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Local church hosts African American event


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–In a break from earlier years, the National African American Fellowship’s annual meeting will take place at a local church rather than the convention center where the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting will be held.

The NAAF sessions, held each year prior to the SBC annual meeting, will begin with worship at 6 p.m. Sunday, June 21, at First Gethsemane Baptist Church in Louisville, where T. Vaughn Walker is pastor.

The evening’s guest speaker will be Lincoln Bingham, pastor of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Louisville and recipient in 2008 of the Kennedy-Boyce Award winner for his work in racial reconciliation over a span of 50 years. The St. Paul Missionary Baptist Sanctuary Choir will lead in praise and worship.

NAAF’s business session will be at 4 p.m. Monday, followed by the annual banquet at 6 p.m., both at First Gethsemane Center for Family Development, which is directly behind the church.

Meeting in a local church “puts our convention in touch with the church and exposes our fellowship to persons who would not normally notice a meeting going on,” said Michael Pigg, NAAF president and pastor of Philadelphia Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga.

“I’m encouraging all African American pastors to come enter into a discussion of fresh leadership that will impact our churches during this new time,” Pigg continued. “This is an exciting time and we want you to be a part of what God is doing.”

This year’s NAAF meeting will include a time for remembering several key NAAF participants who have died in recent months:

— Willie Jordon, who died in mid-December at age 66, was the founding pastor of St. Mark Missionary Baptist Church in Harvey, Ill., a suburb on Chicago’s troubled South Side. What started with fewer than 50 members grew to more than 8,000 over 40 years in part because of the church’s many social ministries.

— Sid Smith, who died April 8 at age 65, was executive director of the Black Southern Baptist Denominational Servants Network, which he founded in 1997. He was director of the Florida Baptist Convention’s African American ministries division from 1994 until his retirement in 2005.

“Most of us literally are standing on the shoulder of pioneers like Rev. Willie Jordan and Dr. Sid Smith,” Pigg said. “The passing of these pioneers has given all of us a wakeup call, reminding us to be ready to answer to our call.”

— Karen Croston, who died Nov. 18 from cancer, was the wife of Mark Croston Sr., NAAF past president and pastor of East End Baptist Church in Suffolk, Va.

— Fannie Kelly, 77, who died March 13. She and her husband Tom Kelly received the Black Southern Baptist Heritage Award in 2003 for their work in California, where he was responsible for the start of at least 270 African American churches and was a driving force in Christian education among African American churches.

During the business session, fellowship members will discuss ways to better serve and strengthen African American churches.

“The National African American Fellowship seeks to encourage African American churches to participate in Kingdom building through the Southern Baptist Convention,” Pigg wrote in an invitation to pastors and members of Baptist churches that worship in an African American context. “In order to accomplish this goal, we need your attendance and support.

“We need you to come, to hear and be a part of the great things God is doing,” Pigg wrote.

Tickets for the Monday evening banquet are $25 each. Call or e-mail reservations by June 15 to 757-539-3324 or [email protected] Only a few tickets will be available at the door.
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Karen L. Willoughby is managing editor of the Baptist Message, newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.