful space where I could seat down and reflect on my journey. I was very concerned about my family whom I left behind and did not have a chance to say goodbye before I left. And for my son Bo and I going to a new place I don’t know the language.
I took my Son Bo who just turned 3 in August before traveling in September. We both took off from the crowd.
Started to walk on a walk away that was visible to us, from where we had breakfast. As we started to go deeper into the walk-way we noticed a lake.
My son Bo and me, was so happy to see the sign of a lake. Especially being on a holding camp until our flight take off to U.S. We rushed into the lake.
My son Bo was so happy started to throw rocks in the water as soon we get to the water and started to play with water and soaking our feet into the lake water. We did that for a while.
Than We decided to walk along the lake. As we were walking, we noticed other people walking towards us. It’s was a man with his two children walking at the other end of the lake.
As we moved along my son Bo started to run toward other kids and those two kids started to run toward us. Before time the children met and started to play together. They were so happy.
Than their Father whom I later learned his name and he was a Metro Baptist church member who was here at Metro before he went to Zaire.
Although we all took same flight, we did not have a chance to meet before boarding the flight or met at the holding camp. But the walk on a lake where met and started to talk to each other and shared the experiences. It’s turned out to be the same. He felts that he needed a personal space as my son I felt to do so.
Despised him and his wife having family in U.S. Bob wished the trip was planned.
And he just wanted to get away from the crowd and take his kids for a walk like I did.
As our conversation went on, He then asked me where my destination will be.
I told him my destination will be in New York City. He then asked what church I will be going to while in New York.
I told him River Side Methodist church where Ken used to work at time.
Bob paused for a second. And then said that: Methodist church is so big. And Later on, I find out it was so Big and did not feel at home while attending that church in past.
Bob took a picture from his pocket wrote Jean Maston’s name and phone number on the back of the picture said call him and tell him I gave you his information.
Once in New York Ken called Jean and he Invited us to come and visit Metro Baptist church. I have been here at Metro since then.
Where my children grownup and shared the activities and fellowship with other children here at Metro Baptist church.
Metro Baptist church has been our home. And a home of so many.
Being a Metro Member, I serve as a deacon with Pastor David Walls for about two to three term here.
During my time has a deacon, we served so many people in the community. From food Pantry, clothe Closet, Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner feeding homeless in this community. The church also provided the outreach program, such as English as a second language, Teen summer program, homework center, school supplies and so many other activities that I could not believe that a small church like metro can do so much.
I felt so good being part of it and My home church serve the community and give hopes to the needy.
My hope and Vision for this church is to continue to serve people around the Community and a Building will reflect it Mission from the past to the future.
Because Metro Baptist church is like a city that is Built on hill and cannot be hidden but to be open to the public so they can enter in with a wider expectation of hope and new experience.
I just wanted to say thank you for being here. Thank you for your Fellowship. Thank you for what you do here.
Near the end of his letter to the church in Rome, the Apostle Paul writes, “May the God who gives endurance and encouragement, give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God” (Romans 15:5-7).
Around twenty years ago I found myself in search of a new church home. I didn’t think my requirements were too difficult. I wanted a church that proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ, a church that valued Scripture, a church that was welcoming to all. I didn’t think my search would take long. But two years later, I realized just how wrong I was.
In those two years of searching, I attended a myriad of churches. I went to a large friendly Baptist church until I saw in their bulletin that they supported ex-gay ministries. For several weeks I worshiped at a store-front non-denominational church until the pastor one Sunday morning angrily confronted an elder because he “allowed” his wife to chew gum during the service. I attended a Presbyterian church that was active in social causes but whose ushers asked homeless people attending its services to sit in the balcony. I attended a very large Church of Christ that did not have one person of color in attendance. There was the “gay” Methodist church where the minister refused to preach on any text attributed to Paul, the apostle. There was the hippy Episcopal church that seemed embarrassed to say name of Jesus. And though I had trouble understanding the Filipino minister, I thought I’d finally found a church home at a store-front on 14th Street. But after 2 months, the minister announced he was returning to the Philippines and recommended that we all attend a West Village church that met in a grade school. It was a large vibrant church filled with young people. But one Sunday service, the minister’s personal confession of struggling with lust for women somehow turned into a diatribe against the Christian acceptance of homosexuality. This became a theme in my search – the large Presbyterian church that welcomed gay people but would not allow them to teach or be leaders in the church; the rock and roll church that met in a theater – they loved the gay sinner dudes, but hated the sin; the Roman Catholic church that welcomed all but could not or would not say that from the pulpit.
I became discouraged thinking I had to be the problem. I was too picky, too judgmental. Thankfully I had a Monday night Bible study meeting in my apartment. Those in attendance became my temporary church. One night I asked them to pray that I might find a congregation to join. And after that study, a first-time visitor suggested I try some Baptist church on 40th Street. She’d said been there and really liked it but it was too far away for her to attend. I thanked her but I agreed with here that it was really too far for me as well. The following weekend a good friend said he had volunteered at a Saturday morning food distribution at some Baptist church on West 40th. The people seemed nice and he thought I might like it. I told him I thought it was the same place that had been recommended to me at the Bible study that week. I told him I’d decided to rule out all Baptist churches. I didn’t need that kind of rejection. The very next weekend another good friend who lives on 43rd Street suggested I try this church on West 40th that she’d heard about. She really didn’t know much about it but liked the idea that we could lunch together afterwards.
