E-Link Online

News of the American Baptist Churches of Michigan

Issue 2017.06 - March 13, 2017

In this issue....

  • What can you do with a big old church building?
  • Grand Valley St. Univ. students feed hungry
  • Creative Contemplative Retreat in April
  • Camp Lael fund raiser April 11
  • Lilly Endowment clergy renewal prgoram at Christian Theological Seminary
  • Summer Haiti mission trip for young adults
  • Clinton River ABWM retreat
  • Annual church reports due March 31
  • Annual Clergy Retreat April 23-25
  • Benefit concert for Good family March 25
  • Face to Face set for March 24-25
  • "The Pope on panhandling - give without worry" - and much more on Editor's Trips

What Can You Do with a Big, Old Building?

FBC Kalamazoo

The First Baptist Church of Kalamazoo, like so many of our "Old First" churches, was built for a day that no longer exists. The sanctuary dates from 1853 (with several renovations along the way) and can seat nearly 500 people. The 10,000 square foot educational building, constructed in 1931, has four stories plus a full, finished basement.

The construction is fortress-like, with thick, concrete walls, ceilings and floors. The appearance, though, is cathedral-like, with 141 stained glass windows gracing every room; visitors entering the sanctuary marvel at its dark walnut balcony, pews and ceiling beams, and the immense beauty of the 3,512 pipe LeTourneau organ in the chancel.

The building has been quite well-maintained and is cherished by the congregation which, unfortunately, can no longer afford it. Membership, attendance, and financial support have been in slow, but steady, decline since the 1960s. The decline has persisted despite the best efforts of the congregation. This is an all too common story for many of our American Baptist "Old First" churches, and for countless historic churches of other mainline denominations as well.

There are no easy answers for virtually any of these situations, no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. Churches are forced to consider a variety of unappealing options:

Some churches merge with or sell to another church. Sometimes there is another congregation interested in the building, but drawbacks such as lack of parking, lack of handicap accessibility, and daunting deferred maintenance expenses can be significant barriers. Rarely does the merger of two declining churches accomplish anything more than buying a little time before the same painful options must be faced again.

Some churches tear down their buildings. It is often the case that the land a church occupies is more valuable than the building. Churches located in a desirable area are hot properties for developers wanting to build something new. Cities often prefer this option because it returns prime real estate to the tax rolls.

Some churches repurpose their buildings. Renting space within the church for use as a daycare center, charter school, or offices for charities can at times provide critical income to cover building expenses. This becomes a realistic option, though, only if there are groups able and willing to rent the facility, and the church is willing to give up use of some of its prime space.

Some churches reinvent themselves. The options above can be effective to at least some extent for churches facing the “change or die” dilemma. This last option can be considered in combination with the other options or lead to new solutions on its own. The key to reinvention is to keep asking, "What is God saying to us? Where is God leading us?"

This reinvention option is the one being pursued by the First Baptist Church of Kalamazoo. The next installment of this story will explain more of what this looks like.

GVSU students feed hungry, spread love with extra meals

Meals of Love

Students at Grand Valley State University are using their extra meals to feed the hungry each week.

GVSU freshman Madeline Battle came up with the idea for Meals of Love after noticing she always had unused meals on her meal plan. The student meal plans at GVSU are weekly meal plans that are paid for in advance and don't transfer over to the next week.

Watch this video about Meals of Love from WOOD-TV.

Madeline Battle is from Crossroads Community Church in Stockbridge. She has been to Haiti with the ABC-MI mission team twice and will go again with the young adult summer team in July. She is also the one who organized the musical instrument drive a few years ago. To date the College Practique du Nord in Cap-Haitien has received more than 20 horns, drums and more because of what Maddie started. As recently as last November, a team member carried down a trombone.


We may not have not received your Church's 2016 Annual Report which is due on March 31, 2017. The information gives a statistical picture of your church and updated leadership information. This important statistical information is used as a data base for ABC-MI and ABCUSA, as well. The Moderator and Treasurer information helps us to know who to target mailings to with important information and changes for your church.

PLEASE COMPLETE THIS IMPORTANT REPORT AND RETURN IT TO US RIGHT AWAY. IF YOU HAVE MISPLACED THIS FORM, GIVE US A CALL.  Please take the time to complete this form today either in hard-copy or on the Internet at: annualreport.abcis.org.  The DEADLINE is March 31, 2017.  If completing the form online the Region PIN # is 9880.  If you need another form or if you have any questions, please contact Debbie Hart at the Region Office at 800.632.2953 ext. 221 or dhart@abc-mi.org. Thank you!

Creative Contemplative Retreat, April 10-11 at ECCL

Under the leadership of Sharon Mick McAuley Ecumenical Center for Christian Leadership in St. Johns, MI will host Listening for Light, A Creative Contemplative Retreat on April 10-11.

