In light of this very unusual and challenging year of COVID-19, we have had several conversations about how the Gathering would look this year. Our ABC Ohio Board of Regional Ministries met to discuss the concern of bringing 175 people, many of them in the at-risk category, together for a two-day event. In light of the risks to participants, the Board and Staff came to the conclusion that this year’s event will be different than past Annual Gatherings.
The 2020 ABC Ohio Annual Gathering will take place on Tuesday, October 6 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel North in Columbus, the same location as past years. We will meet at 1 PM with Dr. C. Jeff Woods, Acting General Secretary of the American Baptist Churches USA as our keynote speaker. Pastor Benjamin Payne and the praise team of the First Baptist Church of Seville will be our worship leaders. The afternoon will include a brief business meeting, which is required by our region’s constitution. We anticipate that the event will conclude by 4:30 PM. Because of the high risk of banquet-style meals, there will be no meal functions.
We know that some of you will enjoy participating in the Gathering in person. We will practice social distancing in our room arrangement and program. Masks will be required for all who attend. The hotel has assured us that they will take an abundance of precautions to meet safety standards while we are there.
We also know that many of you will want to be part of the day, but will not want to participate in person. We urge those who are ill, at risk, or have a desire to be cautious, to stay at home and participate with us electronically. The event will be live-streamed, so you will be able to be part of the afternoon in real time. More information about the live-streaming will be made available closer to the time of the event.
There will be no charge for this year’s Annual Gathering, but advanced registration will be required. In about a month, we will send registration information so that your church may register delegates and guests. This will assure that we are adequately prepared for the business meeting and for set-up at the hotel.
We are looking forward to 2021 as we anticipate being together for a more complete Annual Gathering next year. You and your congregations remain in our prayers as we continue to navigate the challenges of COVID.
Planning is well underway for the American Baptist Churches USA 2021 Biennial Mission Summit to be held June 25-27, 2021, at the San Juan Convention Center in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In a new video, Interim General Secretary Dr. C. Jeff Woods introduces and gives an update on planning for the event. We encourage you to watch the full video to learn more about the 2021 Biennial Mission Summit.
Congratulations to the 2019 Graduates of the American Baptist Churches of Ohio Leadership Academy!
(Back Row 2019 Faculty) Tim Mohon, Dan Bellavia, Dennis Shultz, Sandra Quick, David Hansen, David Brown, Seth Fallon, Jane Gibbons
VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 5/29/20)—On May 29, 2020, Interim General Secretary Dr. C. Jeff Woods published a letter to American Baptists with a message centered around justice and more specifically, racial justice. Read the letter below.
Dear American Baptists,
The death of George Floyd has caused widespread pain, rage, protests, and violence in Minneapolis and across the United States. I appreciate the input received from officers of the Regional Executive Ministers Council, members of the National Executive Council, and others in constructing a response to this event. While American Baptists have never advocated violence, we grieve with those feeling the pent-up pain from years of racial discrimination and injustice. The horrifying video captured at the corner of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street in Minneapolis has released years of frustration that can never be fully understood by those who have not consistently lived with injustice historically and presently.
Acts of current racial injustice as well as the effects of historic racial injustices have been brought into the light in recent weeks as we recognize that African-Americans have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. In a recent study, the Centers for Disease Control found that 45% of individuals for whom race or ethnicity data was available were white, compared to 55% of individuals in the surrounding community and that 33% of hospitalized patients were black compared to 18% in the community. Unequal access to healthcare, jobs, education, and training have all been influenced by the racialized society in which we continue to live.
Unfortunately, acts of violence have been cast upon many ethnically distinct groups within our congregations and among our international partners. Many Chinese as well as Asian-Americans are being targeted, harassed, and even physically attacked because of comments made about COVID-19. In Malaysia, we are hearing reports of the government using information collected from the treatment of persons affected by COVID-19 for deportation despite earlier statements that no one who sought medical services for the coronavirus would be arrested based on their immigration status.
Racism and Xenophobia have deep roots in American history and culture and wrongs cannot be righted overnight. While expeditious action is critical to the pursuit of justice for George Floyd, dialogue, conversation, systemic change, and continued acts of justice to curb the sources of prejudice and discrimination are needed.
In these tense times of ache and agony and stinging memories of bias and wrongdoing, we are called again to combat racism and resist violence. American Baptists have historically advocated against both violence as well as racial injustice. “Our denominational history is rich with resistance against violence. From Roger Williams speaking in defense of First Nations People, to the Abolitionists, down to Walter Rauschenbusch, and Martin Luther King, American Baptists in particular have been on the forefront for the cessation of violence and the coming of Shalom.” (American Baptist Case Statement on Violence from the 2015 Mission Table). I am calling on people of faith to find the resources of the Spirit to calm their anger. “Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1-3, NASV)
Our denominational history is also rich in working toward justice in general and racial justice in particular. “Racial justice,” as defined in our 1989 ABCUSA policy statement, “is recognizing our oneness in Christ, confessing that we have not become what God wants us to be, and committing ourselves to pressing on to that mark of high calling by which we can become a liberating symbol to our nation and world of what it means to be the people of God. In so doing, we can challenge our nation to live up to its high purposes.”
“Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16, NASV) I charge our American Baptist family to continue to search, advocate, and live where the good way lies.
Dr. C. Jeff Woods
Interim General Secretary
American Baptist Churches USA
April 27, 2020
We have been so blessed and encouraged by the creative and meaningful ways that pastors and congregations have responded to the challenges of ministry through this time of pandemic and quarantine. About 85 percent of ABC Ohio congregations have shared weekly electronic worship services that have included good preaching, prayer, and music. A number of churches have developed prayer and communication groups online, by phone or by email to be sure that their church families are cared for personally and spiritually. Pastors and others have made thousands of telephone calls to check on, reassure, pray with, and stay connected to their congregations. Since Easter, many of our congregations have begun to ask the question, “What comes next?”
Our Governor has announced in the past week that he would like to see the state begin to open up SLOWLY. We believe SLOWLY is an important word as the church prepares for what comes next. As much as we want to be together, the rush to make a hasty return to our previous ways could be disastrous for our congregations. Ken Braddy, Jr., a Sunday School specialist, has developed a series of questions church leaders should answer before they begin to set a date for the church to gather again in person. We recommend that your church consider some similar questions…
The following are recommendations from the Regional Executive Ministers Council for American Baptist Pastors during this time of the COVID-19 crisis and restrictions.
Traditional pastoral ministry has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 crisis and government Stay at Home directives. It has changed dthe way we worship, fellowship and provide pastoral care. In general, there are to be no groups of ten or more people.
1. Worship services should not be held in person. Services should be held by Facebook, streaming, and video conference.
2. Memorial services should be restricted to immediate family members of ten or less people. Larger services should be planned for after social distancing restrictions have been lifted.
3. Wedding services should be restricted to immediate family members of ten or less people. Larger celebrations and/or receptions should be planned for after social distancing restrictions have been lifted.
4. Pastoral calls to those in the hospital, nursing homes, and shut-ins should be postponed until after social distancing restrictions have been lifted.
5. People in hospitals, nursing homes, and shut-ins are considered at high risk of being infected with the virus.
6. Pastoral care must take on other expressions: greeting cards, phone calls, email, texting, Face Timing, and other creative ways to be present.
7. The ministry of prayer has been become even more important.
Best Practices for Funerals During the COVID-19 Crisis:
ABC USA Resources: