SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO (ABNS 6/27/11)—The third day of the Biennial came to a close after a final worship service on Sunday evening, June 26, where Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller, senior pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pa., preached about Celebrating God’s Way. Prior to the sermon, attendees were greeted by newly appointed US ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom, Rev. Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook, who identified herself as a “proud American Baptist pastor.”
Cook, sworn in two weeks prior to the Biennial, noted that this is only her second domestic trip in her new role. “I am so excited and ignited with the fire of God’s love within my heart,” she said. “What an honor it is to be with you this evening.”
“Thank you, my American Baptist Churches family, for your support and thoughts throughout the years, for allowing me to try my preaching out on you, for invitations to your pulpits, to your conferences. I feel so proud and honored that we share this moment together,” said Cook.
Waller, who preached the main message for the Sunday evening service, made an impact on attendees through his powerful preaching and the idea of holding your “hands out,” being “hands on,” and keeping your “hands up.”
“Don’t just stop at thinking about others as hands out, make sure your hands are on,” said Waller. “That means getting involved. That means that you’re helping in the redemptive nature of God. That you are strengthening the weak hand and the feeble knees.”
“Part of ‘hands out,’ and ‘hands on,’ also leads me to ‘hands up.’ When we put our hands up we’re saying ‘Lord, I love you, Lord I praise you, Lord, I thank you, Lord, you are worthy!’” said Waller.
“We were honored to have Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook in attendance to speak to us,” remarked Frank Christine, president of ABCUSA. “Cook’s greetings were an additional highlight of the evening.”
“One of the most moving experiences for me at the Biennial was Alyn Waller’s sermon, and the powerful message of ‘Hands up, hands out, hands on.’ We were blessed by Alyn’s singing as he closed his sermon. Each of the main speakers in the worship services at San Juan gave wonderful messages and led us all in celebrating God’s glory, God’s power, and God’s way,” said Christine.
The new ABCUSA officers were announced at the close of the service. Ruth Clark will serve as president, Rev. Don Ng will serve as vice president, and James Ratliff will continue serving as budget review officer for the 2012-2013 term. The officers were elected in the discernment session on Sunday afternoon, June 26.
“We are grateful to God for the decisions so prayerfully reached during these days together and continue to pray that God will work through us as the General Board convenes its sessions,” said Ruth Clark, president-elect of American Baptist Churches USA. “The Biennial meetings have inspired and challenged us to celebrate what God has done for us and to move forward in obedience as the hands and feet of Christ.”
Biennial attendees had the opportunity to worship in churches around San Juan and other parts of Puerto Rico on Sunday morning. Attendees were transported to different churches affiliated with the Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico. Many churches served lunch to attendees, and allowed for them to experience the Puerto Rican culture through worship.
“We leave Puerto Rico blessed. Blessed by the Spirit at work among us, as we celebrated God’s goodness and grace,” said Roy Medley, general secretary of ABCUSA. “We leave Puerto Rico energized to engage in a two-year transformative conversation about our journey toward more effectively serving our neighbors and the world as the hands and feet of Christ. We are excited to follow where the Spirit of God is leading us.”
Links to pictures from the Biennial can be found on the ABCUSA website, www.abc-usa.org, and at www.celebrate2011.com.
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.