By Pastor Dan Clemens
It was June 8, 1968.
“He was 36, and he had lost two brothers to assassins: first President John F. Kennedy, then presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy. Inside St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, before 2,100 people wearing black, the last surviving Kennedy brother, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, began his unannounced eulogy for Bobby.”
“It had been three days since Bobby Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, just moments after celebrating his win in the California Democratic presidential primary. The nation was in shock, still reeling from the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., two months earlier and the riots that followed. RFK’s presidential bid had inspired hope that turned to despair.
“At the end of the eulogy, Ted Kennedy’s voice quavered over the words with which he left the crowd.
“My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it,” he said. “Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world. As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him.
“He paused, regaining his composure to quote Bobby a final time: “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.” Source
1968: The culture of our country was torn and divided. The First Baptist Church of Hamilton was making plans to build a new building on top of “Mount Baptist”. They wanted to be a “light on the hill” to reach people for Christ. Hopes and dreams were ripe and faithful people, our spiritual forbearers, pushed into uncharted waters as they faced a new decade with faith and courage.
Here we are 52 years later. Poised to grasp a new decade of ministry, 2020, we are looking into a misty future in a nation who is tried of malice and hatred. What is to come? Is there hope for a better tomorrow? Dare we “dream things that never were and say why not”? I think we must. First Baptist Hamilton must look to our Savior Jesus Christ and see a decade and beyond of ministry and mission which is pointing the way to hope, peace, love, faith and an eternal relationship to God our Father.
Look at our heritage as a congregation.
“The Hamilton-Rossville Baptist Church was organized in 1829…” We are connected to those 191 years ago as the first Baptist witness in this Miami valley. “In 1841 the church officially organized as the First Baptist Church of Hamilton, Ohio. Little did that small band of believers, gathered in the home of Dr. Loami Rigdon, dream what great things God had in store for First Baptist Church. For through her doors would enter children, youth, and adults who would, in time, confess Christ as Savior, follow Him in the waters of baptism, and under the teaching and preaching of faithful ministers, prepare themselves for daily living. And out of her doors would come pastors, teachers, missionaries, directors of Christian Education, and dedicated laymen, who would go forth and witness to Christ’s saving grace and keeping power.” (Source: firstbaptisthamilton.org/history.html)
We are the heirs of the challenge to “go forth and witness to Christ’s saving grace and keeping power.” What shall 2020 hold? What can we know? What do we hope for and dream of?
I pray to have 2020 Vision as we look into this new year, and ahead to this critical decade, with eyes fixed on Christ. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
1 Corinthians 13:12-13 cautions us regarding vision, “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
In 2020 we must emphasis outreach as we seek to share the gospel and invite children, youth, men and women of all ages to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of their lives.
We must make it our reason to exist to serve others and not ourselves. How will you reach out to those you know who need hope, love, and Jesus? Relationship, prayer, a verbal witness and invitation are the keys to reaching people for Christ. We will provide opportunities for you to share and invite people to, but let me be clear, outreach is about sharing the love of Jesus not just about having events and programs. We will develop new and reinforce existing groups to both draw people and give people community. New community groups, Alpha, Griefshare, Financial Peace University, Married People, MOPS/MOMS, Fight Club (men’s discipleship), First Students Ministry, First Kids Ministry, sports teams, and other groups will be continuing/beginning in 2020. We will serve in ministry and mission to reach our community and world.
2020 will be a year of construction as we renew this wonderful facility with which we have been entrusted. The lower level is presently in full construction. Carpets and ceiling tiles are removed. The walls of the future children’s worship center are being prepared to be removed and to enlarge the space. Doors have been cut in the walls of the locker-rooms to build a future children’s ministry work room and storage. Floors and plumbing are prepared for the installation of children’s restrooms near the entrance to the children’s wing. Colors for paint, hard-surface flooring, and carpet have been selected and be installed in the next few months. The goal is to be ready for our largest children and family outreach, Vacation Bible School on July 6-10, 2020.
Also, lighting plans are being finalized and we will begin replacement of LED high efficiency lights throughout the entire building by Easter, April 12, 2020. In July, the project will move to the upper level and will include new ceilings, hard-surface flooring, paint to the Family Center halls and rooms, and moving the main office. Then sanctuary updates to the platform and canopy will be completed.
2020 will be about leadership development. I am proud and excited about the leadership team we have in our ministry staff. We are blessed with anointed and gifted men and women who will lead us to new places of witness and growth. I am also pleased with our lay leaders who take responsibility for serving our congregation and community. I will intentionally mentor, disciple, and serve with our leadership as we follow Christ in mission and ministry. (And, to allay any hope or fear, I do not plan to retire in 2020.)
We enter our sixth year of the intentional revitalization of our congregation to reach the next generation while caring for the present generation. We have made much progress. We have a long way to go. As we seek to be the followers of Jesus in this time in history, I meditate on that challenging query, “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.” We must dare to do all things necessary to reach this generation even if they have never been done before. We must “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely [to this generation], and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”
These are exciting times! This will be the greatest decade of ministry for First Baptist Church Hamilton if we are faithful to follow Jesus. I look forward with great anticipation to serving Jesus with you this year, 2020! To God be the glory! Great things He is DOING!
