ABHMS’ ‘Converge’ event convenes partners from 3 affinity groups

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 4/17/19)—At its Leadership and Mission Building last Monday and Tuesday, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) held “Converge,” an event that convened partners from three of the organization’s affinity groups:

  • the first cohort of the Co-Creators Incubator, an eight-month program that helps faith-based entrepreneurs grow their ideas into viable ministry ventures;
  • presidents and designated representatives of American Baptist-related Colleges and Universities; and
  • recipients of grants from the Virginia and Gordon Palmer Jr. Trust awarded during ABHMS’ 2018 cycle.

The intent was to share learnings, best practices and resources, while exploring ways in which collaboration can exponentially increase the impact of mission outreach in healing communities.

The six missional entrepreneurs accepted into ABHMS’ new Co-Creators Incubator program met for the first time at Converge. The sense among them was that they’d been grafted into a larger family that would support, encourage and equip them as they pursue innovative ministries for a new and changing mission field.

“The face, form and expression of mission has changed dramatically,” ABHMS Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray said during the event’s welcome reception. “For several generations, ABHMS commissioned missionaries. Nowadays, we are partnering with a whole new generation of folks who are meeting God’s mission in new ways.”

After welcoming those assembled, the Rev. Dr. Clifford Johnson, president of ABHMS’ board of directors, added that providing a state-of-the-art mission center as a home base for equipping disciples, cultivating leaders, and healing and transforming communities had been a dream of ABHMS’ leaders.

The Rev. Perkin Simpson, executive director of American Baptist Foundation, which administers grants from the Virginia and Gordon Palmer Jr. Trust, encouraged grant recipients to seek the wisdom of partners in the room.

“Oftentimes, when grant monies run out, so do the ministries,” Simpson said. “The challenge is to keep them going. You have the opportunity to change lives in perpetuity.”

Keynote speaker the Rev. John L. McCullough, president and CEO of ABHMS partner Church World Service, discussed the prevalence of global migration, including the plight of those who migrate because of poverty, violence, war, injustice and climate change. He said that one of eight faith-based shelters along the U.S. Southern border has alone welcomed 50,000 migrants since October.

“I want you to hear that perhaps inherent in that number—50,000 people—is a new opportunity to define what it means to be church,” he stressed.

A panel discussion featured Dr. James (“Tim”) Barry, ABACU representative and president of Alderson Broaddus University, Philippi, W.Va., as well as Karen Higgins, executive director of Milwaukee Christian Center, and the Rev. Trevor Hyde, pastor of Berean Baptist Church, New York City, all of whom received grants from the Virginia and Gordon Palmer Jr. Trust. Each affirmed the value of Converge as an important vehicle for dialogue, as they shared their unique insights regarding 21st-century leadership and mission.

For a “Sharing Our Learnings” session, members of the diverse entities conversed in groups of three.

“There’s something energizing in talking to other grant recipients,” said Andrea Gallegos of First Baptist Church, La Jolla, Calif., which received a grant for its “Surf Church” ministry. “We’re doing such vastly different things, yet we’re all in it together.”

Using the beach lifestyle to connect surfers to Jesus, Surf Church hosts weekly gatherings for ages 12-18 in addition to the “Jesus Fish Festival,” a contest that attracts nearly 100 surfers yearly.

Grants from the Virginia and Gordon Palmer Jr. Trust awarded during ABHMS’ 2018 cycle focused on two areas: discipleship, or nurturing faith among children, teens and adults, and healing and transforming communities, or collaborating for the betterment of communities.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.

 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.