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1 millionth SBC messenger, Jennette Briggs, registers


SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–At 8:45 a.m. on Monday, June 8, Jennette C. Briggs of Fort Worth, Texas, stepped into Southern Baptist Convention history as she became the 1 millionth registered messenger for annual SBC meetings.
“I think it is a great day to have passed this significant mark,” said SBC Recording Secretary Lee Porter, Lawrenceville, Ga., said, “and the importance of it is that individual Southern Baptist churches select individual messengers and send them to the convention.” The annual SBC meeting will be held June 9-11 in Salt Lake City, marking the 141st session in the 153-year history of the Southern Baptist Convention. The first meeting of Southern Baptists was held in 1845 in Augusta, Ga., when 293 messengers were registered.
Quite surprised by the announcement, Briggs, director of alumni relations at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a member of Fort Worth’s University Baptist Church, said she has been attending the annual event for more than 40 years and is excited to see “this many people have attended the convention over the years.”
Upon naming the 1 millionth messenger, Porter then greeted Keith Markham, pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church, Layton, Utah, and registered him as the 1,000,001st messenger.
Markham said the event was significant not only for the SBC, but for Utah Baptists as well. “Being a pastor in Utah, we believe this is the place for God’s kingdom in the next century and I’m glad to be a part of that for the next century and for the next million,” Markham said.
Not until their eyes had recovered from the camera flashes did Briggs and Markham realize they knew each other and expressed excitement at seeing each other again.
The beauty of the annual meeting, said Briggs, is making new friends, renewing old friendships and picking up conversations that were left from the previous convention.
Potential future leaders of the SBC had a role in registering Briggs and Markham. Summer missionaries LeAnn Linton, Germantown, Tenn., a recent graduate of Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., and Sarah Dawson, Shawnee, Okla., a senior at Oklahoma Baptist University, greeted Briggs and Markham at the registration booth and helped them complete the registration process.
The job of keeping accurate registration figures has been Porter’s responsibility for 22 years. Of the 1 million messengers who have attended annual SBC meetings, 45 percent or approximately 450,000 have registered during Porter’s tenure.
After the first SBC meeting in Augusta in 1845, it took 43 years to break the 10,000-messenger mark. In New Orleans in 1930, the SBC passed the 100,000-messenger milestone.
The annual meeting in Miami in 1952 marked the first year more than 10,000 messengers were registered at one convention. In 1975, when the SBC was again held in Miami, Southern Baptists achieved the 500,000-messenger mark.
The three conventions with the largest messenger registrations are Dallas, 1985, 45,519; Atlanta, 1986, 40,987; New Orleans, 1990, 38,403. Among 150 volunteers staffing the SBC registration process was Lucille Hurley, who, at nearly midnight on Wednesday, June 3, boarded a Greyhound bus near her home in Roanoke, Texas. After a 36-hour bus ride and a few hours of sleep, she met Saturday, June 6, with other registration volunteers for training prior to the SBC annual meeting.
Jim Harding, executive director of the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Convention, told registration volunteers they “are on the threshold of one of the greatest events to happen in Salt Lake City. Let’s share the love that is special to this area.” Despite years of painstaking attention to detail, Porter still finds joy in registering messengers.
“I insist the registration process be done with real integrity,” Porter said. “When there is a lack of integrity, it hurts the entire cause. But if it is done properly and if everyone registering is treated fairly, it brings me joy.”
Porter reminds volunteers that, in many cases, their face is the first that messengers will see when they arrive at the convention center. A warm smile, a great attitude and a friendly greeting go a long way in helping messengers begin the convention in a positive way, he said.
While most registration volunteers are from Salt Lake City and surrounding communities, others like Hurley have traveled from other states. Southern Baptists serving in the registration process are from Oregon, Colorado, Florida, Utah, Idaho and Texas.
Hurley, a 64-year-old grandmother and member of First Baptist Church of Roanoke, had two reasons for coming to Salt Lake City: to visit her daughter in nearby Ogden and to be a volunteer at the convention. Being a registration volunteer means personal sacrifice, Porter said. Many take vacation from work, some are away from their families and all work an average of five hours a day helping messengers register and distributing ballots, name tags and program schedules.
On-site preparation for registration began in October 1997. The opportunity to see the Lord’s work firsthand was enough for coordinators Ann Anderson of Salt Lake City and Terri Korn of Boise, Idaho, to agree to the task of enlisting volunteers.
“Finding 150 people to help was not an easy task,” Anderson said. “But in the closing days before the convention, it all came together. It reaffirms your faith in prayer.”
Of the almost 40,000 SBC churches, an average of 5,000 congregations are represented at each annual event, Porter said. He predicted the 1998 convention will draw 8,000 to 10,000 messengers.
The first step toward computerized registration will debut in Salt Lake City, Don Magee, director of information and technology for the SBC Executive Committee, said. Printed, easy-to-read name tags with the messenger’s name and state will eliminate hand-printed name tags used in previous years.

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  • Steve Achord