Be the Light!
We've posted our cantata to YouTube. Please click here to watch it.
Editor's note: This article first published in the December 2019 edition of "The Courier," a newsletter of First Baptist Church Hamilton.
By Pastor Dan Clemens
I’ll be honest. I’ve had trouble writing this article for the Christmas Season. I want to be positive about Christmas, but there is so much negative. “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” I cringe at what Christmas has become. Let’s take Christmas back!
I came across this article about a “Random Acts of Kindness Calendar,” and it helped me focus:
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the commercialism of the Christmas season – you know, the gifts, the shopping, the parties…. And while it’s certainly OK to let yourself indulge in some of those things, it’s also good to take a step back and celebrate the meaning of the season. One way you can embrace this is using a Random Acts of Christmas Kindness Advent Calendar!
The idea is to create your own Christmas advent/preparation calendar. (I’ve edited the list a bit and added a few ideas of my own.) Pick 24 items from the lists below and fill in your own calendar to help you “Remember the Reason for the Season!” Here are some suggestions that were made:
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness ideas for kids
Here are some sample acts of kindness for kids and families that would be great on your kindness advent calendar. Some might be able to be completed by the child alone, and others will need to be done together with mom or dad.
• Make a card for a soldier (we have used Operation Christmas Cards for Troops Overseas in the past – read the pinned Facebook post for exactly how to do it, and note that this needs to be sent out by December 1st!)
• Bake a treat for a neighbor, policeman, or fireman.
• Choose one toy to donate.
• Write your teacher a note about how they help you.
• Do a chore for someone.
• Let someone go ahead of you in line.
• Help a neighbor with a chore or errand.
• Clean up litter outside (with gloves and with a grownup!).
• Visit a long-term care center (with mom or dad) and have dinner with one of the elderly residents.
• Hold the door open for someone.
• Write a note to your friend.
• Make Christmas cards for your neighbor.
• Give someone a nice compliment.
• Call Grandma or Grandpa and say hi.
• Tell jokes to someone who needs a laugh.
• Tape packages of popcorn to a RedBox machine.
• Hand out candy canes to people (with mom or dad) in the grocery store parking lot.
• Help put all the carts back in the cart corral in the grocery store parking lot.
• Make a present for a friend (anything from a beaded bracelet to an ornament to a drawing!)
• Donate a few books to the library.
• Set aside food to donate to the food bank (with mom or dad’s help).
• Cook (or help cook, depending on age) dinner for the family.
Random Acts of Christmas Kindness ideas for adults
If you’re an adult looking to do some of these random acts of Christmas kindness on your own, here are a few more ideas:
• Donate food (or money) to a food bank.
• Leave an extra big tip at a restaurant or coffee shop.
• Knit a scarf for someone who is homeless or in a shelter.
• Do a major purge and donate all the items that are in good shape (avoid donating ripped/stained/broken things – you’d be surprised how much time people in donation centers spend sorting through unusable things).
• Adopt a child to buy gifts for at Christmas.
• Volunteer to read stories at the library, in your child’s classroom, or at a family shelter.
• Create a candy wreath so your neighbors can snip a snack whenever they walk by.
• Pay for the person behind you at the coffee shop.
• Buy a hot chocolate or coffee for the Salvation Army bell ringers who stand outside all day.
• On Christmas Eve, head over to an all night drugstore like CVS or Walgreens and bring the cashier a little surprise (like a box of chocolates). It’s no fun working on the holidays, and it’ll brighten their night!
• Set a box outside the house with drinks and pre-packaged snacks for the mailman, UPS guy, and FedEx guy. With all the packages they deliver throughout December, they’ll appreciate the small token of gratitude.
• Leave extra coupons at the grocery store right next to the item to unexpectedly help other shoppers.
• Donate blood.
• Do you have small businesses that you frequently visit? Leave them a great review on Facebook or Yelp.
• Tape candy canes and happy notes in random places.
• Send a surprise present in the mail to someone who wasn’t expecting it.
• Make a freezer meal dinner for a new mom or a stressed out friend.
• Babysit a friend’s kids for free to help her/him out.
• Ask to speak to a manager at a restaurant or store – and give a giant compliment about the store and/or one of the employees. So often people only speak to a manager to complain, so going out of your way to compliment the store or employees is unexpected and awesome.
Acts to keep Christ in Christmas
• Have a nativity/creche as the center piece of your home Christmas decorations.
• Read daily Bible passages from the lectionary (Source: https://lectionary.library.vanderbilt.edu/daily.php?year=A#id1)
• Use Christian-themed ornaments on your tree
• Go Christmas-caroling to shut-ins or at a nursing home
• Start Dec. 1 reading a chapter in Luke every day until Christmas … you will finish the whole story of Jesus on Christmas Eve.
• Commit to be in worship every Sunday in December.
• Give a “Christmas gift for Jesus” through the Christmas Offering.
• Attend the Christmas Eve Eve (12/23), or Christmas Candlelight Eve (12/24) service with your family and bring a friend.
• Find out who Santa Clause (Saint Nickolas) really was. (youtube.com/watch?v=BgpFPSMYCm4)
You can make your Christmas more Christ-centered and kind this year by committing yourself to act like Christmas!
Be the Light,