Now, I didn’t think God had some grand plan to get me to Metro. But I did think that if three people in my small circle of friends suggested I come here in a matter of two weeks, it would make sense to make the trek uptown one Sunday. So after about four weeks, I took the N-train to 42nd Street and walked over. I sat in the back row on the left. I didn’t think the sermon was all that great but I shared the row with a man in a dress. I came the next week and sat in the back row on the left. I thought the music was a little stodgy but Jesus’ name and his saving grace were essential parts of the service. I came back the next week and sat in the back row on the left. The covenant of concerns seemed to me over-long but I noticed that the chairs were filled with people black and brown and white people. So I came back the next week and sat in the back row on the left. People didn’t seem all that friendly but a woman sitting in front of me told me how excited she was that she wouldn’t be sleeping on the sidewalk this month because she was apartment sitting – an apartment with air conditioning! I kept coming back and sitting in the same place.
I didn’t talk much but I volunteered on the Saturday morning food distribution. I bagged groceries with another volunteer, a Muslim man who said he’d been given much and felt he should give back. He was happy Metro gave him that opportunity. I went to a weird meal at the church called the Moravian Love Feast. Didn’t care much for the soup but a person at my table spoke of how this congregation had helped him through a severe depression. I went to a Sunday morning class where one of the attendees joked about his grumpy boyfriend - and no one gasped or looked embarrassed. At the end of the services, I helped gather hymnals alongside dancers, lawyers, students, teachers, piano tuners, scientists and those unemployed. When I could work up the courage, I would sometimes ask them why they attended Metro. As you might guess, there were many different answers – but in summing up they would often say something along the lines of where else would they go?
The weeks at Metro turned into months. At the end of one service the minister, David Waugh, came to my seat on the back row on the left and asked if he could take me to lunch. I couldn’t come up with an excuse quickly enough, so I said okay. At the Theater Row Diner he asked me what brought me to Metro. I told him I was looking for a church that proclaimed the gospel of Jesus Christ, a church that valued Scripture, a church that was welcoming to all. I told him of my long, tiring and fruitless search before coming to Metro. I told him I didn’t know where else to go. David chuckled and told me he thought I’d found my way home.
And that’s my Open Door Moment.
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.”
Wow! What a Time! What a moment! And here we all are @MetroBaptistChurch! So great to be “virtual” with so many of you. I see more faces and names than usual on a “normal” Sunday – from all around the country. This is such a blessing and comfort.
In Scott’s sermon last week, he asked us WHERE DO WE CALL HOME? I think WHO DO WE CALL FAMILY goes hand in hand with that question.
Many of you know that I went through some difficult personal times at one point in my life. Depression and other challenges made me believe I didn’t deserve God’s love or belong among good church folk. I was ashamed. I never lost faith in God, but was anxious for him to acknowledge I had nothing left to give and was ready to be called “upstairs!”
When that didn’t happen, I came to Metro. I’d heard about Metro for decades from my good friend James Dunn. Visited a few times when James or Brent Walker were here to speak. Even decided it was time to get back to church and showed up on David Waugh’s last Sunday to hear his farewell sermon about how Metro would always be small church with a big mission. Later that week he called me and we talked for more than an hour! Pretty sure if I’d been at Metro when he was here the two of us would have raised holy hell together! Maybe Tiffany could have moderated… ???
So I waited until James Dunn’s divinity student, young (very young…) Alan Sherouse became pastor. I think I was there on his second or third Sunday! When he met me, he said “OH! James Dunn told me I had to get you back in church!” I said “well here I am.”
Months later I went through a dark time. Metro pastors Alan and Tiffany, missionary Ronnie, and new church friends saw me through it. My first Sunday back I felt like the service was all for me! But then I often feel that way. That’s one of the best things about “Metro” – we make it easy to receive! I’d always believed it was not just better to give than receive, but that I had an obligation to give and no real right or privilege to receive blessings from anyone but maybe God.
So to answer the two questions: Where do I call home? Metro Baptist Church and Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries – @ this place in all its forms and venues. WHO DO I CALL FAMILY? You! Church attendees and RMM clients. Wherever we are or I am because we are always together and you are always with me.
This is why we need to OPEN THE DOORS WIDER! To share the spirit of HOME and FAMILY to the lost, lonely, depressed, hungry, naked in our community. Teaching and executing Walter Rauschenbusch Social Gospel Ministry to the least among us in the very neighborhood he did.
Today we face challenges the world has not seen in a century if ever. So here’s a little song with a big message that I always sing when I get down or worry.
Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come?
Why should my heart feel lonely and long for heaven and home?
If God’s eye is on the sparrow, then I know God’s watching me.
I sing because I'm happy! I sing because I'm free!
If God’s eye is on the sparrow, then I know God’s watching me.