Drawing from the wisdom of Madeleine L'Engle's reflections on faith and art, Walking on Water, this Sabbath Day Retreat will offer quiet input along with invitations to experience painting, writing, and other art forms as honest, personal expressions of vulnerability, longing, searching, clarity, and call. All levels of creative experience and ability are wel-come; the focus will be on a prayerful process, not production or quality of art.

Before the tip of the pen meets paper, or the curve of the brush yields to canvas, there is a deep emptying silence that frees the listening heart. The creative act is a birthing, but be-fore birth comes the moment of encounter in a place of intimacy and reverence, honoring and waiting as we journey toward the light that is love, the love that is God. Come into silence, listen for light, then let your pen, your brush, your song, your dance, your whispered or boldly spoken conversation ̃nd its way into expression of that which waits to be born through you.

Basic art supplies will be available for your use, but you may want to  bring your own pen, pencil, notebook or favorite mediums.

"To be an artist means to approach the light, and that means to let go our control" ..."The artist cannot change the work at whim, but can only listen, look, wait, and set down what is revealed." -- Madeleine L'Engle

The presenter, Sharon Mick McAuley, has led Art Spirit covenant groups in the Lansing area for over ten years. She has been a pastor, counselor, and spiritual director, integrating the arts, nature and prayer.

Contact Sharon with questions: sharonmickmcauley@gmail.com or smmcauley@yahoo.com; Riverain Song Studio/Facebook - 517-881-4351.

Your 2016 Annual Church Report is due now!

Annual Report

This important statistical information is important to us as it is used as a database for ABC-MI and ABCUSA, as well. The Moderator and Treasurer information helps us know to whom to target mailings with important information and changes for your church.

Please take the time to complete this form today either in hard-copy (click here for copy to download - .doc file) or on the Internet at: annualreport.abcis.org.  The DEADLINE is March 31, 2017!

If completing the form online the Region PIN # is 9880.

If you need another form or if you have any questions, please contact Debbie Hart at the Region Office at 800.632.2953 or dhart@abc-mi.org. Thank you!

Here's the list of the 24 out of 144 ABC-MI churches which have returned the 2017 Annual Church Reports:

  • Alpena, First Baptist Church
  • Battle Creek, Falam Baptist Church
  • Battle Creek, Lakeview Baptist Church
  • Cadillac, First Baptist Church
  • Ceresco, Ceresco Baptist Church
  • Deckerville, East Marion Baptist Church
  • Detroit, Bethany Baptist Church
  • East Lansing, The Peoples Church
  • Flint, Hill Road Baptist Church
  • Imlay City, Cornerstone Baptist Church
  • Lachine, Greely Baptist Church
  • Lansing, Christ Community Church
  • Lansing, Valley Farms Baptist Church
  • Lincoln, First Baptist Church
  • Mason, Mason Community Church
  • Manistique, First Baptist Church
  • Millington, Millington Baptist Church
  • Monroe, First Baptist Church
  • Muskegon, First Baptist Church
  • Novi, Crosspointe Meadows Church
  • Owosso, First Baptist Church
  • South Haven, First Baptist Church
  • Waterford, Bethany Baptist Church
  • Ypsilanti, First Baptist Church

Note to the remaining 120 churches yet to return their annual church report: please get your report in ASAP to lengthen the list above.

Camp Lael fundraiser April 11 in Royal Oak

Mike Bonner

Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Program at Christian Theological Seminary

Lilly Endowment

The Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program at Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) seeks to strengthen Christian congregations by providing opportunities for pastors to step away briefly from the persistent obligations of daily parish life and to engage in a period of renewal and reflection. Renewal periods are not vacations, but times for intentional exploration and reflection, for regaining the enthusiasm and creativity for ministry, for discovering what will make the pastor's heart sing.

The Lilly Endowment National Clergy Renewal Program at Christian Theological Seminary will provide grants of up to $50,000 each directly to congregations for the support of a renewal program for their pastor. The costs associated with family members who accompany a pastor

Up to $15,000 of the grant may be used to help the congregation fulfill pastoral duties during the pastor's absence and/or to support activities that enable the congregation as a whole to be renewed in its ministry.

For complete information and application directions go to this site.

Summer Mission Trip for Young Adults

Click on image below to view/download/save/print pdf copy.

Summer Mission 2017

Click on image above to view/download/save/print pdf copy.

