It is with a mixture of profound sadness, deep appreciation for the fourteen years I have had the privilege of serving as ABCNJ's Executive Minister and Senior Regional Pastor, and in anticipation of God's call upon my future, that I tender my resignation, effective May 31, 2017, in order to begin my service as the General Secretary of ABCUSA on June 1, 2017. Please forgive the brief time for transition, which is necessitated by the upcoming ABCUSA Biennial Mission Summit and other factors.
For the past fourteen years, it has been my honor to serve as the Executive Minister and Senior Regional Pastor of the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey. I appreciate all of the invitations you have extended to me to preach, teach, counsel, guide and encourage God’s people throughout our state and beyond! You have supported my ministry in every way. And together our region has accomplished a great deal for the Kingdom of God. We are indeed a healthy and faithful family of churches and pastors, whose impact extends throughout the globe. I have also been privileged to be surrounded by a ministry team that is second to none.
On May 13 Central Baptist of Riverton-Palmyra will be hosting their Third Annual Chili Cook Off to support Cedars of Lebanon 2020. This year two of ABCNJ's finest, Rev. Randy Van Osten of First Baptist Church Pitman and Rev. Chaz Hutchison of Scotch Plains Baptist Church, will be contributing chili to enter the competition. Come out to support a great cause and some of ABCNJ's finest cooks at the same time!
First Baptist Church in Haddonfield was one of many churches throughout our state that hosted or participated in the National Day of Prayer Breakfast movement. The Haddonfield Council of Churches sponsored this event, which was moderated by FBC's Senior Pastor, Rev. Dr. Michael Feicht. The Haddonfield breakfast sold out, with over 100 attendees.
The breakfast featured presentations from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities. Representing the Christian churches, Dr. Spitzer lifted up the role that friendship can play in promoting a more civil and healthy society. Quoting from his book, Making Friends, making Disciples (Judson Press, 2010), he said: "How do we practice inter-faith friendships where convictions and acceptance co-exist? The following principles could help create an environment where convictions can be honestly shared and friendships maintained even when differences persist:
- All people groups and individuals have the right to freely choose and practice their religion without governmental or cultural persecution/sanction, and to convert to another faith if they so wish.
- People of faith have the right to share their religious, philosophical and political convictions through peaceful means, and to engage in serious dialogue with people from other religions as we search for truth about God and mutual understanding. Friends can disagree with one another and still love and respect each other.
- It is never permissible, moral or ethical to employ manipulation, violence, harmful threats or coercion in promoting one’s religion.
- When disagreements surface, we agree to maintain respect towards members of other religions and beliefs.
- When common concerns are identified, people of different religions can work together on those issues without denying their differences in other areas."
On Sunday, April 30th 2017 at 5:00 PM, the ABCNJ Annual Asian American Worship Service was held at First Baptist Peddie Memorial Church in Newark.
First Baptist Church of Allentown, New Jersey has exceeded it’s pledge of $10,000 in just four years with proceeds from our Souper Saturday Event at the end of February this year. Our original pledge was to raise $10,000 between 2014 and 2020. After just four of those seven years our donation to Cedars of Lebanon is now $12,100.69! Not only have we fulfilled our pledge, we've *exceeded* it!
New Brunswick Theological Seminary announces the upcoming Warren Dennis Lecture on Saturday, May 6 (10:00 am - 2:00 pm), which will focus on ministry in the metro-urban context. The keynote speaker is Rev. Dr. Katie Day, sociologist of religion at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. She will be discussing the issues that clergy are presented with as they seek to engage in ministry in this context. In addition, we will have representatives to appear on a panel discussion addressing issues of healthcare access, hunger, poverty, record expungement, etc. They will also have tables to share information with clergy about their agencies.
A LENTEN MEDITATION
The notion of royalty these days no longer just means monarchy. They also refer to celebrities of our day who get the "royal" treatment. We have celebrities in the secular world. We also have celebrities in the religious world. In whatever stripe they come, the usual signs of power and influence in the world unmistakably accompany them - pomp, pageantry, wealth, fame, luxury, and the adulation of many.
But nowhere else do the ways of the world and ways of Jesus diverge than on the issue of power.
Lent has essentially disciplined us to follow the gospel story of Jesus' ministry and teachings that all lead to his entry into Jerusalem - his confrontation with the religious powers who were in cahoots with imperial Rome, the Last Supper, the lonely agony in the garden of Gethsemane, the betrayal by Judas, the denial of Peter, the humiliation before Herod and Pilate, and the shouts of the crowds for his death, "crucify him!"
"I am among you as one who serves", Jesus said to his disciples during the last Passover meal they were to share together on earth. These words remain to be antithetical to the world's understanding of power, and continue to be the most challenging gospel imperative that even the church finds difficult to appropriate. Jesus' final entry into Jerusalem before his crucifixion and death was to proclaim the scandalous love of God, a scandalous kind of power - one made perfect in weakness.
