RICHMOND, VA - In a service focused on a theme of "Centered in Christ: A Worshipping People," delegates and visitors to the American Baptist Churches USA Biennial Meeting here concluded their gathering with an inspirational concert by well-known Christian musician Ken Medema and a sermon by the Rev. Yamina Apolinaris. Medema, who has performed at many American Baptist events over the past three decades, shared many of his own songs and provided improvised responses in music to the sermon and other program elements.
Apolinaris, former executive minister of the Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico, brought a message based on the account of Jesus and the unnamed woman at the house of Simon the Pharisee recorded in Luke 7: 36-50. The woman, she said, expressed "not a word, not a whisper, just tears-wetting Jesus' dry and sore feet with tears of silence. Many of us have forgotten what it is to shed tears like that... Many times there should be nothing else we can do but cry, but we end up just talking-telling Jesus what we want and what he has to do about it."
"We have lost out capacity to be still and silent before God. To cry is not to give up. This was no weak woman; she had to be strong to do what she did...." Through her "tears of hope, tears of possibility, tears of worship," Apolinaris said, the unnamed woman "was a paradigm of true worshipping."
During the service President David Hunt recounted his year and a half of leadership and his expectation for increasingly effective and dynamic American Baptist mission and outreach. He emphasized that "while we have our differences, our common goal is to serve God." He introduced President-elect Peggy Johnson, who expressed her hope that American Baptists will "agree to differ, resolve to love and unite to serve."
Significant anniversaries were noted during the session and throughout the gathering: Interim Ministries-ABC, 25 years; the Woman's American Baptist Home Mission Society, 125 years; the American Baptist Historical Society, 150 years.
Earlier in the day the Rev. Dr. John Sundquist, retiring executive director of International Ministries, addressed the International Ministries luncheon. "I have learned so much from the global church, " he said. "The majority church is a good news people. Bad news does not drain their passion, destroy their spirit, limit their vision, crush their hope. The global church is a people centered in Christ. The good news is the person and work of Jesus."
"Remember this," Sundquist emphasized, "American Baptist International Ministries is the only mission in the world that created a denomination.... It was a movement bubbling up from the churches empowered by the Holy Spirit.... When we connect with the global church we together become God's good news people, centered in Christ and on speaking terms with the Holy Spirit. And then we will once again discover that God id not through with us yet, and that our future is as bright as the promises of God."
The 2003 Biennial Meeting included approximately 3,350 attendees, performers, volunteers and others. Participating were 1.495 delegates and 596 visitors.