Annual Session 2016 - Afternoon Highlights


We are always grateful for those who serve on the team of ABCNJ. Penny Kenyon (15 years) Peter Ely (5 years) and Bridge Pastor Bob Santilli (5 years) were recognized for their years of faithful service in the region. And for the first time in the life of ABCNJ we presented the Lifetime Achievement Awards to the Rev. Dr. Edgard Nicolas and Rev. Dr. Lemaire Alerte. For over 40 years Rev. Nicolas and Rev. Alerte have served on the ABCNJ team providing excellent leadership and guidance to our Haitian churches and pastors. Rev. Nicolas has been instrumental in having 10 Haitian churches from Florida join the ABCNJ family. We pray for these two servants as they mentor and pass on the mantle to the next generation of leaders. Friends, family and colleagues were proud to recognize and announce that our Executive Minister and Senior Regional Pastor, Dr. Lee Spitzer completed and graduated with his Ph.D. from the Free University of Amsterdam. On September 6th he successfully defended his dissertation entitled, “The Hand of Sincere Friendship: The Responses of Baptists in the United States to Nazi Anti-Semitism and the Persecution of the Jewish People, 1933-1948.” Congratulations, Rev. Dr. Dr. Spitzer for this great accomplishment! Well done, good and faithful servant!

PhD Celebration

The culmination of our Annual Session was the baptism service. We first listened to powerful testimonies from Sharon Yu and Rev. Dr. Mia Chang.

Sharon, a 12 year old who was recently baptized at the FBC of Haddonfield shared that her desired to be a disciple of Jesus, to have a new life and follow God’s path and to be fully connected with God were all part of her journey to the baptismal waters.

The Rev. Dr. Mia Chang was baptized at the 2015 ABCNJ Annual Session and she shared that being baptized in the aspersion tradition and after becoming a Baptist pastor and having led may people to the waters of baptism, she also felt the need to experience baptism -  by immersion for herself. Her experience was more profound and powerful than she had ever experienced.

This year it was a thrill to give witness to seven baptismal candidates from three ABCNJ churches take their first public steps of faith in front of their ABCNJ family! Anthony Jones and Maureen Jones of Penns Neck Baptist Church, Princeton; Christine Marshall, Jill Burgy of FBC, Manasquan; Ed Borkowski, Karen Borkowski and Kyra Blewett of Ledgewood Baptist Church all said “Yes to opening their hearts and following Jesus Christ!”

Baptismal Candidates are introduced

As we processed to the beach to witness the baptisms, on our left was a celebration of a wedding taking place on the sands of the beach and on our right was a balcony filled with ABCNJ friends cheering on the baptism procession. What a glorious sight!

I want to do it the right way!


As the “designated” photographer for our Annual Session events, I have the fabulous privilege of capturing the “moments” that highlight the essence of our gatherings. And each “moment” is significant in and of itself for that one particular snapshot in time. So it is hard for me as a photographer to make qualitative comparisons between photographs because each represents its own unique context. That said, I would like to lift up one moment during our 2016 Pastors’ Academy and Annual Session weekend of celebrations as perhaps a moment that inspired and moved me most in a solitary way. It was one of the candidates during the ocean baptisms. Ed Borkowski is a member of FBC of Ledgewood, where the Rev. David Holwick is pastor. He is sickly and disabled, and had to be transported by wheelchair from the plenary hall to the boardwalk, and then onto a 4-wheel dune buggy that took him to the edge of the ocean surf. Since he was so frail, weak and heavy set, everybody saw that it was just going to be difficult for him to get immersed. It was suggested that he just stay in the wheelchair and have water be poured on him. But he insisted on “doing it the right way” and wanted to get in the water. It turns out that Ed became seriously ill last year with a brain aneurysm which put him in the ICU for 99 days, followed by an additional 200 days in rehabilitation. Ed’s wife has been attending FBC Ledgewood and pastor Holwick visited him in the hospital. A friendship emerged from those visits, and Ed expressed the desire to visit FBC Ledgewood when he became able. He began attending church and loved it. Surviving his near-death experience led Ed to feel that he was physically reborn. He now wanted the same experience for his soul. When he found about the ocean baptism at Annual Session, he wanted to be part of it! And so with the help of pastors Pete Ely, Joe Gratzel, David Holwick, and Camp Lebanon staff Donald Smith and Hilary Gierman, Ed was taken to the edge of the water. Him having to bend low enough to get in the water seemed impossible. But as he was lowered into the water gingerly, a wave of surf came and crashed over the group immersing all of them. It appeared to me that the Holy Spirit completed the task for Ed. The sight of those men taking him - arm in arm - in and out of the water was inspiring and a truly powerful witness!

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Academy at the 2016 Annual Session a huge success


On Friday of Annual Session weekend, over 120 ABCNJ pastors gathered for the ABCNJ Academy at Annual Session. This year's Acedemy offered an opportunity to listen and dialogue with leaders from other world religions living in New Jersey. We hosted a Buddhist professor of Eastern Religions, the Muslim chaplain from Princeton University and an Assistant Rabbi from a New Jersey synagogue. These leaders shared their experiences living as a member of a minority religion in the United States. They were gracious as they fielded some insightful questions from the gathered ABCNJ pastors and commented about the wonderful hospitality they received. Rev. Hojin Yu asks a question during the AcademyThose in attendance also had the pleasure of hearing reflections from Elie Haddad and Daniel Buttry, both of whom minister in contexts in which gracious interfaith dialog is an essential task.