What are the implications of this scandalous love for us today? God's love in Christ is not passive love. It is active, irrepressible love because it always seeks the other. Its cause is to bring back the alienated and the estranged. This is why that the public face of love is always justice, because its very nature rights every wrong. And herein lies the power of love - in its radical other-centredness.
What are the implications of this scandalous love to the church today? What did Jesus confront and resist?
An invitation from the Men of ABCOPAD to the Men of ABCNJ
We are so glad that 161 registered participants came to our 62nd Annual Retreat of the American Baptist Men of PA and DE in 2016, one of the longest on-going Baptist events in our country. We also had many new men and young men to our retreat this year. It was great to see new churches from all across our region, like the Philadelphia area and the western side of PA.
Our organization has been going through a refocusing, a remolding, and a refining process as we truly seek “QUALITY OVER QUANTITY”! We believe so strongly that, with God's help, we are forging servants for Christ's Kingdom as we grow in our relationship with Him and each other to reach out to change lives for Jesus' sake. Yes, we would love to have many more men come to our retreat.
But, most of all, our desire is to have the best quality conference that meets and challenges the needs of men in this 21st Century.
We would love to see our brothers and Pastors in the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey take advantage of this great opportunity as we host retreat number 63 for men and young men at Shippensburg University, July 28 - 30, 2017. Please read the attached information and prayerfully consider coming this year.
A friend recently asked us: “What do you do as missionaries?” Great question! Since you may be wondering the same thing, here’s our quick answer: Right now, you are partners with us in equipping young Bible school students at a refugee camp, providing more accessible theological education to oral learners through brand new initiatives in two countries, helping Christian workers use business tools to develop innovative and sustainable solutions to pressing social problems, and mentoring the next generation of cross-cultural mission workers.
We had an outstanding COAL (Church Officer and Leaders) training in the North! Excellent preaching and presentation on Millennials in Ministry by our plenary speaker Rev. Dr. Brianna Parker. Dr. Parker gave us some powerful, challenging, and on target insights and teaching about Millennials.
Participants were also challenged by the excellent presentations from all our five focus training sessions. Our Focus Training Leaders prepared our participants to strengthen their leadership capacities in order to serve with excellence in their churches and their local communities.
But if you missed COAL North, you still have another opportunity to be prepared and strengthen to serve! COAL South will be held this coming Saturday, March 11 at First Baptist Church of Hightstown. Our speaker will be Mr. Ngwedla Paul Msiza, President of the Baptist World Alliance, who will be speaking and teaching on Justice and the Gospel!
Our focus training opportunities will include three new ones: Church Budgeting, Becoming a Station of Hope, and Cross-cultural Leadership. Plus an encore presentation from three of our workshops held at COAL North: Creative Bible Studies and New Church Development Panels: When the New is Not So New and A Welcoming Space.
Go to our link https://www.abcnj.net/coal-2017/introduction/ and register today! We can’t wait to see you!
A few days ago three of us in the region office staff went to get a sandwich for lunch at the neighboring Primo's Hoagie Shop. Placed prominently up front next to cashier's box was this "Lent Menu", obviously made with non-meat products - hearkening to the popular tradition of fasting during Lent which has evolved to simply mean "depriving" one's self of certain enjoyable food - in this case, meat products. And to a certain degree, Lent in America has taken on a cartoonish visage. This morning the news showed a clip of Alec Baldwin who was a guest of Jimmy Kimmel the night before, having a jovial conversation about Lent. It turns out that both are Catholics. Asked what he is giving up for Lent, Baldwin responded, to the laughter of the audience, that he once tried to give up cursing, being the foul-mouthed person that he claims to be.
What does Lent mean to you? Is it fasting from your favorite food? Is it giving up momentarily and lightheartedly a peculiar habit?
The gospel writers made a theological connection between the wilderness wandering of the Hebrew slaves, and Jesus' sojourn in the wilderness following his baptism. Whether the number 40 is an actual mathematical number is not the main point of the assertion. Rather, the salient theological basis of the connection is that as God's incarnate Son, Jesus is the "New Israel", God's final covenant, and the inner unity of the Old Testament and the New Testament is celebrated.
We are once again in the season of Lent, the 40-day period (Quadragesima in Latin; and Cuaresma in Spanish) in the Christian liturgical calendar which began on Ash Wednesday and ends the day before Easter Sunday. Yet this very sacred season in Christianity has almost been subsumed in our predominantly consumerist, individualistic and secularized religion of American popular culture.
The Lenten season is a period when the Christian believer is invited back to enter the "sanctuary" of God's presence, the pathway of Jesus - to once again walk in his footsteps, that in so doing we are renewed and reanchored in this lifetime journey of being formed ever closer into the image of Christ. Lent is a time of disciplined spiritual reflection, spiritual self-emptying, repentance and atonement as preparation to commemorate the sacrificial and loving self-giving of God through Jesus and his cross. It is a time to rededicate ourselves to the never-ending ethical imperative of the disciple to be a living and faithful example of whom we follow.
These words from the prophet Amos instruct us:
"I hate, I despise your festivals, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings, I will not accept them; and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream." Amos 5: 21-24 (NRSV)