SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (ABNS 6/27/11)—In its events and activities at American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) 2011 Biennial Friday through Sunday, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) celebrated its tenets of discipleship, community and justice and spotlighted its new initiative to enlist passionaries for Christ.
ABHMS marked the opening of its booth in the exhibit hall of the Puerto Rico Convention Center Friday with Puerto Rican food and live music by Pleneros de Loiza of Primera Iglesia Bautista de Mediania Alta.
Approximately 20 flags of Latino nations paraded Saturday morning from the convention center’s entry to the Latino pavilion sponsored by ABHMS, Iglesias Bautistas de Puerto Rico, American Baptist Hispanic Caucus and American Baptist Latino Alliance. Featured in the pavilion were multimedia presentations on the history and current state of Latino American Baptist churches in the United States and Puerto Rico.
The ABHMS pavilion Saturday featured discussion with Tysha Sellers, executive director of Edna Martin Christian Center, Indianapolis; Kelli Foreman, summer/after school administrator/public educator at Kodiak (Alaska) Baptist Mission; the Rev. Yamina Apolinaris, executive director of Corporacion Milagros del Amor, Caguas, Puerto Rico; the Rev. Dr. Wungreiso Valui, senior pastor of Fort Wayne (Ind.) Baptist Church; the Rev. Adam Taylor, vice president of advocacy at World Vision; and Sister Patricia A. Daly, O.P., executive director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment. Each talked about his or her calling and received a certificate of designation as a passionary for Christ.
“Everyone here has not been licensed, ordained or commissioned,” said ABHMS Executive Director Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III, noting that a passionary is a “person who has a passion to live out his or her life according to Jesus Christ” and “exhibit the grace of God in spaces and places where it has not yet been made manifest.”
At the ABHMS luncheon Saturday, the Rev. Susan B.W. Johnson and the Rev. Zachary Mills took to the podium to share about the obstacles overcome while intentionally transforming their ministry at Hyde Park Union Church, Chicago, into a multicultural, multiracial one.
“Prejudice and anxiety undermined the church’s agenda,” recalls Johnson about the congregation that now embraces its 21st century ministry and has grown by 30 new members in the last two years, despite its location in a low-income, high-crime neighborhood.
“Cultivating a strategy of play is fundamental,” said Mills, noting that a trained improvisational actor worked with the church’s staff to help them “hear with a third ear and see with a third eye.”
At Saturday night’s worship, the 2011 Edwin T. Dahlberg Peace Award was presented to the Rev. Paul Hayes of Noank, Conn., for his service to the Peace Commission of the Baptist World Alliance, and to Beverly McNally of Pennington, N.J., who was vice president of the Board of National Ministries when she died on April 6, 2010.
“When I look at the names of previous award winners, I’m humbled,” said Hayes. “My role has been in the background. I support another layer of peacemakers. “Waging peace in a society that wages war is daunting, but in working for peace we feel most like children of God,” continued Hayes.
Accepting on behalf of McNally were her husband, the Rev. Thomas H. McNally, and daughters, Heather McNally and Dawn McNally Cobb.
“Beverly believed deeply that all Christians should be peacemakers,” said Thomas McNally, noting that Beverly McNally was involved in the fight to abolish the death penalty in New Jersey. She believed, he said, in “working with all Christians to let the light of Christ shine through the darkness of the world.”
Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr., an author, professor, social justice advocate and pastor emeritus of Allen Temple Baptist Church, Oakland, Calif., brought his message of “Hope in Troubled Times” to Sunday’s “Discipleship, Community and Justice Breakfast.”
In addition to referencing the social activism of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela, Smith mentioned several present-day ministries that are addressing the racial divide and promoting social justice in their communities.
“You and I ought to live as if the Kingdom of God has already come,” he said. “Hope moves us past discouragement. Hope sustains us in defeat. Hope provides us with joy and triumph. Hope reminds us of God’s promises. Hope reminds us that God keeps his word.”
Immerse, the national gathering of American Baptist youth, sponsored by ABHMS and slated for July 2012 in Washington, D.C., was introduced at Sunday night’s worship.
At the pre-Biennial chaplaincy luncheon on Thursday, Maj. Susan D. Caswell of the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., received the Military Chaplaincy Merit Award.
For photographs and more information about ABHMS at the Biennial, visit the Web site at www.abhms.org. To view the Immerse video introduced at the conference, visit the Web site at www.abhms-immerse2012.org.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies—the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA—ministers as the caring heart and serving hands of Jesus Christ across the United States and Puerto Rico through a multitude of initiatives that focus on discipleship, community and justice.
American Baptist Churches is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with 5,500 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.