ABHMS Board Affirms Vital, Engaged Ministry in Face of Continuing Pandemic

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ABHMS Board Affirms Vital, Engaged Ministry in Face of Continuing Pandemic

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 11/19/20)—“We cancelled many in-person events, but we have not cancelled our ministry,” said Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray at American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ (ABHMS) virtual board of directors meeting Monday and Tuesday.

Haggray’s report to the board followed the meeting’s theme set forth in the opening devotion offered by the Rev. Mia Chang: “I don’t need to go down the list of all the challenges we are facing,” she said. “We are in a liminal season. How do we, as a people of God, respond?”

Included in Haggray’s list of ABHMS ministries in the midst of the ongoing pandemic was the establishment of the COVID-19 Roundtable, convened within one month of lockdowns across the country, to assess needs of American Baptists and identify resources available to meet those needs.

An outcome of the roundtable was a relief effort—COVID RECOVERY: Renewing Hope and Service—that utilized One Great Hour of Sharing donations to award grants to those in need. The Rev. Rothangi Chhangte, senior associate, Strategic Initiatives and Relationships, shared with the board that 109 grant applications representing close to $1 million in requested funds have been received.

Seventy-four applicants, reported Chhangte, collectively have received distributed funds totaling $171,441, as of Oct. 31, 2020. These awards met needs of hunger and income loss due to pandemic-related unemployment and supported church technology enhancements for ensuring worship continuation in the virtual environment. Applicants serving vulnerable communities— such as children, the elderly, the homeless and those populations ineligible for government grants, such as refugees and undocumented persons—were given priority.

ABHMS offered additional relief in the face of 2020’s weather-related disasters, Haggray said, such as fires in California and storms and floods in the Midwest.

A virtual June webinar, “You Are Not Alone: A Space for Grace Retreat,” offered via ABHMS’ ministrElife platform, addressed the grief that ministry professionals are experiencing as they support so many hurting individuals and families during this pandemic. Other virtual gatherings developed by ABHMS—Faith & Activism Town Halls and The Justice Dialogues—addressed racial unrest through presentations by social justice advocates, small and large group conversation and prayer.

ABHMS also launched the American Baptist National Network of Chaplains, Pastoral Counselors & Specialized Ministers to provide enhanced networking opportunities to these ministry professionals.

In summary, Haggray said, “We have remained vigilant and engaged.”

Board President the Rev. Jamie Washam expressed gratitude to board members “who show up in all manner of ways to ensure this work continues.” She expressed special gratitude to the Rev. Dr. Leon Runner for his service as corporate secretary. Dr. Barbara Ragland will succeed Runner in that office.

In her remarks, Washam noted “the way ABHMS was prepared to pivot in the pandemic through ministrElife and plug in and connect in new ways.” The organization is “breathing new life into our call to connect, cultivate and change,” she said.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.

American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.