A $500 Matthew 25 Grant from American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) is supporting First Baptist Church in Boston’s Jamaica Plain section to provide bus passes for low income and homeless people in the church’s neighborhood, located about four miles from downtown Boston.
First Baptist dates to 1842 and is located in an historic district. In 2005 the church suffered a tragic fire, voted to remain in the building and repaired the exterior and refurbished the first floor, which includes a fellowship hall where worship takes place. The second floor houses the sanctuary which remains unfinished.
Despite the fire setback, the congregation’s ministry and outreach to the neighborhood has steadily grown, says Pastor Ashlee Wiest-Laird, who has served the congregation for the past 15 years.
“Our neighborhood has gone through multiple transitions over the years,” Pastor Ashlee says. “Despite the fire our congregation remains a beacon of hope and light in the community. The people here are visionary. With the help of our neighbors, businesses, the Boston Baptist Social Union, the Boston Southwest Association of the American Baptist Churches of Massachusetts and Ethos, a non-profit serving the elderly here in Jamaica Plain, we have maintained a vigorous ministry despite running a deficit budget each year. We have decided that if for any reason we are unable to afford to continue we are going to go out being the kind of church God has called us to be. But we don’t believe we are going out!”
Last year, collective donations and responses to appeals for grants yielded $11,000 (including the Matthew 25 Grant) to furnish groceries, transport help, medicines and some rent assistance on a day-to-day basis to people in need in the neighborhood. “The Grant made a big difference,” Pastor Ashlee explains. “It is easier to find a place that is willing to give out a meal or food to people in need, but much harder to get bus passes. The reality we are finding in Jamaica Plain is that more and more people simply do not have the resources they need to live.”
So, First Baptist offers two meals a week to the community. “Wednesdays we feed all those in our vicinity who need a meal and extend opportunities for Bible study and programmed conversations on important topics in our world. Saturdays, seniors gather for food and connection at the church’s Crossroads Café, thanks to funds Ethos provides to us.” On the first Friday of each month, the congregation hosts a Youth Open Mic, where youth and young adults recite poetry they have written, often about the challenges they face in their daily lives. “The youth are remarkably diverse,” Pastor Ashlee explains. “They appreciate that a church is willing to be a place where they can express openly what is on their minds.”
“Thanks to the Matthew 25 Grant we are able to expand our outreach to our neighbors most in need,” Pastor Ashlee says. “Meeting the needs of God’s people is at the heat of the Gospel.”
The Matthew 25 Grant initiative, sponsored by ABCUSA and the Board of General Ministries, is funded by a generous, anonymous donor whose goal is to meet the needs of “housing, feeding, education and health with regard to the less fortunate.” The application process for a Matthew 25 Grant is structured to help small ministries with limited staff time. For more information on the grant and application process visit www.abc-usa.org/matthew25/