Posts

“5 Months and Counting at Café Connection” by Logan Dodge

Café Connection has now been in operation for over 5 months! It has been a wild and exciting ride and we are excited to see where the spring and summer months take us. Over the winter we maintained our service to many people and now that the weather is turning warmer, we anticipate that we could see even more guests join us. Often, we get so caught up in the numbers and the statistics of how many meals we served and how many guests come on a specific night, but we also need to look beyond those metrics and look at all the individual lives that the Café has had an impact on.

At this point in our operation, we see a lot of the same families and individuals come on a weekly basis. To me this shows more of the Café’s success then any metric ever could, the fact that we have become a destination in our guests’ week. When guests walk in the door, they are usually greeted using their first name because we have gotten to know them so well. We have many stories of our guests requesting to have a specific server because they have enjoyed them so much in the past. We also have related stories of people asking where certain volunteers are if they are not working that week. We have guests wanting to interact with us and have a deeper connection, besides the simple “hello and goodbye,” which lets us know that the Café is bringing First Baptist Church closer to the community of Jackson.

“We have guests wanting to interact with us and have a deeper connection, besides the simple ‘hello and goodbye,’ which lets us know that the Café is bringing First Baptist Church closer to the community of Jackson.”

The guests are not the only people that this mission is for, the Café is having a major impact on our volunteers as well. It has been so amazing to watch who has come out to volunteer with us, we have a solid group of volunteers that are with us almost every week. They are the ones that got in on the ground floor of Café Connection and have made it run so smoothly. It has been a joy to see those folks continue to be excited about this mission and continue to improve the areas that they volunteer in.

We have also been able to meet and interact with volunteers that were not part of the church prior to the Café opening. New volunteers have brought friends and family with them to volunteer. Now, we are seeing an even bigger step, the friends and family of new volunteers have brought their own friends and family to serve with us. The Café has brought so many amazing people through our doors and into our lives. I personally have enjoyed meeting new volunteers and getting to know them on a personal level.

Something that many people would not know if they have never been to the Café is that this is a place were both guests and volunteers want to come back each week. This is not your average “church meal,” in fact most nights you may not even feel like you are at a church. We have found that because the Café operates like a restaurant and people are treated like they would be if they went to any restaurant, it makes everyone more comfortable. Our goal is not to force the church on our guests; we are here as a steppingstone for people to see what our church community is about. If at some point a guest or new volunteer feels ready to join us for service on Sunday, they will not walk in as strangers but as guests familiar with our church family.

As a church we can sometimes forget how intimidating it is for some to walk into a church like ours. Most of us have been going to this church our entire lives so we do not give it a second thought. For some people, especially those who might have had some bad church experiences in the past, just walking in the door of a church is a challenging thing to do. The Café was built to bridge that gap by bringing guests in with the simple offer of food and community. We want to show our guests that we serve everyone with dignity no matter who they are or what they look like.

If you have not been to Café Connection before or if you have not been in a while, I would strongly encourage you to come any Wednesday and see how we are serving our community. Or if you want to be part of the serving, contact myself or the church office and find out how you can be put on the volunteer schedule. This Café has become such a special place, not only for our guests but for our church family and friends as well. We could not be more proud of the relationships we have created, and we intend to continue that mission.

 

 


This article appears in the April-May 2022 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

“Stop Waffling” by Dallas Flippin

On the plate in front of me was a generous helping of chicken and waffles. The sweet aroma of syrup and fried chicken filled the space. It was the kind of meal that you notice no one was talking for several minutes because everyone was devouring their food.

Sitting around me was a group of pastors and ministry creatives from Jackson and from across the country. We had gathered at the Fossores Chapter House, a creative ministry incubator, to dream and imagine how God might shape our ministries. But for a moment each of us was just thankful for the chicken and waffles. They were amazing. But they weren’t a random meal choice, it was intentional.

That day, March 25, is a special day to many Christians who celebrate it as anniversary of the Angel Gabriel announcing to Mary the conception of the Lord – she would bear a child that would change the world, and her world. It’s a day to reflect and celebrate the faithfulness of God through the incarnation, and the faithfulness of God’s servant to receive and accept this blessing and burden.

Christians call this day by different names, the Feast of the Annunciation, the Feast of the Incarnation, the Solemnity of the Annunciation, Christ’s Conception, and more. But the name for the holiday that I’m most thankful for is thanks to a Swedish pun. The Swedes began celebrating Vårfrudagen (“Our Lady’s Day”) with waffles calling it Våffeldagen (Waffle Day). Our table enjoyed the sweet waffles and reflected on the annunciation.

It’s a lot of responsibility to raise any child. Add to that the responsibility to raise Jesus – no pressure! When Gabriel appeared to Mary and called her blessed, was blessed how she felt? Luke tells us Mary was confused by it all.

