The Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (CPBC) held a series of events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of what happened at a place called Hopevale, a remote valley located in the center of Panay Island. It was there that 11 American Baptist missionaries, one of their children, and four other American citizens hid for 18 months until they were found and executed by Japanese troops on December 20, 1943 at the height of World War II.
Greetings ABCNJ family! It has been a little over a month since I began to serve as your Executive Minister and Senior Regional Pastor. I continue to be humbled and honored in serving alongside sisters and brothers who are committed to proclaiming God’s deeds of power in Christ for all people to hear. I am grateful to be leading in a Region that offers each one of us the opportunity to serve in a manner that encourages conversation and welcomes the differing gifts of the diverse oneness of the Body of Christ.
As we begin this journey together, I want us to consider a specific and intentional posture found in the book of Acts. From the moment we open the book of Acts we are introduced to these words, “they all joined together constantly in prayer…” (Acts 1:14). “When the day of Pentecost had come, they are all together in one place.” (Acts 2:1); “They devoted themselves to…teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer.” (Acts 2:42)
God’s community is invited to come together and join in prayer. Prayer is the language of the heart and community is the quality of the heart. Although to live in community does not necessarily mean to be physically in one place, it does require us to live as one in the Body of Christ. As God’s beloved community we recognize that we are diverse. We are individuals with different experiences and knowledge. And as the ABCNJ community we are strong by the rich diversity of our theological perspectives, gender, age, geography, social economics, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. And in the midst of this diversity we are called to be together by the same Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
When the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost, they were set free to move out of their closed room into the world. They became a body of free people who could stay in communion with each other even though they were not in the same room. ABCNJ, we too are called to practice community and to speak the language of the heart. When we pray, community is created as well as expressed.
In addition to prayer, and in the spirit of Acts 13:2 and 14:23, I also invite you to participate in the spiritual discipline of fasting. We are reminded in Scripture that the community often fasted when they sought God’s will and needed the strength and grace to remain faithful to God’s work. Consider setting aside at least one day a week to the spiritual practice of fasting.
As we enter into a new dawn, ABCNJ family and friends are invited to a Sacred Journey of Prayer and Fasting. Beginning Sunday, February 10 through Sunday, April 21. These are some of the prayers we can lift up together for the next 11 weeks:
The American Baptist Churches of New Jersey
Camp Lebanon Ministries
Pastors and their families
Mentoring young Leaders
Youth and Young Adult Ministry
Churches in leadership transition
Church Officers and Leaders Training (COAL) - March 16, 2019
ABCNJ Ministry Team
ABCNJ Council, Committees and Task Forces
ABCNJ Associations - (Capital, Essex, Greater Delaware Valley, North, Raritan, North Shore, Florida, Watchung, West)
Sacred Safe Spaces: Healing Circles Initiatives
New Church Plants/Fresh Expression Communities
ABCNJ Annual Session - September, 27-28, 2019
Seminaries and University Partners
Chaplains and Counselors
Courageous and discerning conversations for unity in the Body of Christ
Public expression of our faith
Incarnating God’s justice and peace in our local communities
I returned just last night from the Philippines, where I represented ABCNJ at a historic event for both Filipino Baptists and American Baptists. The occasion of my journey was the 75th Anniversary Commemoration events of the executions of 11 American Baptist missionaries in the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army in the Philippines during WWII.
At a specially called session of the region on October 27, 2108, the American Baptist Churches of New Jersey called the Reverend Miriam Méndez as its new Executive Minister and Senior Regional Pastor. With her election, Rev. Méndez becomes both the first woman and first Latinx to be called to this position.
Mariamsina Bekele is a dynamic young woman from Ethiopia. She is a missionary to university students serving with the campus ministry known as EvaSUE. Mariamsina is also a wife, a mother and a terrific Bible teacher.
This past Friday, October 28, a double disaster struck the Indonesian island of Sulawasi. First, a shallow 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck the region. Then, less an hour later, a 18 foot high tsunami tore across the island – devastating the cities of Palu and Donggala. Donggala remains inaccessible by ground, as the the main bridge into the city collapsed during the disaster.
As someone who has been on several search committees, both denominational and academic, I want to let the region know that this was one of the best I have had the privilege to serve on. It had a good balance between men and women, and both ethnic and racial diversity. It was also a good mix of both pastors and lay people. In every way it represented the ABCNJ family.
Council Calls For A Special Session Of The Region
The ABCNJ Executive Minister search committee has been diligently at work for over a year now, overseeing a national search to discern God’s choice for the next Executive Minister who will serve and lead our region into the future. In consultation with the Rev. Dr. Jeff Woods, ABCUSA Associate General Secretary for Regional Ministries, the search committee conducted listening sessions across the 8 Associations of our region. The feedback from those listening sessions helped shape the final job description that was used in the national search.
The search committee received 14 applications from across the country. This group was then narrowed down to 7 applicants who underwent rigorous submissions of written answers to core questions and thorough reference checks. The 7 applicants were then narrowed down further to 3 finalists who were called in for personal interviews with the search committee. After those interviews and prayerful deliberation, the search committee chose the candidate to be presented to the region.
At a regularly scheduled meeting today, August 25, 2018, the ABCNJ Council unanimously voted to receive the recommendation of the Executive Minister search committee. Pursuant to the ABCNJ Constitution and By-Laws, Article V, Section 5.02e, the Council now calls for a special session of the region as provided in the ABCNJ Rules of Procedure, Article II, Section 2.02, on Saturday, October 27, 2018, from 10 AM to Noon when the candidate will be introduced. The region will then have the opportunity to have an in-depth dialogue with the candidate before the vote. This announcement addresses the required 60 days notice as provided in the Rules of Procedure. To maintain as much confidentiality as possible during this notice period, the name of the candidate will be released to the region immediately after the Annual Session. This specially called session of the region will be hosted by the First Baptist Church of Hightstown, located on 125 S. Main Street, Hightstown, NJ 08520, where the Rev. Bruce Wood is senior pastor.
God is the Lord of the Journey, and God oversees our paths and our days with abiding love. I am calling on our entire regional family beginning today to offer up in special prayer this most auspicious moment in our journey, to allow the Holy Spirit to tend to our hearts and minds in these days, and lead us into all that glorifies Jesus Christ. God is on the move!