VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 5/5/15)—American Baptist Women’s Ministries has launched a year-long celebration in 2015 of the 100th anniversary of American Baptist ministry with girls, first organized as World Wide Guild. In 1915, Helen Barrett Montgomery, Lucy W. Peabody, and Martha MacLeish envisioned thousands of Baptist girls being united in a world-wide organization that would encourage their spiritual growth and leadership development while nurturing their desire to serve others. Alma Noble was chosen as the first executive secretary of World Wide Guild. The first chapter of World Wide Guild was organized in Nobel’s home church, Prospect Avenue Baptist Church in Buffalo, New York.
By 1927, World Wide Guild had 3500 chapters with a membership of 45,000-50,000 in the United States. Fifty-two chapters were in Puerto Rico, Alaska, Philippines, Japan, China, Burma, South India, Australia, Czechoslovakia, and the Maritime Provinces. The first World Wide Guild “House Party” (a week-long conference for girls and young women) was held in 1920 in Rochester, New York; soon after, Kueka College in New York and Pacific Palisades in Southern California became the sites for annual House Parties.
In 1916, the Woman’s American Baptist Foreign Mission Society and the Woman’s American Baptist Home Mission Society both became cosponsors; in 1920 World Wide Guild was transferred to the Department of Missionary Education of the Board of Education. In 1941, it was placed in the care of the Department of Ministry with Youth of the Board of Educational Ministries (ABCUSA), and became part of the Baptist Youth Fellowship. In 1949, a new focus on younger girls gave rise to The Rosebuds as part of Guild. In 1985, American Baptist Women reclaimed responsibility for ministry with girls and young women, and instituted a national officer position to be responsible for overseeing this critical ministry.
In 1991, a Guild Study Commission was appointed to evaluate the existing program and make recommendations for the future; the results of this study was the launch in 1992 of AB GIRLS, an acronym that stands for American Baptist Girls in Relationship, Leadership, and Service. Program materials continue to be produced for ministry with girls, reflecting the concerns and needs of girls in today’s world.
AB GIRLS is overseen by a national leadership team comprised of four senior high-aged young women and two adult women, and is staffed by the associate executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries. The convenor (youth) of the national leadership team of AB GIRLS and the national coordinator (adult) of AB GIRLS are full voting members of the executive committee of American Baptist Women’s Ministries. Recently, the national leadership team has held its fall meetings in conjunction with the executive committee of American Baptist Women’s Ministries, with joint sessions for a more full inclusion of the voice of all ages in planning of events and ministries.
A national event for girls continues to be held every summer, usually concurrently with a national event for women. In 2015, American Baptist Women’s Ministries and AB GIRLS are holding the first G.I.R.L.S. Leadership Academy (GLA) concurrent with the American Baptist Churches USA Biennial Mission Summit, and participants in the GLA will be included in AB Women’s Ministries Women’s Day and activities of the Mission Summit.
“AB GIRLS has been there for me since the beginning. Growing up, it was a place where I could grow spiritually and mentally without feeling judged, and would instead feel loved and accepted. It’s not just a bunch of girls talking: it’s creating a bond with each other that will deepen as the years go on. It’s a family,” says Emilie Rodriguez, member of the First Mexican Baptist Church of San Diego, California, and the 2014-2015 convenor of the national leadership team of AB GIRLS.
“Since its beginning 100 years ago, this significant ministry with American Baptist girls has encouraged and empowered American Baptist girls, and the women who work with them, to serve God. This mission is core to our ministries today,” said Virginia Holmstrom, executive director of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.
For more information about AB GIRLS and the national leadership team, visit the American Baptist Women’s Ministries website at www.abwministries.org/girls, or call (610) 768-2288.
American Baptist Women’s Ministries is a Christ-centered ministry with a commitment to encourage and empower women and girls to serve God.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.