When the angel explained that she will be pregnant, Mary asks a very practical question: “umm, how? I’m a virgin.” Gabriel responds by describing the power of God and the Holy Spirit, saying “for nothing will be impossible with God.”
Mary had plenty of questions. She probably could barely only begin to imagine the judgments her friends and family might make about her. What would her reputation be? What opportunities would be forever shifted for her? How would her body be forever reshaped?

Despite all those concerns, Mary answers Gabriel: “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

Even though March 25 might not have been an important day in our church upbringing, it’s a beautiful day to consider whether we could spiritually have the commitment that Mary portrayed that day.

Regardless of your gender, we’re all invited to birth Christ inside of us, to accept Christ’s transformative life and power to take root in us and reshape our body, our mind, and our spirit. Maybe there’s been a time in your life you’ve said yes to that process, but how many days do you return to God and reclaim that yes.

“Regardless of your gender, we’re all invited to birth Christ inside of us, to accept Christ’s transformative life and power to take root in us and reshape our body, our mind, and our spirit.”

Would you allow Christ to grow in you – no matter the cost to your reputation? Would you allow others to look down on you, to think less of you, to question you? Are the labor pains of Christ’s transformation worth enduring for the beauty of the life that will follow?

At the dinner table, filled with chicken and waffles, we were invited to write out one question to God. If you were like Mary, and an angel visited you and described God’s invitation to your life, what question would you ask? God, will it be worth it? Father, can I do this? Lord, am I able?

We flipped the card over and wrote one sentence of affirmation to God. How might you say yes to God today? Lord, I will follow you even if I lose a friendship. God, I will do your work despite the struggle.

This Easter, while we celebrate the faithfulness of Christ and the life that he offers, perhaps you can ask yourself whether you’re willing to bear the Christ inside you, transforming you from the inside out. What’s your response to God’s invitation for abundant life?

Maybe you’ve found yourself waffling between faithfulness and wandering from God. Today, God comes calling again. May we be like Mary – “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.”

 

 


This article appears in the April-May 2022 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

Is That All?

“Unexpected Communion” by Brently Groshong

I grew up in a faith-based home. My father was a pastor, and the church was the center of our weekly lives. Our family never missed a church gathering, big or small. And like most churches, we took communion once. I never understood why we would celebrate the Eucharist only communion once a month when the Bible stated that we were to eat and drink whenever we gathered together. I also never thought to ask why.

When I was 17, I was part of the church worship band. I was the bass player, and I was the youngest on the team.

That year, Steve Archer—the pioneer of the genre of Jesus music, later to become known as contemporary Christian music—was coming to our small town to perform a concert in the high school gym. The concert’s producer asked if our worship band could open for Steve Archer. It didn’t take us long to say yes. It was our chance to play on the big stage next to rock stars. It also didn’t take long for our worship band to become a “real” band and start holding practices in my dad’s garage.

When the day of the concert finally arrived, there was electricity in the air. We arrived early to meet Steve Archer and his band. He wanted us to understand that we were putting on a show, but he also said we were about to engage in something heavenly, something holy. Then he said something quite unexpected.

“We should take communion. Someone go grab some elements.”

A few minutes later, one of Steve’s crew showed up with soda pop and pizza. And, all eyes were on Steve.

All that kept running through my mind was, “Can we use pizza and coke in place of bread and wine?”

Can we use pizza and coke in place of bread and wine?

Without hesitation, Steve offered these seemingly unholy elements in prayer, and then we drank and ate together.

Through that act of communion, we committed to God the Father, and we committed to each, vowing to bear each other’s strengths and weaknesses. It unified us in mission, and I felt just as much a part of the night as the hired professionals. And Steve was right, we did engage in something holy, and it is a night I will never forget.


This article appears in the October-November 2021 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

How Much Does This Cost?

“Learning to Feed” by Dallas Flippin

Every 10 years, you eat over 7,000 meals. Now I feel full. 7,000 meals is actually a conservative estimate assuming you eat about two meals a day. We eat so many meals that it’s natural you sometimes autopilot through a mealtime. Sometimes we autopilot through a fast-food meal or through a morning cereal. It just sort of happens. I’m fascinated by the times we pause for a meal. There are moments that stand out, like the first dinner cooked at home by newlyweds. Or the restaurant you ate at before a terrible bout with a stomach bug. Some meals are just memorable, especially the meals at the edges of our life.

Everyone consumes a final meal in their life, but not everyone knows which meal will be your last meal. There’s something ominous just about the phrase, your last meal. What would you choose for your last meal? It must be hard to decide.

If you were to visit the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill New York, you would encounter a strange art exhibit entitled Last Meal. Photographer Jackie Black’s exhibit is a series of photographs recreating the last meal requests of 23 individuals on death row in Texas between 1984 and 2001. Clydell Coleman asked for sausage, eggs, biscuits, and french fries. Jeffrey Allen Barney asked for a bowl of Frosted Flakes. Gerald Lee Mitchell asked for a bag of Jolly Ranchers. The exhibit includes a recreated photo of the last meal with accompanying information of the executed individual’s name, date of death, years of education, occupation, and last statement. Black believed that perhaps looking at a plate of food, someone’s last meal, might be a bridge to empathize with the experience.

