"Deepening in love for Jesus... Overflowing in love for neighbor."
Latest Video Updates:
3-26: Property Update with Pastor Joel: Link
3-26: A Time of Prayer with Pastor Joel: Link
3-25: Hello From the Sanctuary: Link
3-23: Celebrate Recovery: Link
3-19: A Time of Prayer with Pastor Joel: Link
3-18: A Word of Encouragement from Pastor Joel: Link
3-15: March 15 Worship Service: Link
March 26: Financial Update from Catherine Westby
Greetings Central Family,
I hope this finds you all healthy and well! I write on behalf of the Board of Stewards with an important update.
Central Baptist is living through a challenging season to be sure. As we have indicated in our communications to you since last November, we have struggled to meet our financial needs for the current fiscal year. The Board has been working diligently to address these budget shortfalls, including a freeze on all spending except for essential ministry, and the elimination of two staff positions. I want to be candid and tell you Central continues to struggle financially, even before we were hit by a global pandemic, and that giving in March has been down significantly. As your Board, we face some very difficult decisions in the days ahead.
We want to encourage and remind you to continue giving as you are able to support Central Baptist Church, especially in these unprecedented days of separation. Without your continued tithes and offerings, our ministry on the corner of Shields and Roy simply isn’t possible. There are multiple ways you can give, including mailing your check to the church, giving online at this Link, and on Sunday we’ll have a curbside offering at church between 12:00-1:00pm so you can drive by and drop off your offering in person. If you’re unable to give by mail, online, or in person, please call the church office and leave a message, and we’ll arrange for someone to stop by and pick up your offering.
Central Baptist Church was founded in 1893; the same year a major economic collapse occurred in the U.S., and the national unemployment rate soared to 25%. In the 127 years that have followed, our church has endured many seasons of joy and flourishing, as well as years of challenge and hardship. Central has survived world wars, economic hardships and depressions, and global pandemics. In those same 127 years, we have had more than 15 Senior Pastors and countless Board members who have faithfully led, served, and loved the church. What has remained constant over the years is our unwavering faith and trust in the Lord, and the hope that is ours in Jesus Christ.
I have faith that God will see us through this season, and that He has plans for our future. Please pray for our church, our Staff, and for the Board, and know that we are all praying for you as well. Lean into Jesus dear friends - He is faithful!
Yours in Christ,
Chair, Board of Stewards
March 2o: A Time of Clarification from Pastor Joel
We are living in a time of clarification.
Perhaps this statement seems odd to you. Perhaps you are not feeling much clarity in these days. Perhaps the upending of your daily routine, the uncertainty of what happens next with the coronavirus, or the stock market, or toilet paper supply chains, or your health, or your job, or your kids’ school, makes my suggestion seem absurd. How can we be in a time of clarification when we are feeling so disoriented? How can this be a time of clarity when we are filled with so much uncertainty?
I believe that it is precisely the uncertainty of these days that makes this a time of clarification. It is because our daily life has been thrown into confusion that we are being offered the gift of clarity. The clarity on offer is not the knowledge of what will happen next with the coronavirus, or when we will again be able to gather as a church, or when our favorite sport will be back live on ESPN. We are not being offered temporal clarity. Our hearts long for such clarity, for answers to the questions of the immediate, because we fear an unpredictable future. But temporal clarity is not what our hearts truly need. The gift we are being offered is to come to a deeper and more abiding clarification of what endures, of what our hearts long for. This time of clarification is an offer to our souls to see through the illusions of this temporary world that so easily capture our hearts and again commit to build our lives on the firm foundation.
The time of clarification has come upon us so suddenly. Two weeks! It has taken only two weeks for apparently durable realities to be shown to be ephemeral, transitory, tottering. But it is the very abruptness of the arrival of the time of clarification that makes this season such a gift. Rarely in our lives will we have such an opportunity to see through the fleeting finite to the enduring infinite. Rarely in our lives will the deceptions of impermanence that claim to be ultimate be so easily falsified. Rarely in our lives will we be given such clear vision into the permanent that exists beyond all illusory appearances. The time of clarification offers us the gift of temporal confusion that can more deeply convince our souls of the transience of the world East of Eden. When we are convinced, we can truly acknowledge that this world, with its nations pursuing power, its rulers pursuing glory, its money promising security, and its entertainments offering pleasure, is indeed a house built on the sand.
