Southern Baptist messengers in New England gathered for what was considered to be a historic meeting for multiple reasons. It was the first time the annual meeting was held at an ethnic church, Iglesia Casa de Oracion, in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the first time the annual sermon was given in another language — Spanish.
With the theme “The mission field has become the mission force,” the Baptist Churches of New England’s 40th Annual Meeting was held on Oct. 28–29. The phrase, coined at last year’s annual meeting, describes what God has been doing within and through ethnic ministries in New England.
The meeting drew 187 in attendance, which included 121 representatives and 66 guests, and a large delegation of Brazilian pastors and leaders from around New England. Israel Kelly and the Casa de Oracion worship team led worship in English and Spanish.
Driving force of the mission field
Terry Dorsett, BCNE executive director, moderated a panel with the regional coordinators, each sharing highlights of the past year in their regions, showing how the meeting’s theme has become a reality across New England and beyond.
Randall Curtis, the coordinator for Rhode Island, shared about “Hispanic pastors in the state looking at going over to Spain to help support missions in Spain.”
Sam Taylor, coordinator for the Greater Boston area, talked about meeting with small groups of pastors, including multiple ethnic groups like Brazilian pastors and Haitian pastors who are excited and eager to do ministry in the city.
Joe Souza, the ethnic ministry coordinator, noted that “the driving force of ‘the mission field becoming the mission force’ is evangelism.”
Souza and his team have been mentoring and training second-generation young adults from various ethnic churches in evangelism and recently traveled to London following their training.
In his report, Dorsett also highlighted the importance of evangelism, speaking from Acts 1:8 and reminding attendees, “We are someone’s ends of the earth.”
“Immigrant churches, historic indigenous churches, and small churches in out-of-the-way locations have become the mission force in New England,” he said. “They are increasingly moving into leadership roles to help new Englanders reach our Jerusalem, our Judea, our Samaria and our ends of the earth. Will we be filled with the Holy Spirit and join them in God’s work?”
Touching on this same idea, Javier Chaves, senior pastor of Iglesia Amistad Cristiana and visiting professor of missions and evangelism at Truett McConnell University in Georgia, gave the annual sermon in Spanish, with a translator speaking after him. Chaves preached from Ephesians 3 with a message titled, “For this cause, I bow my knees.”
He charged attendees to continually seek Christ on their knees in prayer, saying, “Brethren, we need to be full of God…The church needs more of God and His presence. The true church of Christ will always bow their knees before God.” Chaves led a time of prayer, with many coming forward to pray on behalf of New England.
During his presidential address, Stephen Woodard spoke from the book of Ruth, emphasizing Boaz as Ruth’s redeemer and protector.
Woodard referenced the SBC sexual abuse report saying, “Those who had the means to provide and protect, they didn’t have the moral resolve to do the right thing because it would cost them. And we’ve got our own tests coming down the pipe. Stepping up to redeem those in need is going to cost us something. It will take more than just means; it will take incredible resolve as well.”
Woodard reported on the past year’s board meetings, saying, “I have personally watched your BCNE staff and board of directors make sure that things get done and done the right way.
He added, “Your board shelved other stuff so they could participate in a special training for sex abuse response. There are people working to ensure our BCNE policies and procedures are where they should be. We acted, and some things are still in committee because we want to get it right … As the Lord lives, I am confident that we will get the matter settled.”
Maner Tyson, the board chairman, gave another charge emphasizing the importance of safety in BCNE churches, saying, “We’re making recommendations … We don’t want this to happen in New England, and we want to set the model for you as churches that you’ll go back and look at your own policies and adjust or make new ones to protect your churches.”
Reports, new officers
Interspersed in the day’s reports were videos titled “God Stories Around the BCNE,” with short testimonies of pastors, church planters and leaders, sharing first-hand what God has been doing in their region through new church plants, compassion ministries and partnerships.
The Robert Brindle Church Planting Award was presented to Pastor Neal Davidson, who graciously accepted and said, “My prayer has always been that, as New England Baptists, it will always be in our blood to be church planters.” Pastor Davidson, a Massachusetts native, has planted two churches, supported dozens of church plants in New England, and previously served as the Church Planting Director for the BCNE.
The Ray Allen Evangelism Award was presented to the Portuguese Baptist Church of Saugus, MA, pastored by Silvio Simões from Brazil, whose church tripled in size since he began pastoring there ten years ago and who engages in “creative evangelism.”
In a unanimous vote, Steven Woodard and Lierte Soares, Jr. were re-elected as president and vice president, respectively, and representatives approved a $3,077,831 budget for 2023.
The second day of the annual meeting took place at City United Church in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, with 314 attendees packed in for The Vitality Conference.
The morning plenary sessions were full of practical training from three speakers. Sam Rainer, president of Church Answers, shared the “Five Best Practices for Church Revitalization Right Now.”
Certified church coach Mike Rubino gave a message titled “Traveling the Revitalization Road Map.” Jeff Christopherson, national leader for the Canadian National Baptist Convention, gave the final plenary session titled “How Secularity is Opening a Wide Open Door for the Gospel.”
There were breakout sessions on various topics, including family ministry, church planting, revitalization, Biblical entrepreneurship and immigrant ministry, the most attended. Second-generation Brazilian young adults led worship and showed another display of “the mission field becoming the mission force.”
Next year’s annual meeting will be held Nov. 3–4, 2023 in New Hampshire.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Renee Ghobrial and originally published by Baptist Churches of New England.