Weekly Word from Pastor Curry: January 8, 2021

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Happy New Year, Friendship!

How happy I am to greet you in this New Year. God has been graciously kind to each of us, and we should be grateful. As the old song says, "If it had not been for the Lord on my side, where would I be?" This song aligns with Psalm 124, a psalm of ascent. This psalm was read or sang on the way up the hill to Jerusalem. This psalm leads its readers to give thanks to God for past help and express confidence in His continuing help. Friendship the Lord has been on our side even until this very moment. If God was not with us, all of this (pandemic, political strive, personal loss) would be worse, but God is with us, and we must remain confident in his care for us! We should be grateful!

I am grateful to greet you this year. I have not had the opportunity to connect with you for approximately three weeks. Our last update was on December 18th. It is good to be before you again! I am grateful to God for a brand new year, even though we are still dealing with some of the same old issues. I am grateful to serve as your pastor. I am grateful for what we accomplished in 2020. We were able to remain a worship community and remain connected with one another through alternative means. We fed hundreds of people experiencing food scarcity within the community; assisting families for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We saw new members come into our fellowship, and Friendship continues to grow! We met our 2020 budget! We have a great testimony in the midst of it all. Beloved, if it had not been for the Lord on our side, it really could have been another way!

I hope you enjoyed our Christmas Eve Service and our Watch Night Service. Again, I am grateful for our Media Ministry, led by the Rev. Eric Archer and Sister Candace Clark, for their faithfulness to the daunting task of it all. I am equally appreciative of the music ministry staff led by Sonya Griffin and our audio team led by Phyllip Baker. Believe it or not these individuals are working hard to help me ensure we have a weekly worship service. Thank you all for all you do!

My heart is broken over what happened on Wednesday in our Nations' capital, Washington D.C.
I work hard not to be political, considering we have various political perspectives present in our worship community; however, what took place on Wednesday was Un-American, not patriotic, and was insurrection on full display. I believe this would not have been allowed if the "protesters" were people of color. We saw heavy artillery used in the summer during the protests held to bring attention to the deaths of unarmed black men and women. Further, many, myself included, denounced the rioting that took place at that time. It was not beneficial to the cause. Again, I believe in the right to peaceful protesting, and I do not support property destruction. What took place on Wednesday was a travesty. Not only was it a riot and destruction of property, but it was also a domestic terrorist assault on our government. I cried as I watched what took place and at the sight of a confederate flag being waved and hailed in the citadel of our democracy. Further, the way the insurrection was handled proved radical differences exist in how black America is policed and how white America is policed. These are my opinions! Thank you to all of you who joined me on Wednesday evening to pray for our nation. I do not know where we go from here, but I know we will need God's help and guidance.

Beloved, we are currently in a surge of outrageous proportions! I want to admonish you to be careful; watch your distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands. Remember, pray, don't panic, take PRECAUTIONS, and remain patient. Patience is necessary because this has been longer than expected, and many of us are fatigued from this experience. While the vaccines are approved and disseminated, the process has been flawed and will take some time. Again, patience is required. We must mitigate sickness and death to the best of our ability. We must remain vigilant and know that this will come to an end. It will not be like this always.

Several of you have asked me about my thoughts on the vaccines. I want you to know I trust the vaccines, and I will take the vaccine when made available to me. I am not a conspiracy theorist. I believe we live in the greatest county in the world. I believe we have smart, capable, and competent scientists, doctors, pharmacists, etc., who are concerned about life and living and not just the almighty dollar. This vaccine is needed and necessary to get things "back to normal." I don't believe these drug companies would cut corners knowing what all is at risk. Again, I will get the vaccine when it's available for me. Honestly, my wife will probably get the vaccine before me because she works in a hospital setting.

Speaking of my wife, Lady Karima, many of you know from her birthday Facebook post that she battled Covid. The truth is we both battled the coronavirus and fully recovered. I made the decision not to WORRY the church members. We were not trying to keep a secret from anyone. We simply needed to recover, which we did, and we know our healing was a direct result of your faithful prayers for us. You all always pray for us, and we are grateful. That's what we needed! We both had very mild cases, though my case was definitely milder. I had to take care of the First Lady! ☺  Key leaders were aware, namely Deacon James Shelby, Deacon Ministry Chair, and Deacon Lawrence Gibbs, Trustee Ministry Chair. The staff was aware. We had a plan if I had more than a mild case. Thankfully, that was not necessary!

Here's what I have for you this week! 

