We can all agree that 2020 was a year that pushed us to our limits in loss, grief, anger, confusion, confinement and loneliness. But there were also many positives and we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the events that happened last year at First Baptist Church Belmar!
We began the year in February by honoring 5 senior members of our church at a special dinner in a local restaurant. Gifts, flowers, games and accolades were the highlight of the evening and Sisters Emily Boone, Kathy Brown, Deloris Daniel, Joy Goddard and Barbara Putney were dubbed the Fabulous Five – because they are! We also celebrated Black History Month with St. Paul Baptist Church in Red Bank. Each year Rev. Jackson is invited to preach in their afternoon program and it is always a blessing to fellowship together.
So far so good, but soon a change was coming…
By March 2020, the United States was in the beginning stages of a worldwide pandemic. The coronavirus and more specifically, Covid-19 was spreading at an alarming rate! By the middle of the month most of the US was grappling with what to do; people were getting sick and dying daily from this terrible disease. On March 20 with overcrowded hospitals, the death toll rising each day Gov. Phil Murphy announced an immediate statewide shutdown. That meant businesses; restaurants, schools and even houses of worship would have to close until further notice. A shelter in place order was also issued pleading with people not to leave their homes except to go to the doctors’ office or get essential supplies. Our last full in-house service was on March 22.
But as God would have it, Pastor announced that the church building may be closed, but “we” are the church and we are still here! With that, a number of things were quickly put in to place!
In April the Communications and Social Media Ministry was created. It immediately began live-streaming every Sunday on Facebook, then posting it on our new YouTube channel. The ministry even began posting weekly messages from Pastor and inspirational videos featuring FBC members to encourage each other during this stressful time. Who knew our church family was so creative?! We did!! Also to keep us in touch with each other while the doors were closed, we started our private Facebook page for members only, so pertinent information could be disseminated.
Other changes took place early on as well; the Diaconate began hand delivering communion pieces to our members so we could have communion together virtually; and the Trustee Ministry set up online tithing. Our Youth Squad even jumped in and did their part to help with outreach by making get well cards over Easter Break for a local nursing home.
By summer, the Covid news was getting a little bit better as hospitalizations and deaths were slowing down in the U.S. So with proper coronavirus precautions being taken including sanitizing the entire building; after much prayer, Pastor Jackson decided it was time to make plans to come back to church. In mid-June, FBC Leadership began attending Sunday service in what Pastor Jackson called a "Soft Opening. Our busy summer also consisted of an outreach project with Mt. Olive Baptist Church of Lake Como and revamping plans for Pastor’s upcoming 4th Anniversary celebration and the Ordination and Elevation service which would take place near the end of the season.
The Pastor’s 4th Anniversary is in June and with the bulk of members still not in the building it was decided that we should go forth with a small virtual celebration with a guest preacher during a regular Sunday service.
By the end of July, leadership began encouraging members to come back to Sunday Morning Services and little by little they did!
On August 30, we ordained Sis. Louise Shivers as our first female Deacon in the history of First Baptist Belmar and elevated Sis. Kathy Henriques to Deaconess. To God be the Glory! Only our congregation and a few family members were invited to attend and the service was streamed live on Facebook.
As the year was coming to a close, and Covid 19 was again beginning to ramp up; there was one more special event to celebrate; our 120th Church Anniversary. A small celebration was planned for October with a guest preacher to give the word and the foyer redecorated for the occasion. A Happy Anniversary banner was hung overhead and photos of the 4 past pastors along with Rev. Jackson were mounted on the wall. A museum worthy display of the actual corner stone from the original building dated 1900 was set up as well. And at the end of the service, always being aware of Covid-19 precautions, a piece of celebration cake was distributed in a small souvenir box to each person as they left the church.
In November the new Church Constitution and By-Laws were presented and voted upon. Also, once again, we gave Thanksgiving baskets to three families for the holiday.
All year long we continued to praise God for His Grace and His Mercy! God protected our little church and not one of our members got sick with Covid-19. And as many other local churches are still shut down, God allowed us to grow! Even during the pandemic…two people gave their lives to Christ and were baptized; and 6 more joined FBC this year! What a blessing!
Together we accomplished many things in 2020! Are you tired yet?! Don’t be! Get ready because God has even more in store for First Baptist in 2021 as we continue to be obedient in our outreach in His Glory.
May God Bless Us All! Happy New Year!