ABC/USA Biennal Mission Summit 2017 Reflections by Marcia McCarthy
Attending an ABC/USA gathering is a bit like a family reunion for me. Both literally and figuratively. I was raised as an American Baptist, and the denomination has always felt like family to me.
Though Ken was not able to go this year, I was able to spend time with my sister Mary Beth and bother-in-law, Bill who are American Baptists in Colorado. Mary Beth and I enjoyed a breakfast with other American Baptist Women, and one evening we sat together for the evening program. On Sunday evening we enjoyed dinner with a former pastor from our home church who had performed our mother’s funeral service.
The gathering also gave me time to connect with figurative family: pastor friends (Ken and Peg Williams, George and Joanne Huffsmith, Don Ng, Cassandra Carkuff Williams, and more); women from a number of states that are involved in American Baptist Women’s Ministries; and ABC/USA staff who I have gotten to know across the years. As figurative family I got to celebrate with Virginia Holmstrom as she is about to retire; and I had the chance to weep with a pastor friend whose husband passed away from cancer since we saw one another last July.
Challenging Bible Study:
One of the things I most enjoy about biennial gatherings or conferences I have attended is the Bible study. This year Rev. Dr. Marie Onwubuariri led the Bible studies for American Baptist Women’s Day event on Friday, June 30.
Her morning scripture came from Amos the 6th chapter. She reminded us that our security lies only within our relationship to God and doing God’s will – in no other place will we find lasting security. The afternoon study on Paul’s message to the people of Athens was equally powerful. Kim Salico-Diehl was our worship/music leader for the day, and response she wrote to the scripture through music and spoken choral reading was very powerful!!
I also found very meaningful the preaching of the Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, Executive of American Baptist Home Mission Society. He used the passage from 1 Corinthians 12, with the reminder that we are all a part of the same body, even though we have different functions, and look different. We can not tell other parts of the body that they have no place in the body. Powerful reminders for all the divisiveness in our society; in the Christian church.
This was the first time that I have had the opportunity to attend an annual meeting of the Association for Welcoming and Affirming Baptists. Some of the people who were there have been part of this group for a long time. One of those persons is Rick Mixon who particularly wanted to be remembered to Ken Dodgson. Together we shed a tear for our sorrow at missing Sally Dodgson.
It was evident in reports from AWAB board members that Katherine Chapman (Katie), the executive director has been a great deal of help to the organization. She guided them in completing the work to qualify as a 501C3, (able to accept tax deductible charitable donations). She has worked to provide additional training for the board in education for the tasks of support so necessary for the Association to flourish.
The location of the AWAB booth was at an easily accessed location in the general display area. AWAB gave credit for this to our Interim General Secretary, Susan Gillies. ABC/USA groups were at the center of the hall; related organizations were around the outside of the hall. The staff and volunteers at the booth felt that the reception they received was positive for the most part.
The location of our biennial this year meant that there was a less conservative presence which happens when we meet in the midwest or the south of the country.
American Baptist Historical Society
I took advantage of going to the ABHS breakfast. It was exciting for me, a history major and librarian by profession, to learn of all the work being done on materials at the headquarters on the Mercer University campus in Atlanta, GA. it is an ongoing effort to digitize the huge number of records which are a part of this collection. Our sister church, West Henrietta Baptist won the George Younger Award for research in preparation for their 200th anniversary in 2015.
The attendees were introduced to our new Executive Secretary, Dr. Lee B. Spitzer. He comes from the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey. I had heard “mixed reviews” about the “new kid on the block,” and so I took the opportunity to ask someone from a New Jersey church what he thought our new Executive would bring to the denomination. He told me he thought Dr. Spitzer was just a great human being. He indicated he’s a very good listener, especially when approaching decisions. I will look forward to learning more about this new public face for ABC/USA.
We learned of the sale of the denominational headquarters. When I was in college and visited the Mission Center, it was referred to by many as “The Holy Donut,” as it was built in the round. Since it is no longer meeting the needs of the various components of the denomination, new property has been purchased and building is underway. I look forward to additional information as the work progresses.