Because of the current surge, we will have no in-person gatherings until further notice. We are online only. Our campus is basically shut down for safety. Again, as I mentioned after Thanksgiving and before Christmas, most of the staff work from home. Our Administrative Team is onsite, and we provide support to the membership as needed and to the best of our ability. If you need to come up to the church, please call before you come so we are prepared for your arrival. Many things can be handled via the phone and/or electronically, including a request for CONTRIBUTION STATEMENTS. Our food pantry remains open, and our staff is available for their support as well.

We start our 21- Day Corporate Fast on Monday, January 11 through Monday, February 1. I know many of you desire to have a fast start to your New Year. I am not doing this because we always do it, but I am doing it for us to grow in Christ. This year I am only giving you the dates and access to a daily prayer line. You must decide through prayer and commitment what type of fast you will do. Again, this is a fast of your choosing.  You can choose a complete fast, selective fast, or partial fast. You must govern your own fast and grow closer to God. There is a fasting guide designed by Pastor Miles McPherson and The Rock Church HERE that will assist you. Join us each day for prayer at 12p. To connect with our prayer services, please follow this link HERE or dial in at +1 (413) 418-4274 and use the PIN 287683504#.

We will celebrate Convocation 2021, January 19th through the 21st. This year I am calling this encouraging time, Convocation with the Stewarts. Yes, this year we will welcome the Pastor of First Institutional Baptist Church of Phoenix, AZ, Rev. Dr. Warren H. Stewart, Sr., his wife, the Rev. Karen E. Stewart, and his son, the Rev. Warren H. Stewart, Jr. This is a virtual online experience complete with powerful sermons, excellent music from our music ministry, and live interactive hosting from Pastor Curry and Rev. Eric!

As you all are aware, Sister Joyce Jackson retired officially on Thursday, December 31st. While she remains a faithful member and will help us as we transition, we are happy she will have this next chapter in her life.  In the interim, I have asked Lady Karima and Sister LeShon Archer to help me with our Christian Education & Discipleship Ministry. They have graciously agreed to assist the pastor. I will contact our Christian Education Teaching staff shortly via email with more information and to schedule a Zoom Teacher's Meeting to talk about the future. Please look for an email from me early next week. Also, please note that our Couple's Class returns on February 12th at 7pm via Zoom. More information will come real soon!

Things to remember:

  • Phone Line for Worship: For our members who may have a tough time connecting to our worship service online for whatever reason, we are now offering a way for those members to dial in and listen to service over the phone. To access the service via telephone, members and guests need to dial 1 216-930-8774‬ and enter the PIN: 464 267 559‬#. It is live for both the 8:00a and 11:30a worship services.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

  • Our College and Career Prep Initiative (CCPI) has produced an excellent and comprehensive one-stop virtual academic and education assistance resource for parents and families of  K- through 12 and college-bound students. Click HERE to access our Google Classroom.  Feel free to share with others.‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

  • EX HOUR: Ex Hour meets weekly on Sundays, and we are studying Luke. This study will continue through the end of this month. Remember, EX Hour takes place every Sunday through the video conference app, ZOOM. Join us for class on Sundays at 10:15a via this link HERE. Also, there is a YOUTH EX HOUR: Our youth Ex Hour takes place during our designated EX Hour time via Google Meet. Parents, please encourage your students to join youth teachers for this biblically fun opportunity to learn God's Word, connect with others, and grow. To join Youth Ex Hour, follow the link HERE. 

  • AT THE DOOR WITH THE CURRYS: Remember this virtual experience happens each worship service on Sundays. It is a time for Lady Karima and me to connect with you just like we would at church on Sunday. We hope you will stop in and say HELLO. Meet us HERE.
  • WEDNESDAY Prayer Day: Join us each Wednesday for Prayer. We pray at 6:30a, 12p, and 6:30p. To connect with our prayer services, please follow this link HERE or dial in at +1 (413) 418-4274 and use the PIN 287683504#. 
  • FBC FOOD BANK OPEN: The FBC Food Bank is OPEN with a new drive-thru system where our clients will receive a pre-packaged food box and bag of groceries.  The Food Bank's hours of operation are Tuesday - Thursday 2:30p-4:30p.   

  • COVID Membership Assistance Fund: We are STILL accepting applications for the COVID Membership Assistance Grant. If you are experiencing financial distress due to COVID19, we invite you to apply for one of our $500 assistance grants. The guidelines are available HERE, and the application is available HERE.

Also, we continue to support our members with small businesses. If you would like us to feature your small business, please contact Rev. Eric Archer at [email protected].

Friendship, I love you, but God loves you, BETTER!  Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected!

In His Service,
Rev. Kenneth C. Curry, Jr.
Senior Pastor
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