Monday, August 13, 2018

Celebrating a new church building

This past Sunday, it was my pleasure to represent the American Baptist family of New York State and the Capital Area Baptist Association at the dedication of a new church building.  The Gethsemane Karen Baptist Church is a congregation of persons relocated from Burma and Thailand to the United States.  In the upstate New York area, we are blessed with several churches with Burma connections, speaking Karen, Chin and Burmese languages.  Churches have formed in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and in the greater Albany area.

Gethsemane Karen Baptist Church shared facilities with the Emmanuel Baptist Church of Albany, whose congregation encouraged the Gethsemane congregation as they developed their ministry, shared Sunday School resources and other ways of working together.   This eventually led to this happy day as the Gethsemane Karen Baptist Church purchasing a former Episcopal church in Castleton-on-Hudson, just south of Albany.  The church's dedication service was a celebration shared by many Karen churches from across New York and even a church from Connecticut was present.  Baptist leaders from Burma and the Karen Baptist Church/USA attended, offering words of encouragement. 

On  behalf of ABCNYS (with the thankful help of a translator!), I offered these words:

From Psalm 100

A Psalm of thanksgiving.
 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name.
For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

This is a great day in the life of your church. This is a great day for American Baptists and Karen Baptists. We celebrate the dedication of your church building. All of us together give praise and thanks to God, who provides for His people in times of plenty and in times of want. We are blessed by God greatly today and always!

This day comes after a long time of looking for a church building. Many prayers, many meetings and many hours were spent looking for the place God called you to be.

This day comes after a long journey. Many church members come from Burma, Thailand and other places as refugees. You and your family have had many challenges, many times of discouragement. Yet God has blessed you and kept you, bringing you here to New York and to become Gethesemane Karen Baptist Church.

At a church building dedication, we remember the stories of Israel, building tabernacles and temple. Such work was to praise God, to provide a place for His holy people to gather, to pray and to be in God’s holy presence. This church building is part of that tradition. We gather here to be holy people in a holy place, carrying out the holy work of following Jesus.

A church building is a blessing. It is a place where you sing, you pray, you listen to God’s word. You gather together to baptize believers in the name of Jesus. You gather together for Communion, sharing the bread and the cup and remembering Jesus.

 A church building is also a place where you have joyful times: eating together, learning together in Bible study, watching your children and grandchildren run and play. It is a place of many happy memories.

A church building can also be a challenge. Just like a house, a church building can have roof problems, issues with water, and things can break. Having your own church building means you will have repair work to do. You will have decisions to make about what to do with a repair or a building improvement. Buildings are brick and stone, water pipes and electric wiring. All of these things will have their challenges. Sometimes when we do not expect them!

Moving to this church brings new opportunity! I know that the church building will be a blessing and a challenge. Yet, I know something even greater than this building: the people of Gethsemane Karen Baptist Church. Each member has contributed to make this day possible. Looking to God for your hope and trust, you will do many great things for the Lord in all the days to follow.

As you have moved from Albany to Castleton on Hudson, you can be assured the support of the Capital Area Baptist Association and the American Baptist Churches of New York State will be with you. We hope you will invite our sister churches to come here in the future, to meet together, to eat together, and to praise God together.

You have the blessing and the challenge to be the church. Use this building well to bless God and one another with what happens inside the church building.

May this building be a place that:
     * shares the Gospel in word and action welcomes all who want to know God, wherever in the world or this neighborhood they come from.
     * Opens its doors to those who are needy, sick or in trouble,
     * So that your church members can help them.
     * Offers ways to grow as disciples of Jesus, Who follow and serve in His name.

PRAYER: O God, bless the holy people of this holy place, so that they may share the word here and throughout the community. Bless the building to long years of worship services, Bible studies, children and youth ministry, and caring for all who come through these doors. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, AMEN.

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