‘Worthy of honor’: ABHMS celebrates retirement of five ministry leaders

Dr. Jeffrey Haggray, Laura Alden, the Rev. Dr. Marilyn P. Turner-Triplett, Susan Gottshall and Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III

American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) honored five retiring staff members at a Sept. 17 luncheon in its Leadership and Mission Building in King of Prussia, Pa. The honorees—representing a collective 113 years of ministry—were Laura Alden, the Rev. Dr. Eddie Cruz, Susan Gottshall, the Rev. Dr. Marilyn P. Turner-Triplett and the Rev. Cassandra D. Carkuff Williams, Ed.D.

About 45 people, including honorees’ families and other guests, attended the event, which featured tributes, honoree remarks and presentation of service certificates.

Executive Director Dr. Jefferey Haggray noted that the retiring staff helped make his leadership transition smooth when he joined ABHMS in 2015. “It has been my distinct honor to work with all of you,” he said, noting that he has proudly served with these leaders.

Dr. Aidsand F. Wright-Riggins III, ABHMS executive director emeritus, who worked with the honorees during his 24-year tenure leading the organization said, “I am so thankful to have gotten to serve with each and every one of you.”

Retiring after 38 years of denominational service, Alden lifted up her most recent work as publisher of Judson Press, ABHMS’ publishing ministry. “It has been exciting,” she said, “to help give a voice to authors and serve audiences who have been historically marginalized.”

Cruz, national coordinator of Congregational Mission & Discipleship, will retire at the end of 2021 after 18 years’ service. Attending virtually from his home in Florida, he expressed appreciation to his colleagues, saying: “Everyone at ABHMS has been supportive of me while I balance our mission work along with my obligations to my family.”

Associate Executive Director of Communications Gottshall, who served ABHMS close to two decades, spoke of telling ABHMS’ story of social justice work. “My eyes were opened to so many things while working here,” she said, “like learning about the Japanese-American internment during World War II and the ministry of ABHMS home missionaries in the internment camps.”

In her remarks, Turner-Triplett remembered the supportive environment she found at ABHMS: “It’s difficult for a Black woman pastor, as some in the room may know, but here I have always been taken seriously and valued.” Turner-Triplett retired May 31 after 20 years’ service, most recently as director of Healing & Transforming Communities ministries.

Williams will retire after 17 years’ service at the end of November as director of Discipleship Ministries. She shared remarks about the educational and collegial aspects of her work virtually from her home in New York: “For all that I have been able to teach and help others here, I have learned so much more in return, and I thank everyone at ABHMS for that.”

The luncheon, the first event in ABHMS’ Leadership and Mission Building since the March 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, was held in accordance with CDC-recommended coronavirus mitigation protocols.