Let’s not waste this gift. It is my prayer that I won’t squander this time of clarification. While I would never wish for the outbreak of a pandemic, and the pain and disorientation it brings, I want to recognize that there is a gift being offered to my soul, and I want to invite you to take hold of this gift, as well. This is a frightening time, and perhaps you are struggling with anxiety and fear about what comes next. That is inevitable, and I have been feeling this as well. But as I have reflected on my fear, God has been gently guiding me to identify my hearts’ pursuit of impermanent things. Ultimately, my fear reveals what my heart loves but also knows is passing. Through this, God has called me set my heart more fully and confidently on Him, the One who endures.
And so, a pastoral prayer for God’s people: “May the uncertainty and disorientation of these days be for you a time of clarification, as you see through the fleeting finite and set your heart more firmly on the Eternal God.”
March 18: Update from Pastor Joel
Dear Central Family,
I was on the phone with my parents last night, and I said to them, “I’ve never experienced anything like this!” My dad, who is 81, said, “Neither have I!” We are truly living in extraordinary times. As the nature of this situation has become more evident, as my routine has been disrupted, as we have been taking measures to close the church building for the next weeks, I have had moments of anxiety. As the financial ramifications of this time have upended the economy, I have felt insecurity. As the realization of the depth of relational separation has become clear, I have felt sadness. And yet, in the midst of all of this, I have experienced the peace that surpasses all understanding. I cannot see the future, I cannot control the virus, or the economy, or the fact that I can’t be with friends, but I can call out to the Lord, and entrust the future to Him. May His peace and provision be with us all.
I am writing this email to communicate Central’s plan as we move through these challenging days. There is a lot here, and you are likely feeling information overload. But I do ask that you read this in order to be aware of all that is going on with Central in the weeks to come.
As you are probably aware, earlier this week, the CDC provided direction that there be a 15-day period in which there are to be no group meetings of more than 10, having already given guidance of no meetings of more than 50 people for 8 weeks. Obviously, complying with these directives, which we are committed to doing, means further significant adjustment to the life of our church. What follows is our plan for the church moving forward.
1. The church building will be closed to all non-essential personnel until the end of March. We are asking that no one come to the building during this time. Given that there is uncertainty about how long the virus can last on surfaces or in the air we want to limit the number of people entering the building. This means that any electronic entry codes or fobs will not work. It also means we will not be holding any meetings in the building. We will be evaluating this as we come to the end of the month and make a plan moving forward at that time.
2. The office will be closed until the end of March, except for essential tasks. If you have an emergency, please call or email Pastor Joel, Steve Nuessle or Alicia Carlson.
3. The Board is working to establish a “peacetime emergency” budget. We are prioritizing paying the staff and paying our bills. This budget will be in place until such a time as we can return to a more normal routine and create a new budget for 2020-2021.
*** We are mindful that many in our congregation are impacted financially by all that is happening related to the shutdown of our community due to COVID-19. We prayerfully ask that you continue to financially support Central Baptist as best you are able. You can mail in your gift or use online giving here: Link
4. Pastor Joel and Pastor Brett will continue our Sunday services online at 10:30am via Facebook livestream, and Cecil Bonebright is looking to expand our ability to stream in other ways. Thanks to all who joined us last Sunday! We will communicate with you as we explore these options.
5. The Staff will post reflections for the congregation twice a week: Tuesday at noon and Friday at noon. We want to stay connected to the congregation and to encourage one another through these times. They will be posted on our Facebook page and on our website.
6. For the past several years, a group of people have gathered in Pastor Joel’s study on Thursday at noon to pray. Though we won’t be able to gather in the weeks to come, we will continue with a virtual prayer meeting on our Facebook page. Perhaps you’ve been unable to join us in person; now, I encourage you to join us on Facebook! Log onto the Central Facebook page and join me as I read Scripture and pray for the needs of our church.
