VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 11/23/21)—On Thursday afternoon, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) celebrated the soft launch of its National Network of American Baptist Chaplains, Pastoral Counselors, Spiritual Directors and Specialized Ministers—a professional support and networking organization—with a hybrid event that welcomed visitors both online and in person at the Leadership and Mission Building (LAMB), King of Prussia, Pa.
In her welcome, the Rev. Dr. Patricia Murphy, BCC, ABHMS ecclesiastical endorser, Chaplaincy and Specialized Ministries, noted that the 198-member organization began in January 2020 but that the group could not gather in person because of the pandemic. According to Murphy, the group gathered together quarterly via Zoom. “So today we celebrate the ability to gather at the LAMB and virtually,” she said. “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren and sistren to gather together.”
Erin Dent was the event Psalmist, singing “Here I am to Worship,” “The Prayer” and “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”
The Rev. Greta Wagner, a network advisor, provided the invocation. “We give you thanks in this season of thanksgiving for launching and growing our network…for building our relationships and guiding us to use our gifts in new ways…for your honor and glory,” she prayed. “Bless us now, Spirit of Wisdom, to discern our next steps. Prepare us for all that is meant to be, as we move forward in humility and trust.”
After various personnel of ABHMS and Judson Press offered greetings, the Rev. Brittany Graves, ABHMS national coordinator, Public Witness and Advocacy, offered a spoken-word piece that she had written for the occasion. “May you be the light to support others or help someone get through difficulty,” she said. “Acknowledge the sustenance, the prayers and the care you’ve given that has helped you get here to a place of service as a chaplain, pastoral counselor, spiritual director or specialized minister.”
Expressing gratitude for the volunteers who help her connect and convene ministry professionals across the country, Murphy acknowledged the two network advisors and named 14 network liaisons and the geographic areas that they represent.
Addressing both those in the room and those online, Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray offered his keynote address, comparing the many types of specialized ministers to the plethora of specialists in a hospital setting. “I’m thankful that you took the time to be part of this historic launch of the National Network of Chaplains, Pastoral Counselors, Spiritual Directors and Specialized Ministers,” he said. “The time has finally come to seriously recognize that God has given many gifts to the church—not only pastors.”
Haggray thanked Murphy for taking what was merely an idea and turning it into reality. He thanked God for those who are nudged by the Holy Spirit to pursue service in these capacities. “Your servants are responding to the ministry call, and we pray that this national network will provide for them a home,” he said. “We dedicate today this American Baptist national network. We consecrate it so that it will become a blessing to all who are a part of it and all who receive its services.”
After a luncheon, visitors were given tours of the building. Before the benediction, guests were asked to pair off to become acquainted with someone else in the room whom they had not yet met to affirm the beauty of being connected.
The network will officially launch during the Spiritual Caregivers Conference at Space for Grace on Sept. 19 and 20, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo.
Membership in the network is open to all certified, noncertified, active and retired American Baptist chaplains, pastoral counselors, licensed counselors, spiritual directors, specialized ministers and other clergy in nontraditional settings who support ABHMS’ mission. Membership is also available to seminarians, students and volunteers in the aforementioned fields. A seminarian or student member must be currently enrolled at least part time at an accredited institution of higher education. A retired/volunteer status member is a retired American Baptist Churches USA (ABCUSA) or nonABCUSA member who submits an annual donation.
Membership dues are $29 per person yearly until Dec. 31, 2021, and $49 beginning Jan. 1, 2022.
To apply for membership, visit abhms.org/ministries/developing-leaders/chaplaincy and click “Join Today.”
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.