ABHMS presents ‘Orientation to American Baptist Life’

American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) recently offered its part in the annual denomination-wide “Orientation to American Baptist Life,” a series of presentations meant to introduce to the denomination seminarians and pastors serving American Baptist Churches for the first time. To view previous sessions or attend the next three sessions offered by ABHMS partners, go to http://www.abc-usa.org/otabl/. This year’s presentations are being held virtually.

ABHMS Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray began the event by mentioning ABHMS’ April 27 birthday, noting that the organization has been on the mission field since 1832, for 189 years. Furthermore, on April 27, 2010, National Ministries reclaimed the organization’s historic names and began carrying out its ministries in the name of Jesus Christ as American Baptist Home Mission Societies.

“We have a vision of American Baptists empowered,” he said. “We seek to not just be a society with slogans but a society that practices as the hands-and-feet ministry” of Jesus Christ.

In breakout rooms, participants introduced themselves to each other and answered these questions: “Who or what experience introduced you to Jesus Christ, and what was most memorable about the introduction?” and “Where do you see Christian witness most needed in the United States and Puerto Rico?”

In introducing herself, Joy Martinez Marshall, who has been senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Lincoln, Neb., for 1½ years, shared that she grew up fundamentalist Southern Baptist and was finding the orientations helpful.

The Rev. Doug Avilesbenal, executive minister of the Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches, said that mission is most needed among financially wealthy individuals, “so they can realize how much their hoarding is hurting the entire world.”

Abigail Medina Betancourt, ABHMS Intercultural Ministries Specialist, said that her grandmother introduced her to Jesus Christ when Betancourt was a child, and she often fondly remembers their going to church together.

The Rev. Taylor Shippy, senior pastor of Gibbon (Neb.) Baptist Church, accepted the call to Gibbon in December. He shared that he cannot remember a time when he did not know Jesus Christ. He feels that the presence of Christ is most needed among the “nones”—those who have some spirituality but no connection with the church—and “dones,” or those who have been bruised by experiences in the church and need healing.

A lively part of the event was “ABHMS and Judson Press Jeopardy,” hosted by Dr. Laura Miraz, associate executive director, ABHMS Human Resources Management Services. Categories were “Making History,” “The Right Stuff,” “Buy the Book,” “More Right Stuff” and “Connect. Cultivate. Change.”

Representatives from each of ABHMS’ five units—“Leadership Empowerment,” “Discipleship Ministries,”  “Intercultural Ministries,” “Healing & Transforming Communities” and “Public Witness & Advocacy”—named the members of their unit and shared about their unit’s ministry goals.

“I hope you’re catching the theme that all of us at ABHMS are working to heal and transform communities,” said the Rev. Dr. Kadia Edwards, ABHMS national coordinator, Volunteer Mobilization and Disaster Response Ministries.

During the wrap-up portion of the event, the Rev. Lisa Harris Lee, director of ABHMS Healing & Transforming Communities, expressed that she hoped participants had received a good overview of ABHMS’ ministries.

“I hope you’re receiving a good sense of all the ways ABHMS wants to be in partnership with you, to support you and to recognize that we can also learn from you,” she said. “There is a seat at the table. There is plenty of room at the American Baptist table for you, those who you lead now and those you will lead in the future.”