On the last weekend of September, over 700 people from American Baptist congregations of all shapes, sizes and ethnic backgrounds gathered for the 183rd time here in New Jersey. We celebrated, praised, prayed, shared and challenged each other to continue our mission to share God’s love. I am proud to be a part of this extraordinary group of people who are continuing the work of Jesus in this region and am excited to share a few quick highlights from that meeting with you.
· We heard about the efforts of Baptist volunteers from across the nation who came to NJ in the wake of Super-storm Sandy and continue (to this moment!) in the rebuilding effort.
· We heard about the “Fresh Expressions” initiative that is breathing new life into the outreach efforts of churches across our state.
· We learned a new approach to sharing our faith in the 21st century from Rev. Jeffery Johnson.
· We discussed the horrors of human trafficking, both in the US and abroad, and heard from people who are rescuing those caught up in this tragedy.
· We were challenged to adopt a “Congregational Covenant of Nonviolence” as a response to the violence in our communities and towns.
· A new fundraising campaign called “Cedars of Lebanon” was launched to support the important work of our Baptist Camp and Conference Center.
· Scholarships were given to many, including our own Randy Van Osten (seminary) and Haleigh Bunting (college).
· And yours truly was in the first group to graduate from the ABCNJ Pastor’s Academy!
As American Baptists in the state of New Jersey, we are leading the way in our denomination. We are creating new paradigms for ministry and living out the gospel message through our words and deeds. Please join me in celebrating our success and praying that we may continue to be faithful in all we do…. so that God may be glorified in us.