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N.E. Baptists mark 50 years of ministry


MARLBOROUGH, Mass. (BP)–The Baptist Convention of New England celebrated 25 years as a convention and 50 years of Southern Baptist ministry in New England during its annual meeting, held Nov. 13-15 at the Courtyard Marriott in Marlborough, Mass.

“HIS Story: Past, Present and Future” was the theme for the meeting, which registered 161 messengers from 64 churches, along with 95 guests. “Moments in history” were part of every session. The story of Luther Rice, the Massachusetts native who became the father of cooperative missions giving, was brought to life by James Bryant of Paducah, Ky. Video montages walked messengers through the past five decades of God’s work through Baptists across New England.

The Baptist Convention of New England is comprised of seven associations in six states: Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Adam Houston delivered his president’s address, based on Isaiah 66:1-2, highlighting God’s “glorious position” and our “necessary condition.” As a New England native, Houston personifies the progress of Southern Baptist work in New England, which began in the 1950s on military bases among transplanted Southern Baptists. Now many key leaders in the pastorate and lay ministry are indigenous.

David Saylor, pastor of First Baptist Church in Manchester, Conn., delivered the annual sermon, an encouraging message from 2 Corinthians 4:7-18.

Preaching from Joshua 4:1-7, BCNE Executive Director Jim Wideman illustrated his sermon with a monument of stones brought to the meeting from each association. Wideman identified seven markers — one for each association — that should guide Baptists: early distinctive theology, cooperative spirit, passion for the Great Commission, past heritage as Southern Baptists, present heritage and future heritage.


On Friday evening, former Baptist Convention of New England leaders shared brief stories from their ministry experiences in New England, including Ken Lyle, former executive director; Delores Thomas, who with her husband, Gordon, was the first church planter couple in Maine in the 1960s; and Marge Currin, whose husband, James Currin, was BCNE executive director from 1978 to 1992.

During the annual meeting, an open house was held at the nearby convention building, which is located on the former home site of Luther Rice. A dedication was held for the convention archives, which is named for Merwyn Borders, a former pastor, director of missions, author and historian in New England. Borders and his wife, Linda, were on hand for the dedication.

In the convention’s closing message, James T. Draper, retired president of LifeWay Christian Resources, challenged messengers to remember the past but not dwell on it, to anticipate the future but don’t worry about it and to not miss today as we consecrate ourselves for His purpose. Draper preached at the first meeting of the Baptist Convention of New England 25 years ago, while he was serving as Southern Baptist Convention president.

In officer elections, messengers unanimously re-elected Adam Houston, pastor of Providence Baptist Church in Epping, N.H., as president and elected Bob Wellner, pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Brimfield, Mass., to a first term as vice president. Sandy Coelho, a member of Victory Baptist Church in Rockland, Mass., was re-elected secretary and Sandy Wideman, a member of Rice Memorial Baptist Church in Northborough, Mass., was re-elected historian.

Messengers also unanimously adopted a $2.92 million budget for 2009, a $70,000 decrease over the previous year’s budget. The budget anticipates $717,477 in Cooperative Program giving by the state’s churches, 21.5 percent of which will be forwarded to the Southern Baptist Convention for national and international missions and ministries.

Worship was led by the Singing Men of South Texas and Anointed Praise, a ministry team from New Hope Baptist Church in Ayer, Mass., performed an interpretive dance.

Next year’s annual meeting will be held Nov. 12-14, 2009, in Portland, Maine.
Allyson Clark writes for the Baptist Convention of New England.