I can’t speak for all our staff and Special Committee, but I can say unequivocally for me that this past week has been like no other I’ve ever experienced: where some of the highest highs and lowest lows are bound up and buoyed by the God who never leaves us and the beloved community who surrounds us.

Sunday began with a robust Deacons meeting of passionate engagement with the work of the Special Committee, concluding with a strong and unanimous affirmation of the presentation about our church’s facilities and mission. Our shared worship at Pentecost stirred a new Spirit within so many of us, breathing life into our church as we dream together about where God is leading us through music and prayer, silence and scripture, confession and peace-passing and word.

From there, several of the members of our Special Committee sat with our amazing and loyal Children’s Center staff to share with them the heartbreaking news of our forthcoming closure. Many of our teachers and administrators have been serving here and together with each other for decades; Beverly, our receptionist, began her working career here 42 years ago and has never left! It was a profoundly sad time with them on Sunday afternoon. That same sentiment spilled into the Center this week, as we planted ourselves with parents and staff, doing our best to love well through all the grief and anger. A meeting with Children’s Center parents on Tuesday laid bare all sorts of raw feelings: fear and panic about their children and the huge hole our closure leaves in the community, fierce anger and deep grief that the church cannot continue it, and energy to mobilize for a new center with our incredible staff.

But in the middle of all of this was the Special Committee’s presentation to you, dear church. You packed into a Kelly Auditorium awash in reds and blues, greens and purples, seeds and Spirit. You broke bread together, filled with a holy laughter and friendship with each other in excited anticipation. And you heard, you listened, you engaged deeply in the presentation from our Special Committee. That spirit of hopeful imagination you felt stirring among us on Sunday was none other than the Spirit of God, falling fresh on our beloved community to lead us onward into our faithful future.

In all of this, I can speak with utter confidence and bear witness to this unyielding truth: God is at work within First Baptist Church on Fifth. God is at work, opening ears and arms to bind us up with each other. God is at work, when we watch even the sharpest anger softened. God is at work, in endless words of love and gestures of encouragement just when they are most needed. God is at work, giving us a deep well of strength from which to always draw. God is at work, doing a new thing in our community to lift us all. God is at work, refining and clarifying and transforming us into the church we are called to be for the people of Winston-Salem and beyond. God is at work, friends, and it is the greatest joy to have a front row seat to such movement!

Together in the work of Love,

Pastor Emily

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