Driving through Rockville, Maryland on a Saturday afternoon last month, I was a little nervous. I kept going over in my head what to say, coming back to the thought that this was going to be a very different partner visit. It’s always an honor to meet new friends of the Alliance, thank them for their generosity, and tell the Alliance story. This time was no different: I would be visiting this partner for the first time, and I would also be visiting them for the last time. The church was selling everything it had and giving everything away.
Twinbrook Baptist Church was founded in 1956. It began its partnership with the Alliance in the 1990’s, and since the very beginning, it has radiated a spirit of openness throughout the Rockville community. A recent article in the Washington Post talks about this openness and the decision to close and leave its assets to 35 nonprofits and other groups that will stand for the values of justice, peace, and openness.
The Alliance is one of 35 local and national organizations that received a Twinbrook Legacy Gift, facilitated by the sale of its property on Twinbrook Parkway. We received $30,000 to invest in our commitment to racial justice: to implement ongoing white privilege/dismantling racism trainings, to evaluate needed changes to Alliance structures, operating practices, and budgeting, and to move more deeply into equity and equality.
Openness was on full display at the Legacy worship celebration service Saturday night. In song, we asked for “strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow.” In listening to Twinbrook’s story, we heard from the mayor as she offered words of praise. And in prayer, we blessed the national and local organizations that will continue Twinbrook’s legacy, keeping their doors wide open. I was surprised as tears welled up in my eyes for this church partner I had never visited, as together we said goodbye.
On Sunday morning, Pastor Jill told a story of how that very day she received a phone call from a woman in need of emergency food. The woman needed food for her and her son and had heard about Twinbrook’s reputation for sharing love with its community. Jill told the woman she was sorry, but the church was closing, their food bank was transitioning. Then she invited her to come to the church luncheon after worship, and enjoy some fried chicken, greens, and fellowship. Jill reminded the congregation, reminded me that though Twinbrook was closing, “Jesus never closes.” As we gathered to celebrate open communion, we made sure that every person in the pews could share; Deb Vaughn and I walked to the very back of the sanctuary to make sure all were served.
I give thanks to Twinbrook for teaching me the meaning of openness in the face of endings and love in the midst of deep heartbreak. The Alliance of Baptists gives thanks for Twinbrook, for teaching us how to be generous with their community, for the relationships they have with Alliance people which will continue into the future, for their support of the Alliance of Baptists in the past and for many years into the future. Thank you for reminding us that Jesus sometimes surprises, Jesus always loves, and Jesus never closes.
Jason Smith is congregational engagement specialist for the Alliance of Baptists.