7. Pastor Terri will continue to publish Lent devotionals, which will be sent to you via email, posted on Facebook, and can be found here: Link
8. Pastor Chuck will livestream a virtual youth group meeting on Wednesday nights via his personal Facebook page. This will take place at 7pm.
9. GPS groups will not meet for at least the next two weeks. We encourage you to connect with one another through phone calls, emails, and notes. If you are able, we suggest you use Facebook chat to connect with one another, and even to continue your study in that way. We will revisit this plan at the end of the month and revise these directives as needed.
10. Our regular budget and church officer nomination processes will be suspended. Those serving in current offices will be asked to remain serving until we return to a more normal routine and can have congregational meetings. Our “peacetime emergency” budget will until such as time as we can return to more normal operations.
Blessings to you all. Though we are not with one another, we are One with Christ, and so are bound together by His Spirit. May the Lord be with you all,
A Coronavirus Plan for Central Baptist
Dear Central Family,
We write to you with more important news. Please read it in full. It is long but contains very important information regarding our life together in the days to come.
In light of the growing impact of COVID-19 in the United States, public health officials across the U.S. and here in Minnesota are calling for a shift from containment to community mitigation. Community mitigation is the process of reducing contact between individuals in order to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus, allowing the health system to keep up with the cases and not be overwhelmed. Simply put; if too many people get sick all at once, there are simply not enough health care supports or facilities to treat everyone. We have watched this unfold in other affected areas around the world, and our public health officials are acting now to prevent the same circumstances from happening across the U.S.
Many of you may be aware that this afternoon Minnesota Governor Walz declared a “peacetime state of emergency”. Also today, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) issued guidelines for public gatherings, aimed at mitigating and slowing the spread of COVID-19. The Department is directing all events over 250 people to be cancelled, and that all events of under 250 people that cannot maintain a minimum of 6 feet distance between participants are to be cancelled. In addition, the MDH is directing groups not to gather that would have more than 10 people participating who are in the more vulnerable group (either over age 60, or immuno-compromised). While these directives at this time don’t have the force of law, the MDH has made it clear that these are not requests but directives. You can see the full list of MDH strategies at this link:
Complying with these guidelines means suspending or curtailing some of our patterns as a church. At this point, we don’t feel that a full shut down of Central is wise nor necessary, but we do feel that we need to suspend certain activities moving forward.
We at Central Baptist are Christ followers, and we are commanded to love our neighbor. We are called to respond to this pandemic by thinking beyond ourselves individually, and beyond our own church life, and to modify our usual activities and life patterns in order to serve our community, especially those who are most vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19, many of whom are a part of our CBC family.
We want to stress that as leaders of Central that we are not making decisions regarding our response out of fear. As followers of Christ, we are not a people of fear. We are making these decisions, as stated above, out of love of our neighbor and a desire to serve the common good. We don’t want to overreact to the threat of the virus and are aware that there is much hysteria and panic running rampant on social media and in our society. However, we also don’t want to underestimate the potential impact of the illness on our broader society, medical personnel on the frontlines, or our church family. Wisdom and participation as good neighbors in our society dictate that we alter some, but not all, of our regular church patterns during this time in order to participate in the broader communal effort to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 and to protect those who would be most susceptible to the illness.
In light of these developments we are instituting the following steps:
1. In order to comply with the MDH guidelines, we are suspending our Sunday morning gatherings immediately, until the end of March. We will make decisions about when we will resume our regular Sunday gathering in the weeks to come as we have more information on the spread of the virus. We will be in regular communication about these decisions.
2. We will be working to livestream a shortened service on our Facebook page Sundays at 10:30am. Given the number of churches going online, be aware there might be some disruption to the stream. If this occurs, know that the message will be uploaded and available to watch later. We encourage everyone to stay connected to our church life in this way.
