June 2, 2020
Church as usual has changed for us and churches around the world. This is coming to you in the form of our monthly mailing from Fort Lee Gospel Church. Most receive by E-mail and some by print mail. Since mid March, my communication has changed from monthly to weekly. Our website has most of those communications under the Newsletter category. Today’s communication includes thoughts about social justice and unrest, plans for worship services, thoughts on Father’s Day (June 21), a financial report, and resources for education.
Reflections on Social Justice and Unrest
When I was a young, foolish teen I had multiple encounters with local police where I was doing something wrong. As your pastor, I prefer to avoid details, but we serve a God in the business of transformation (Romans 12:2). Most of my teen encounters with police were experiences of grace extended to me.
When I married a person of color almost 30 years ago, I experienced many world-view shifts. To my surprise, my new family did not view police as allies. My new in-laws were not out-laws. They were simply Americans with black skin. I believed that police had my best interests in mind until proven otherwise. I came to learn that most people of color in America see police as not having their best interests in mind until proven otherwise. The murder of George Floyd has reinforced that narrative.
The video of that cruel, unjust death has set back years of gains in the relationship of police departments with minority neighborhoods. The act of one ‘bad apple’ within a police culture that allowed three other officers to look away, hurts every police officer in America. The phone camera brought to light a story that could have been swept under the rug of our consciousness. The anger, fear, and oppression felt by the African American community is the right emotional response to a killing too cruel to portray on a fictional TV program.
Peaceful marches by the Black Lives Matter movement are completely justified. The anarchists (many who are white) who use the marches as a cover for crimes they commit, are damaging the important conversation we need today. Yesterday the brother of George Floyd pleaded for violence to stop. The looting of stores and the destruction of property only allows critics of Black Lives Matter to feel justified in their views.
There have been some encouraging stories in the midst of the marches. Some law enforcement leaders have put down their shields and helmets and joined the march. Sheriff Chris Swanson joined marchers in Flint, Michigan this week. Their march led to no arrests, no violence, and no one injured. In other cases marchers tackled criminals among them to try to keep the peace. There are stories of police going above and beyond their call to show kindness.
How do we as people of faith respond to these current events? The following are some guides for prayer:
1. Pray for our Nation. I Timothy 2:1-2 “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
2. Speak Out for Justice. Amos 5:24 “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
3. Stand with the Weary and Oppressed. James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
4. Build Friendships with those Culturally Different. Colossians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
May God help us through this trying season. May God help America to change for the better. May Jesus be honored.
Pastor Rick Spenst
Returning to the Building
Last Sunday, May 31, we worshiped in Fort Lee Gospel Church building for the first time since March 15. We gathered as a group of fewer than 10 people in keeping with state guidelines. The group was by invitation only.
We plan to meet again this Sunday, June 7, as a similar group. It has been reported that by Sunday, June 14th there will be more allowed to gather in the church building. New Jersey government has yet to give clear directives for what will take place on that Sunday.
Some changes moving forward will include; masks requirements, social distancing, added cleaning, and no singing. The services will continue to be livestreamed for the foreseeable future. A worship package continues to be posted on our website (www.fortleegospel.org) and FaceBook page. When we add to our numbers on June 14th, we request that you let us know if you plan to attend. We may need to create an alternating system of attendance, depending on the level of interest and the capacity allowed.
The Fort Lee Gospel Church leadership team continues to meet weekly to help in making plans for ‘next steps’ in this process. We value your prayers for our leadership at this time.
Father’s Day: June 21
Many people like myself look forward to Father’s Day both out of gratitude for our fathers and for the privilege of being a father. I am also well aware of the fact that Father’s Day is not welcomed by all in our culture. Many families have been abandoned by fathers, others grieve the death of their fathers, and some relive painful memories on Father’s Day.
To both those who look forward to Father’s Day and those who do not, God invites us to know Him as our heavenly Father. This is one of the most profound teachings in the Bible, that we can start our prayer with, “Our Father . . .” Not someone else’s father, but Our Father. Paul writes in Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” This word ‘Abba’ could well be translated ‘Daddy.’ God calls us to an intimate relationship rather than just a set of rules and rituals.
One of the most hopeful verses in the Bible in light of our culture, which is so influenced by broken families, is Psalm 68:5 which describes God as “a Father to the fatherless.” Wherever our fathers have failed us, God can mend the hurt and fill the void. We can only be healthy adults when we address the father wounds of our life, by experiencing the love of our Heavenly Father.
This year on June 21st, we remember Father’s Day with varying experiences from joy to sorrow, and often a combination of both. My prayer for you is that you look beyond your earthly father to also recognize and celebrate your Father in heaven, who extends his love to us 365 days a year. Happy Father’s Day!
As of May 31, 2020
We exist to know Christ, and make him known so, thank you for your continued support to Fort Lee Gospel Church (FLGC). We are very grateful! Though the doors of the church building have been shuttered for a while due to the COVID19 pandemic, we, the people, are the church and will continue to be the church. In the vein of James 4:15, Lord willing, FLGC will, not only exist, but become a more vibrant community of believers always full of grace and seasoned with salt making the most of every opportunity with non-believers (Colossians 4:5-6).
That being said, our financial picture will be one factor to inform our decisions as to how we move forward. Since, COVID19 significantly changed the way we are operating, the FLGC board thinks it is important to provide a financial update earlier than our annual meeting. Below are the key takeaways.
1. Year to date (YTD) total collection thru May 31, 2020 – $51,271.32
2. YTD collection is $5,210.70 less when compared to $56,482.02 collected for the same period in 2019 and $8,1845.51 below 2020 Budget for income.
3. Online giving set up via Vanco around 3/16 – online donations: Mar $627.67; Apr $2,769;
May $2,980.85. Total of $6,377.52 included in the total collection of $51,271.32
4. Understandably, collections declined in March and April 2020 when compared to the same months in 2019 but thankfully, May 2020 was better than May 2019
5. Some groups that use our building have continued to make donations even without having used the facilities thus reducing the amount of our shortfall
6. Received funds from Trufund Financial Services of $14,567.50 on May 27, 2020 for a forgivable loan made available to small businesses, non-profits etc. as part of the Payment Protection Plan (PPP) program approved by the government in their stimulus package
7. At this point, the loan more than covers our shortfall to date, but this may change depending on future giving. Loan forgivable if at least 75% or $10,925 of funds used to cover payroll, medical and pension expenses during the 8 weeks following distribution of funds. Remaining 25% can be used towards utilities. Anticipating returning about $2,400 if time not extended for the period of covered expenses.
8. Expenses have remained the same except for some reduction in utilities and supplies. No changes made to Pastor Rick’s compensation package and donations to the various ministries (e.g., Deshi’s Hope, Jesus for Muslims etc.)
Thanks to Royce Cheng for setting up our online giving platform. Any checks mailed to the church will be collected and deposited though due to social distancing practices this may occur a little slower than in the past. For questions, you can reach Patricia Allen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To all you cheerful givers, thank you!!!
The following are resources available:
– For interest in Bible College training for spiritual growth and leadership development, Dr. Winston and Magna Sutherland are teaching online courses. Information can be found at: https://www.libertyinternational3.com .
– For those interested in training around issues of cultural intelligence, an online class is being offered called “Giving Grace to Race”. See https://www.3rdculturepeople.com for further details.