On September 22, 2019, Metro Baptist Church and its affiliated nonprofit, Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries, embarked on a capital campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to lay the foundation for a larger fundraising effort for the purpose of “opening our doors wider.” This theme refers to our desire to serve more by enlarging our hospitality. We want our space to be accessible, safer, more sustainable, and larger. Nicer restrooms would also be a way to provide hospitality to the thousands of people who come through our buildings every year. Our goal is to commit roughly 1/10 of the needed capital of 12 million dollars over 3 to 5 years. Because of the study conducted last spring we believe this is feasible. After this initial commitment we will be raising more funds by a national effort to reach foundations and donors who love what we do as Metro Baptist Church and Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries.
Not all that long ago – in the early 80s – as Metro began to pray about owning its own building the small church had 6,000 dollars in a fund. Now we own two buildings in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen and have a beautiful legacy of ministry here since 1984. This large step is just another in our journey of faith, hope, and love. Take a moment and watch our video and learn how to pray for us. Please consider a gift. It is hard to exaggerate the importance of this effort to the future growth of Metro and the work that happens in our building through RMM.
To view our architectural dreams, click here or on one of the photos below.
Email us here to request regular updates on our campaign progress.
Thanks for supporting Metro Baptist Church and Rauschenbusch Metro Ministries, Inc. in our capital campaign. All contributions to MBC will be managed by RMM, which is a non-profit corporation that is controlled by MBC and provides all of MBC's social justice programs. You may make electronic contributions (credit card or EFT) by using the donate button below which will take you to the on-line giving platform for RMM.
Jesus said: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.
Several years back when I was serving as Associate Dean of religious life and the Chapel at Princeton University, I brought up student deacons from the university chapel to stay overnight, right upstairs. It was around Holy Week and we spent an afternoon volunteering and as night fell, we did a scripture reflection and I invited the group to consider Jesus on the cross and to go off by themselves or in pairs into the neighborhood and see where Jesus continued to be crucified in our world today. An hour later, the students came back with their eyes opened. With Jesus guiding their vision, my students saw people without homes, people struggling with addiction, people working hard and demeaned by the crowds, people whose eyes revealed loneliness, hopelessness and sorrow. They recognized Christ begging, broken and despised on the streets of Times Square.
After a time of prayer, the students returned to the streets and I invited them to again let Jesus guide them as they sought signs of the resurrection. With new eyes they saw small kindnesses, they saw love expressed, saw creative and artistic beauty, saw protests for justice, and even buds of spring flowers poking through trash filled gardens. And their vision inspired their own action. Instead of passing by people begging for food, they stopped and asked them about their life, they saw them as a fellow human and offered whatever assistance they could. Through the hospitality of this Church and this Ministry, my young people gained eyes to see and ears to hear. They recognized Christ in their midst both broken and risen and became agents of redemption.
Of all the places associated with my family name, I am most proud of this one. The people here in this room, with your hands, eyes, ears, mouths and hearts – you embody the work of my great-grandfather. More importantly, you are doing the work of the one Walter Rauschenbusch served when he first came to this city in 1886 to be the pastor to the Second German Baptist Church, located on 45th and 9th avenue just a few blocks from here. The area already had the name Hell’s Kitchen and was described by the New York Times as Quote: “one of the most miserable and crime-polluted neighborhoods in this City. There is more disease, crime, squalor, and vice to the square inch in this part of New-York.”
As Rauschenbusch pastored his church he had his eyes open to how society viewed the human beings in his congregation as expendable material, toiling in factories in the service of great profit for the very few. He saw how families suffered because of low wages, no insurance, lack of education, decent housing, basic health care and prejudice. Most difficult were the funerals he had to perform for the youngest: “Oh, the children’s funerals,” he wrote later. “The tiny boxes. They gripped my heart—that was one of the things I always went away thinking about—why did the children have to die?” Trying to understand what all of this meant, he returned to the Bible he was amazed by all he had not seen there before. He told this parable:
"A man was walking through the woods in springtime. The air was thrilling and throbbing with the passion of little hearts, with the love wooing, the parent pride, the deadly fear of the birds. But the man never noticed that there was a bird in the woods. He was a botanist and was looking for plants. A man read through the New Testament. He felt no vibrations of social hope in the preaching of John the Baptist and in the shouts of the crowd when Jesus entered Jerusalem. Jesus knew human nature when he reiterated: 'He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.'
Here, on these same streets we walk on today, my great-grandfather had his eyes opened just as my students did over a hundred years later. Walter saw Jesus proclaiming the kingdom of God here on earth that would bring healing and justice to the world here and now, not some future time and in some heavenly realm. He understood the role of the church was to help realize this kingdom in the best way possible and he worked hard to make that a reality for his congregation, for the city and for the world.
Interestingly, Walter’s New York City congregation offers a cautionary tale for the current moment at Metro Baptist and Rauschenbusch Metro ministries. In 1889, 2nd German Baptist Church decided they needed a new building and the congregation raised money and ultimately Walter got an investment from John D. Rockefeller, a family friend and fellow Baptist, who helped pay for the building. Even as the new church was being built, Walter worried that the focus of the church would turn to respectability and that the sanctuary of his church, which had offered a welcoming taste of the kingdom of God might, in the new building serve as a fortress to keep out. In 1890, the building was opened at 43rd and 9th and a few years later Walter left the church to return to Rochester where he had been raised and to assume a faculty position at the Seminary where his father had once taught.
In the years after Walter, departure, 2nd German Baptist sadly adopted a fundamentalist theology and abandoned Jesus’ vision to realize the kingdom of God on earth. Instead they narrowed the scope of their beliefs to securing a place in the kingdom after death. The congregation left its concern for the poor and the marginalized just as it had left its old building and hunkered down in their newly comfortable and respectable Christian club. Eventually, the congregation disappeared and, in an ironic twist, the building became home to some of the most raucous gay night clubs in Manhattan before turning into a theater, which it remains today. At least for one congregation, pride of a new building led to abandonment of mission and its ultimate demise.
I do not believe that will happen here. We are not investing in this new building project so that we can be more comfortable or more respectable. We are building because we believe that everyone in this room and outside these walls has the right to feel welcomed, comfortable, and treated with the respect and dignity. We are not building merely a structure, but rather a community that is physically, mentally and spiritually accessible to All. Today we pledge to do our part to help build the kingdom of God, the beloved community, right here in Hell’s kitchen.
It feels appropriate to have this launch celebration in the season of Advent which is a time of reflection and preparation that asks the question: What space are we preparing for Christ today? The Biblical story of advent takes place in a dangerous, unjust, and violent world where there is no place Jesus in the respectable inn, and yet a humble manger is transformed into a miracle with a diverse group of people who had eyes to see gathered to celebrate and give thanks.
We too are preparing space for Jesus in our hearts. I am so thankful for each of you who are giving your time, treasure and talent to make a home for Jesus, who, when we have eyes to see, we recognized in every human being. We are making a home for Jesus the immigrant, Jesus the Jew, Jesus the Muslim, Jesus the trans youth, Jesus the Veteran, Jesus the broken hearted, Jesus the life giver, Jesus the caretaker, Jesus the tutor, Jesus the urban farmer, Jesus the unemployed, Jesus the lover, Jesus the homeless, Jesus the organizer, Jesus the carpenter, who is building a home where all of humanity can come and know that they are truly part of the beloved community. Jesus, Emmanuel, who is with us when we can see, taste, hear, feel, and share the promise of God’s kingdom, on earth as in heaven.
May it be so. And may this community be blessed and blessing today and forever.