VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 10/12/12)—In August, more than 150 individuals representing 17 languages attended the 2012 Asian Conference at First Baptist Church, Waltham, Mass. Jointly sponsored by American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) and the Asian American Baptist Caucus (AABC), the event featured the theme “Challenges and Opportunities for Asian and Asian American Churches.” Attendees included members of various Asian and Asian American churches; seminarians; leaders from local Latino, African-American and Euro-American churches; and representatives from American Baptist Churches (ABC) of Massachusetts as well as Massachusetts Baptist Multicultural Ministries.
Keynote speakers were Dr. Sydney Park and Dr. Russell Yee.
An editor of “Honoring the Generations: Learning with Asian North American Congregations” (Judson Press, 2012), a biblical scholar and assistant professor at Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Ala., Park spoke at the opening evening session about her experience growing up as a Korean-American and the challenges she faced trying to reconcile generational issues between her heritage and mainstream society. Her experience drew a commonality among those who lived through a bicultural and intergenerational environment. She then offered an insightful spiritual resolution by recognizing Christ’s love as the foundation for commitment of a faith journey that leads to greater unity and diverse gifts. Park also led a “Young Adults/Now Generation” workshop to emphasize the importance of youth and young adult ministries to the future of any church.
Author of “Worship on the Way: Exploring Asian North American Christian Experience” (Judson Press, 2012) and a third-generation Asian-American who has directed several groundbreaking contextualized worship projects, Yee led the second-day morning session, based on his newly published book. Through a PowerPoint presentation of Scripture, history and unique Asian contextualized worship, Yee helped participants to explore the need for Asian North American worship that lifts up their own cultures, stories and voices. At evening worship, Yee preached about Christian faith and worship as the best ways to express various ancestral beliefs and Christian identities.
In addition to the “Young Adults/Now Generation,” the conference offered five other workshops conducted by denominational staff and church leaders: “Intercultural Ministries,” “Tell Me about ABC,” “Web Tools and Church Ministries,” “Knowing Your Benefits & Making Church Budgets” and “Ministry Dialogue: The State of the Church and How it’s Going.”
Lifting up a multitude of cultures and ethnicities through music and native languages spoken aloud in mass prayer, the second day’s evening worship was spirit-filled. It featured a “call to worship” on harmonica by the Rev. Randolph Palada, pastor of First Baptist Church, Oneonta, N.Y.; traditional hymns played on a yangqin (Chinese dulcimer) by Xuan Qin, a youth from Lincoln Park Baptist Church, West Newton, Mass.; Naga dancing and drumming by various individuals and members of Nagaland churches; and Communion with ethnic breads and juice led by the Rev. Marie Onwubuariri, president of AABC.
A conference highlight was a tour, from Salem to Malden, Mass., of historic sites related to Adoniram Judson. Narration was provided by Dexter Bishop of the Adoniram Judson Baptist Association and First Baptist Church of Lynn, Mass.
“The tour was a true blessing and treat. Although the tour took only a short time during the conference, memories ran deep,” says the Rev. Florence Li, ABHMS Asian Ministries strategist. “At this juncture—in which Asian Ministries and the Asian American Baptist Caucus are largely involved with emerging congregations from the Burma Diaspora community—the visit made a strong connection with Judson’s mission to Burma in 1812.”
The conference ended with the Asian Caucus Convocation led by Onwubuariri. In an effort to move the AABC toward the new mission of alliance, a proposal was made to adopt a first project—development of a “Ministry Resource Manual” for doing ministry within Asian American Baptist contexts. Intended as an ongoing project, the manual would eventually benefit Asian American Baptist churches and the larger ABCUSA family.
“I heard from several participants that the gathering had such a wonderful spirit—that people enjoyed each other and were connected together, that the fellowship was rich and the learning was relevant, that it felt like we were really family,” says Onwubuariri.
American Baptist Home Mission Societies—the domestic mission arm of American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA)—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.