Young pastors gather for ABHMS’ ‘Connect 2018’

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 7/9/18)—American Baptist clergy and seminarians in their 20s through early 40s from 16 American Baptist regions participated in “Connect 2018,” the first gathering of American Baptist Home Mission Societies’ (ABHMS) American Baptist Young Adult Clergy Network, June 25-28 at Lake Street Baptist Church, Evanston, Ill.

“This was a first-of-a-kind event, so we weren’t entirely sure what to expect. The Holy Spirit moved in amazing ways,” says the Rev. Sarah Strosahl-Kagi, director of ABHMS’ Emerging Leaders program. “Many participants arrived feeling isolated and unsure of their identity within the American Baptist family. By the end of our time together, we were connected to one another as colleagues and friends, we had cultivated skills to carry with us, and we began to identify opportunities for growth and transformation as we minister in an ever-changing world.”

Featuring opportunities for retreat, spiritual formation, networking and professional development, the event included such workshops as “Racism, Trauma and Resilience,” led by LeDayne McLeese Polaski, executive director of BPFNA~Bautistas por la Paz; “Publishing for Pastors” by Judson Press editor Rebecca Irwin-Diehl; and “Financial Planning Basics” with the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board (MMBB).

“I truly appreciated the opportunity to connect with experienced clergy from diverse backgrounds and ministry contexts,” says participant Holyn Ivy-Bogert, who is pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis. “The times of worship, learning, fellowship and quiet allowed me to listen to others’ voices, as well as the still voice inside myself, so I might continue to clarify my understanding of my call to ministry, as I move into my final year of seminary.”

In the plenary session “Dreams, Themes and Schemes,” attendees discussed dreams for their ministries, churches and the denomination. They explored areas in which they are finding joy and, conversely, where they are fearful, angry, anxious or concerned. They sought answers to such questions as “What barriers are being encountered?” and “Where are opportunities for transformation?”

“It was incredibly powerful to come together to have intentional conversation about the joys and challenges specific to our shared American Baptist life and to approach the conversation valuing our diverse spectrum of options,” noted First Baptist Church of La Grange, Ill., pastor the Rev. Erica Van Brakle, who was both a participant and a local coordinator for the event. “The point of the conversation was not to debate one another but, rather, to listen and glean wisdom from our sisters’ and brothers’ lived experience. It modeled how we desire to learn and collaborate with one another throughout our lifetime.”

Partnering with ABHMS on Connect were American Baptist Historical Society, American Baptist Seminary of the West, American Baptist Women in Ministry, BPFNA~Bautistas por la Paz, Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, International Ministries, Judson Press, Ministers Council, and MMBB.

In conjunction with “Connect,” ABHMS held other gatherings in Illinois. An Asian Leaders Summit was held June 25 at Lake Street Baptist Church. During dinner, participants from both the summit and “Connect” mingled at a “meet and greet.” On June 26, an Alliance of Asian American Baptist Churches Convocation took place at North Shore Baptist Church, Chicago.

Pastors and leaders from Illinois, Indiana and Nebraska attended the first of five conflict resolution-themed CECALI workshops sponsored by ABHMS’ Latino Ministries on June 30 at Iglesia Bautista Central, Chicago. The other four CECALI workshops will take place virtually.

 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.