VALLEY FORGE, PA (4/20/23)—Lake Avenue Memorial Baptist Church in Rochester, New York has been named the 2023 recipient of the George D. Younger Award for Excellence in Local or Regional American Baptist History. The award will be presented on behalf of the American Baptist Historical Society Board of Managers on Saturday evening, June 24, during a dinner co-hosted by the American Baptist Historical Society and the American Baptist Hispanic Caucus. The dinner will take place at the 2023 American Baptist Churches Biennial Mission Summit, to be held June 23-25, 2023 at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Founded in 1871, Lake Avenue Memorial Baptist Church (LABC) celebrated its 150th anniversary throughout 2021 and 2022. Led by pastor Michael Ford and church historian Garth Brokaw, LABC’s Anniversary Committee did extensive research into the historical context of their ministry, presenting the church’s story visually and textually each week and online through the LABC website. Over the course of 18 months, 80 different displays focusing on houses of worship, pastoral leadership, Sunday School, mission, and music were created and shared in the church narthex and online. The research also resulted in an annotated history to be shared in print format and online.
The committee determined that all of their “regular” events would have a 150th “spin” to them, acknowledging the impact that history has on their present-day ministry. For example, when promoting the World Mission Offering they connected it to missionaries who had been commissioned and supported by LABC. They also decided that an anniversary mission project was in order. In keeping with their long-time support of public education, LABC decided to contribute 150 books to a local elementary school.
In November 2022, when the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions had loosened enough to allow a public gathering, the church held a community anniversary celebration. Neighbors and past church members were invited to share in the celebration, with music sung in three different languages and greetings brought by the Executive Minister of the Rochester/Genesee Region and by various local clergy.
The George D. Younger Award for Excellence in Local or Regional American Baptist History
George D. Younger (1926-2001) was a historian, minister, ecumenical leader, and lifelong enthusiast for Baptist history. Along with his parish and regional ministry in New York City and New Jersey, he served as editor-in-chief of the ABHS journal, Foundations (predecessor to the American Baptist Quarterly), represented the Baptist World Alliance at the United Nations, and taught Baptist history and polity at Princeton Theological Seminary, New Brunswick Theological Seminary, Drew Theological School, and Union Theological Seminary.
Dr. Younger stressed the importance of Baptist history and principles. Seeking to honor his achievement and to continue his legacy of encouraging others to share their own part in Baptist history, in 2004 the Historical Society’s Board of Managers created the George D. Younger Award for Excellence in Local or Regional American Baptist History.
Founded in 1853, the American Baptist Historical Society preserves and shares its collections documenting the influence Baptists have had on religious and civic life. Its six miles of shelving hold the archives of the national mission societies of the American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., of which it is a part; the personal papers of prominent Baptist leaders; original church records; periodicals representing the world-wide Baptist press; national, state, and associational published minutes from the vast array of Baptist denominations in the U.S.; and hundreds of thousands of books and pamphlets by and about Baptists. Researchers from a multitude of disciplines all over the world, including American history, political science, women’s studies, anthropology and sociology come to do research in the archives. For more information about ABHS, including how to make a research appointment or to volunteer, visit our website at www.ABHSarchives.org.
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.