Flint River Cluster ABWM Spring Meeting

Where? Mt Morris First Baptist

When? April 22, 2017

  • Registration: 10:30 - 11:00
  • Luncheon: 11:00
  • Welcome and Blessing on Food- Mt. Morris
  • Meeting in Sanctuary - 12:00
  • Thank You
  • Praise and Worship: Dorothy Laws
  • Pianist:  Mt. Morris
  • Election and Installation of Officers:
  • State ABWM President, Renee Langley
  • Special Music: Mt. Morris
  • Devotion and Prayer: Judson


Isaiah 61:11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. NIV

  • Garden of Praise
  • Master Gardener, Daisy Lay
  • Group singing
  • Blessing on Mission Project: Mt. Morris
  • Offering
  • Special Music: Mt. Morris
  • Benediction

Annual Clergy Retreat April 23-25, 2017

Clergy Retreat

In an ever-changing world, the church of Jesus Christ must be able to change her methods without compromising her message. We know change is inevitable, but leading change can be difficult. How and where do we start? Our guest speaker Dr. William D Shiell, President of Northern Seminary will lead five sessions guiding us not to start over, but to Start Here: Lead Your Church to Engage God's World.

At the retreat, you won't just hear from someone who has led this change and then try to figure out what that means for your congregation on your own. In addition to time for personal reflection, there will be an opportunity to hammer out what you hear in a small group setting; within a group of trusted peers who are also working through the implications of how to lead change in an established church.

To view/download/save the retreat brochure click here (pdf). To register online click here. Deadline is April 12. 2017.

The annual retreat is held at the St Francis Retreat Center in DeWitt MI. The retreat center is centrally located (directions) and provides a "place away, a place of quiet to listen for God's voice…to encounter Christ and grow." Be sure to take time to check out the beautiful gardens/grounds.

In addition to the learning, there will be good food, worship, and fellowship!

Please note:

  • All first-time attenders will be entered in a drawing for a one year complimentary membership to Church Fuel One, a program that combines "insanely practical coaching and ready-to-use resources." Check out their website!
  • Continuing Education Units will be provided.
  • Ministers Council members who are current with dues will receive a $20 rebate.
  • Financial aid is offered by ABHMS for this event. Ministerial leaders who are listed in the current ABCUSA Professional Registry may apply for the "Cultivating NEW LIFE" ministerial grant. Click here for the application.

Six Goods Go

Face To Face scheduled for March 24-25

Face to Face

American Baptist Churches of Michigan will join with four other American Baptist regions to host the 2017 Face to Face event on March 24-25 at Greenwood IN First Baptist Church. Over this 2 day period, church search committees and pastors seeking to relocate will worship together and engage in a series of interviews to get better acquainted. For both search committees and pastors, this is an opportunity to meet and learn more about several churches and pastors in a short period of time.

Churches interested in participating must meet three requirements:

  • The pastoral position must be full-time
  • Compensation for the full-time position must be a minimum of $35,000
  • The search committee must bring a sufficient number of their church profile for distribution to those present

Pastors interested in participating must meet two requirements:

  • Contact his/her region staff person (such as Executive Minister) to inform him/her of the pastor's intent to participate
  • Provide a sufficient number of copies of his/her current ABPS profile for distribution to those present

The cost for participating and additional information, including registration forms, are on the abc-mi.org website on the home page, in the left column below "Upcoming Events." An ABC-MI staff consultant will be attending Face-to-Face to assist ABC-MI participants and guide them through the event as needed.

Assisting church search committees to find their next called pastor as well as pastors seeking to relocate are ways ABC-MI serves the local church. Face to Face is a ministry to those served by the Region.

If you have questions, please contact MaryBeth Robertson through the ABC-MI Region Office, 517-332-3594.

Next issue deadline

The next issue of E-Link Online will be published on March 27, 2017. Please send news items, notices, and pictures to the Editor by Thursday, March 23.

Editor's trips*

The Editor
  1. Repeal of health law poses serious consequences for churches and clergy (Baptist News)
  2. The first heroes of Black Christian history (Christianity Today)
  3. Those who flourish in ministry are intentional about their well-being (Faith and Leadership)
  4. The Pope on panhandling - give without worry (New York Times)
  5. When factory jobs vanish men become less desirable partners (The Atlantic)
  6. Killing Jesus: Who was the real Pontius Pilate? Randall Balmer's review of PONTIUS PILATE - Deciphering a Memory By Aldo Schiavone
  7. The housed, the homeless, and the right to be somewhere (Christian Century)
  8. Faith as allegiance (Jesus Creed)

*Every edition of E-Link Online features links to articles the Editor has tripped over while surfing the Web. Some links have been suggested by others. Don't expect to agree with, approve of, or enjoy them all. Neither the Editor of E-Link Online nor the American Baptist Churches of Michigan necessarily agrees with, endorses, or otherwise puts a stamp of approval on the views expressed in them. They're here to stir the pot, provoke discussion, encourage further inquiry, stimulate an opening of mind and heart, and lead to prayer and action. Readers are invited to send their own suggestions to the Editor.