Of Names & New Beginnings

01 Feb

While First Central is getting a new name, it is still under the same management.

Yesterday, First Central Baptist Church of Chicopee, MA, held our annual meeting. For many years, the meeting was held on a Wednesday evening. However, less and less people attended due to busy schedules and the lateness of the start and it essentially ruled out any young families attending. So we adapted with the times and moved the meeting to a Sunday. We held one combined worship service at 10:30AM, followed by lunch in the gym, followed by the annual meeting at 12:30PM. We provided childcare during the meeting so families could attend. Since yesterday’s meeting lasted until 2:30PM, it made for a long day for families. But since it is a once a year event, it’s not a huge inconvenience.

The annual meeting always includes voting on officers and board members. We discuss and vote on our annual operating budget. Those items were completed in the first 45 minutes of the meeting. The rest of the time was devoted to discussing/debating whether or not to change the name of the church.

As explained in a previous blog post, we’ve been discussing the issue for the past 3 years. It grew out of the realization that the label “Baptist” has become a negative one in the eyes of the world. We began to understand that it may be more of a hindrance than a help to us as we share the gospel with people in the community.

We spent over an hour allowing people to voice their opinions, ask questions, and offer positions. Some of it was repetitive since we held several discussions and Q&A sessions in the past. Some of it was new as others spoke up for the first time. To our credit and God’s glory, it was done in a spirit of unity and peace. Passionately presented, Yes; respectfully presented, Yes.

To move forward in the process, the elders asked for a 2/3 majority approval, as we viewed it akin to changing the constitution. Since the previous vote was evenly split (35 yes / 34 no), I was praying for a decisive outcome. I was thinking 80%. Yesterday’s vote was 84 yes and 26 no, a 76.3% approval. A 3/4 majority spoke loudly and gave us a mandate for action!

Now we move forward into the next phase which is proposing alternative names, filtering them down to the finalists, and choosing our next new name.

A few days ago, I came across Isaiah 43:18-19. It was particularly clear and direct in the NIV. I found it to be very timely and apropos to our discussion.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

God is doing a new thing at (the church formerly known as) First Central Baptist Church. While we can celebrate our history and heritage, we need to let go of the past so that we can embrace the new thing that God is doing in our midst today.

Towards the end of our discussion, one person suggested we add a note to our reader board, “Under same management for the past 2,000 years.” Our name may be new (soon), but we still operate under the authority of Jesus Christ who is the head of the church.

Colossians 1:18 (ESV) And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.


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