3. We are suspending our Wednesday night programs immediately, until after Easter. This suspension applies to all programs, including choir practice. We will make decisions about when we will resume Wednesday nights in the weeks to come as we have more information on the spread of the virus. We will be in regular communication about these decisions.
4. The office will continue to be open and staff work will continue, with some modified office opening hours based on changing information. This will be determined and communicated in the next few days.
5. Decisions about other, smaller gatherings held at church (Bible studies, etc.) will be made in the next few days; we will communicate these decisions in the days to come. GPS groups, as smaller groups that meet outside the church, are encouraged to continue to meet, but people who aren’t comfortable gathering are encouraged to stay home.
6. The church staff will continue to serve the church during this time and will gather together as necessary, following recommended MDH directives, to continue our work at Central.
7. The church will undergo a thorough deep cleaning in the coming days, and we will sanitize all common spaces and surfaces, especially the sanctuary, including in between any group gatherings.
8. We will REQUIRE that all people who come into the church building either use the hand sanitizer in the dispenser around the lobby or wash their hands thoroughly immediately upon arrival.
9. We ask that no one come to the church who has felt sick, or who has been coughing or sneezing.
10. We ask that no one plan any gatherings of any size at the church, or gather at the church, without the permission and knowledge of the Staff.
11. We are suspending visits to nursing homes and hospitals for the sake of the residents and patients in these facilities. Many facilities are already in lockdown, with no visitors allowed. But we will connect through phone calls and will make visits in the case of emergencies if the facility will allow visits.
12. Celebrate Recovery will be suspended immediately, until the end of March. We will institute ways to keep those involved in this program connected, in order to continue to serve them and their process of recovery. We will make decisions about when we will resume CR in the weeks to come as we have more information on the spread of the virus. We will be in regular communication about these decisions.
13. Narcotics Anonymous will be suspended. They will set up a virtual room to continue meeting.
14. We won’t be serving food at church during this time of suspension.
15. We will be suspending all external rentals effective immediately. We will make decisions about when to resume allowing these groups back into Central in the weeks to come as we have more information on the spread of the virus
What we need from you in the weeks to come:
1. Prayer for our congregation and our witness to Christ during this time. We are the body, the hands and feet of Jesus. May we serve Him well wherever we are, in whatever ways we are able.
2. Prayer for our larger society as people are grappling with anxiety as the virus spreads and economic uncertainty grows. May we demonstrate a peace that passeth all understanding to our neighbors near and far.
3. Your continued engagement with the life of our church even as our normal patterns change. These adjustments don’t mean we stop being the church together. Call your friends. Check in on people who are vulnerable or lonely. Look for opportunities to serve one another and be the Church in these days of disruption.
4. A commitment to continue your financial gifts to Central. As many of you know, our finances have been a challenge over the past few months. Your continued generosity toward our general fund will be more important than ever during this time. That’s especially true as we seek to take care of our staff and meet our financial obligations. If you’re not using electronic giving, you can still mail your offering to the church at 420 Roy St N, St Paul, MN 55104, or call ahead and plan to drop it by the office. If you’re not a regular giver to this ministry that we share, this would be a great time to step in. A commitment of any amount can make a huge difference if we all join together.
A Final Word
We recognize this is a difficult decision and a sacrifice, especially in light of Pastor Joel’s recent news, the distressing and anxious times with great suffering and uncertainty in our world, and this being the holy season of Lent.
However, it is important that we keep perspective in these times of disruption. This disruption is an opportunity for us to see our world in all its fragility and impermanence, and live out our faith in Christ, and the hope that we have in Him. Christ’s Church and people have faced far more challenging times than these throughout history, and these times causes us to seek the Lord in new ways. Let’s remember what we have been learning from 1 Peter: We are elect exiles. As the elect, we are those who are called by God to inhabit our world in a unique way as those who proclaim the hope that is ours in Christ. As exiles, we are those who realize that this world, and the systems it has produced, are fragile, broken, and uncertain. The events of the past weeks have shown very clearly the nature of the fragile world, that this world is not our ultimate home. As Christ’s witnesses, we have the great opportunity to live in hope and proclaim the salvation that is ours in Christ.