If attendance at Baptist meetings gets one a better venue for the life to come, I will surely be fortunate. Back to back gatherings of CBF in Alabama and then ABC in Virginia challenge even the most resilient of intrepid Baptists, but some from BJC, EthicsDaily, BWA, and Central made both. (I trust you know all the acronyms.)
Why do we do this? It is costly; it is physically challenging; it requires schlepping materials that may or may not find a new home; it involves far too much sitting; etc. Yet, we gather because we encounter persons we would not otherwise see, especially treasured alumni/ae; we hug old friends and catch up with their lives; we learn of new ministry synergies; we brag about our institutions (I am most unseemly about this!), and we encourage one another not to grow weary in well doing. The alchemy of simply being together is bracing and sustains our work.
At the Baptist Women in Ministry annual meeting at CBF, we celebrated one of Central’s students, Andrea Huffman, who received the Addie Davis Award for Excellence in Preaching. As you might imagine, she had her Central tribe with her, and we enjoyed supporting her. (I almost was able to do a backflip once again in tribute!) Life-time trustee Helen Moore-Montgomery was also feted as she received an award from AWAB for her unflinching support of LGBTQIA+ persons. Her faithful lay ministry sketches a lovely portrait of inclusion.
At the ABC Mission Summit, the denomination recognized Distinguished Professor of Pastoral Theology, Dr. Richard P. Olson, as the recipient of the Suzan Johnson Cook Religious Freedom Award. Dick’s work in interfaith circles and his recent book Side by Side position him at the forefront of American Baptists’ initiatives toward understanding religious pluralism. We whooped appropriately as we are so grateful for his remarkable (and venerable) ministry.
Another joy is seeing Central’s Doctor of Ministry graduates flourishing in their ministry. At ABC I saw the respect with which Dr. Corey Fields, Dr. Wallace Smith, Dr. Mary Miller, and Dr. Tom Wiles are held as they serve as a pastor in Delaware and Kansas, and Executive Ministers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island Regions, respectively. They are Central’s “letters of recommendations,” truly.
These gatherings also allow opportunities for some spontaneous fun. BWA was distributing frisbees in the ABC exhibit area, and we soon learned who had spent a little time with this wonderful contraption in earlier years. A few gray beards and one silver-haired woman as well as some younger devotees soon had a very lively game going, with multiple frisbees in the air simultaneously.
I give thanks for good colleagues who represented Central so well, Robin Sandbothe (and Flat Molly!) at CBF, and Francisco Litardo and Angie Jackson at ABC. They embody our seminary’s mission with hospitality and helpful guidance to those seeking to join our story. Current Central students, as well, such as Scotti and Amber Simpson, spent numerous hours greeting people and sharing the story of Central at our CBF booth and even commandeered our Instagram space to do live interviews with personages at the gathering. So, the 2019 Baptist meetings come to a close—except for the Baptist World Alliance next month. It is an opportunity to connect with global partners, which is a large part of Central’s narrative.
Molly T. Marshall
Central prepares leaders for seeking God, shaping Church, and serving humanity and all creation.