VALLEY FORGE, PA (6/30/21)—American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) launched its Center for Continuous Learning (CCL) last Wednesday during the “2021 American Baptist Churches USA Biennial Mission Summit – An Online Experience.” Participants met CCL’s director, the Rev. Rebecca Irwin-Diehl, who said CCL is a work-in-progress.
“The foundational vision for this [CCL] is that it is a physical facility located in our Leadership and Mission Building in King of Prussia,” she said. “Then the pandemic happened and gave us both the opportunity and the challenge to accelerate the development of an online learning system.”
While in ABHMS’ virtual exhibit booth, participants experienced the sample workshop, “What Floats Your Boat? Navigating the Deep Waters of Congregational Change and Discernment” with ABHMS’ the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Johnson, national coordinator, Evangelism & Church Planting, and ABHMS’ the Rev. Dr. Christine Roush, national coordinator, Faith Formation & Discipleship. Participants were asked whether they see their church as a docked boat (not moving), a rowboat (with people inside deciding where to go via rowing) or a sailboat (moving according to where it is blown by the wind, or holy spirit). The purpose of the exercise was to illustrate to participants whether their churches are stagnant or moving forward—and if they were moving forward, in what way.
During “Highlighting ABHMS” on Saturday night, ABHMS Executive Director, Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, and Board President, Jamie Washam, presented ABHMS’ Mission Report.
“MinistrElife’s Zoom was priceless last year,” Washam said. “We used it at my church, and this virtual platform is the only way I have met with the ABHMS board since becoming president. Zoom is the pandemic community room—be it as a classroom, a sanctuary, a place for gathering families, a place to share joy or a place to share the deepest sort of sadness.”
In addition, a variety of one-hour presentations were held at ABHMS’ virtual exhibit booth from Wednesday through Saturday:
On Saturday afternoon, the Rev. Dr. Kadia Edwards discussed Operation Planting Hope (OPH) with a panel of guests whose organizations have partnered with OPH: Kim Weaver, executive director of Weirton (W.Va.) Christian Center; Gladys Rodriguez Perez, executive director of Corporación Milagros del Amor (CorMA) in Caguas, Puerto Rico; and the Rev. Sharon Farral, president of the Great Rivers Region of American Baptist Women.
Through OPH, ABHMS supports organizations in various ways. With CorMA, for example, ABHMS support meant that 1,200 people from the community were able to get vaccinated against COVID-19. At Weirton, ABHMS support means that children and youth can attend preschool, after-school and summer programs. OPH carries on the tradition of White Cross Overland, offering practical ways—whether through volunteering or charitable gifts—to support mission that changes lives.
“I might not be able to reach in my pocket and pull out $250,” said Farral. “But if people give me scraps, I can make a quilt from it that might bring that much money.”
While the name has changed from White Cross Overland to OPH, “It’s not the name [that’s important],” Farral pointed out. “It’s the opportunity to say, ‘Jesus loves you.’”
Other ABHMS Mission Summit one-hour programs were “[In]Justice and its Impact on Wellness,” “Sacred Conversations” and a workshop about scholarships. In addition, a full-length workshop about “Living the Gospel in the United States and Puerto Rico” was held.
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.