Elie is the president of the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary in Beirut, Lebanon. He shared the Christian church’s experience and conditions serving in a Muslim majority nation of 4 million people with an influx of 1.5 million mostly Muslim Syrian refugees. Elie also described the lessons being learned by the Baptist churches as they have begun to reach out to meet the needs of others outside their own congregations.

Dan is one of ABCUSA's International Global Consultants on peacemaking, and works through International Ministries. Many times over the years he has conducted training sessions with people groups experiencing conflicts or worked with interfaith groups. He also shared his personal experiences of living in an American city with the largest Arab Muslim population in the United States.

Dr. Spitzer closed the day with a presentation on Christian Evangelism within our multicultural and multi-faith neighborhoods here in New Jersey. Dr. Spitzer's talk encouraged attendees to wrestle with questions both about our theology as Christians and our desire for people of other religions to come to know Jesus as the Savior of the world.

Academy at Annual Session was a wonderful way to kick off Annual Session weekend and reminded participants how gracious listening is an both important aspect loving our neighbors and a essential tool for sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Annual Session is lighting up the night!


Annual Session 2016, now with night life! This year ABCNJ is invited to come out Friday night, September 23, and enjoy a bonfire on the beach. We'll roast marshmallows for s'mores, listen to the amazing Camp Lebanon Band, and enjoy life as the Sun sets. Other fun is also planned 1, so come out and see what's in store!

The bonfire is open to all 2 but youth groups are especially encouraged to attend. Tickets are $10 each or $75 for ten. Bring a large group and save big!

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  1. A "post the best instagram photo of Dr. Spitzer playing limbo" contest has not yet been officially rejected. 
  2. All hobbiest photographers are encouraged to bring their cameras to capture the amazing setting. Professional photographers may also attend, but try not to make others jealous with your equipment. 

Don't miss ABCNJ Academy at Annual Session


Authentic Evangelism from a posture of listening

How should we, as American Baptists, relate to other world religions? How we are called by God to work with people of different faiths? How can we share Jesus’ good news in a religiously pluralistic world? Come and explore these questions alongside your colleagues in ministry.

This is an event every pastor should be strongly encouraged 1 to attend!

Registration includes access to all Academy panels, dinner, and evening bonfire on the beach. Early bird registration is $70 and ends on August 15. Register today! Retired pastors and their spouses can register for free, courtesy of MMBB and ABCNJ by calling the region office at (609) 587-8700.

The Academy at Annual Session will take place on September 23, beginning at 1PM.

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  1. Signing up one's pastor as a gift from the congregation is highly encouraged. All attending pastors will be offered voluntary "selfie" lessons in order to confirm attendance. 

Annual Session 2016 - what a setting!


This year's Annual Session will take place at the amazing Ocean Place Resort & Spa in Long Branch. This picturesque location is right on the beach, and offers easy access to parking and numerous shopping and dining spots.  Why not make plans with some friends and spend the evening after Annual Session enjoying the sights, tastes, and sounds of the Jersey Shore? Or why not gather your church group after session closes and spend some time relaxing together as family?

This is a locale worth spending some time to get lost in the experience!

Early Bird Deadline

The early bird deadline is August 15, so make sure to register soon. It's easy, just use the button below!

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Friday Events

This package includes all Academy Sessions, Dinner, & Bonfire

Early Bird

[label style="success"]Before August 15[/label] $70


[label style="warning"]Before September 15[/label] $80

Late Registration

[label style="danger"]After September 15 & Door[/label] $90

Retired Clergy & Spouses

[label style="success"]Before August 15[/label] FREE

Bonfire & S'mores

[label style="warning"]Individual Ticket[/label] $10 [label style="success"]10 Tickets[/label] $75 [/column] [column size="1/3"]

Saturday Only

Saturday package includes parking, pre-session breakfast, and banquet luncheon.

Early Bird

[label style="success"]Before August 15[/label] $89


[label style="warning"]Before September 15[/label] $109

Late Registration

[label style="danger"]After September 15 & Door[/label] $129


Ages 6-12 $20 [/column] [column size="1/3"]

Full Package

Includes full access to all Friday and Saturday events.

Early Bird

[label style="success"]Before August 15[/label] $149


[label style="warning"]Before September 15[/label] $169

Late Registration

[label style="danger"]After September 15 & Door[/label] $199


Ages 6-12 $25 [/column] [/raw]

Celebration Rate - Baptismal Candidates

Baptismal candidates, as well as up to four family members, can register for Saturday at a special rate. These registrations will be handled by the Region Office.

Before August 15 $69

Get ready for Annual Session!

The 2016 ABCNJ Annual Session will be unforgettable! This year we are moving our venue to the beautiful Ocean Place Resort & Spa in Long Branch, NJ.

Don't forget! Early Bird registration ends on August 15. Why pay more than you have to? Register Today!

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Friday, September 23

  • ABCNJ Academy – Sharing Jesus in a Pluralistic World
  • MMBB Pastor's Fellowship Dinner – Honoring our retired pastors
  • Camp Lebanon Beach Bonfire – Special rates for church groups and youth

Saturday, September 24

  • Annual Meeting – "OPEN" to God's call

Featuring Rev. Marilyn Turner, Mr. Elie Haddad, and Rev. Darrel Armstrong

  • Friends of ABCNJ Luncheon
  • Ocean Baptisms

For more information about this incredible weekend, visit our 2016 Annual Session section on

Downloadable Brochure

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2016 Annual Session Spread - Color

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2016 Annual Session Spread - Greyscale

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