Most of us won’t encounter that sort of last meal. Instead, those of us blessed with long life might instead encounter the last meal preparations of hospice, where we receive care and comfort as we complete our time on this earth. People say it’s a weird experience after a lifetime of doctors telling you to avoid sugars or reduce your salt intake to have medical professionals transition to encourage you to eat whatever brings you joy and comfort in those last moments.

Last meals are comfort food. They are a comfort in the face of pain and trials. Some of us really like our comfort food, even though we know it’s not our last meal. Every January a bunch of us make new resolutions that we’ll take our food more seriously again after a few too many holiday treats.

While last meals are about comfort, what are first meals about? If we move to the other edge of life, to its beginning, we encounter a very different experience with food. When we move from hospice to labor and delivery, we encounter mothers learning to feed babies for the first time. Learning to feed is work for both mother and child. Babies fall asleep; they don’t eat enough; they learn to bite; they decide they want to eat when you just want to sleep. Sometimes you have to find alternative methods to feed. It’s a lot. Feeding is not just about comfort, it’s about the possibility for new life to grow.

Many of us prefer living in a last meal paradigm. We want to be served comfort food. We want to pick the menu out and we don’t want to live with the consequences.

As nice as it is to get our favorite food and to be served, we are called to feed new life. Jesus’s resurrection is not meant as a comfort food just to make you feel good. Jesus’s resurrection leads to a great commission. We are called to go and make disciples. We are called to teach others and bring them to the table of God, to grow into who God has made them to be.

Too often we crave one more bite of comfort food instead of finding ways to feed others. Too often churches become primarily hospice homes instead of labor and delivery rooms.

I encourage you to find ways to feed others. Literally, helping someone have a meal is a great place to start. We’ve done that for a while as a community with our Blessing Box and with supporting the Immanuel Lutheran Food pantry. I’m so excited to see that opportunity blossom with the Café Connection. Beyond just the literal meals, we also have the opportunity to not make everything about ourselves, but to make everything about God, and what God can do for our neighbors. We have an opportunity to invite friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors to become new disciples.

One of the last meal photographs from Jackie Black that stood out to me was from Robert Anthony Madden. For Madden’s last meal, he asked that his last meal be donated to a homeless person. What a powerful image to take your last opportunity of special treatment and comfort and offer it to someone else in need. Could you make that sacrifice? Sadly, Madden’s generous request was denied. Some people and organizations are only in the business of comfort foods, not new life. May the Church always keep its eyes on the possibility for new life with our living God and may we always have the heart to share it.

 


This article appears in the October-November 2021 issue of the FBCJXN Magazine. If you’d like to sign up to receive a copy of our magazine in print or digitally, you can subscribe online.

Who’s Doing the Dishes?

Feast or Famine

Food and the Gospel Guest Speaker Jamin Bradley

Events

Easter Breakfast

Join us around 9am on Sunday, April 17, for our Easter Breakfast, highlighted by wonderful breakfast casseroles! The breakfast will be taking place after our Easter Sunrise worship that starts at 8am and lasts around 30 minutes. So, breakfast may begin a little before 9am, but guests are welcome as you arrive. There is no charge for the breakfast.

We hope you’ll join us for our other Easter activities. There is a 8am sunrise service outdoors alongside our church property along Cortland St. After the breakfast, we will have our Easter worship service at 10am.

Downtown Jackson Christmas Parade

Join us as we celebrate the Christmas season with our downtown neighbors and spread some Christmas cheer! Our tradition is to pass out hot chocolate to people as they make their way to the Christmas parade.

Café Connection – Friends and Family Night

Join us for the soft launch of Café Connection with our Friends and Family Night! Café Connection is a restaurant style dinner experience with warm food, excellent service, and creative opportunities for meaningful conversation. Even better, it comes without a restaurant price tag. Our meals are free as the ministry is supported by donations and not dinner receipts. The café is open from 4:30 – 8pm. You can help us out and let us know you’re coming by booking a table at CafeConnection.org. Walk ins are still accepted!

Café Connection

Café Connection is a restaurant style dinner experience with warm food, excellent service, and creative opportunities for meaningful conversation. Even better, it comes without a restaurant price tag. Our meals are free as the ministry is supported by donations and not dinner receipts. The café is open from 4:30 – 8pm. Learn more about Café Connection at CafeConnection.org.

Café Connection Grand Opening

Join us for the grand opening of Café Connection! Café Connection is a restaurant style dinner experience with warm food, excellent service, and creative opportunities for meaningful conversation. Even better, it comes without a restaurant price tag. Our meals are free as the ministry is supported by donations and not dinner receipts. Learn more about Café Connection at CafeConnection.org.

Thursday Morning Book Group

The Thursday morning book group meets at 10:30am at the BZB Cafe, a few blocks from church. They provide free copies of whatever book they are reading to participants. You’re welcome to come by and enjoy food, conversation, and ideas together.