MARLBORO, Mass. (BP) — Messengers to the 29th annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of New England celebrated the best membership-to-baptism ratio in the Southern Baptist Convention for 2010 when they gathered in Marlboro, Mass.
Frank Page, president of the SBC’s Executive Committee, told messengers some state conventions only see one baptism per 40 church members in a given year, but the BCNE tallied one baptism per eight church members last year resulting in 1,507 baptisms, the highest in the regional convention’s history.
Bruce James, the convention’s director of evangelism, attributed the surge in baptisms to an increase in church plants, an increase in the number of churches hosting Vacation Bible Schools and more than 100 churches participating in Southern Baptists’ God’s Plan for Sharing evangelism strategy.
A total of 149 messengers and 34 guests representing 63 churches from all seven associations met for the Nov. 11-12 meeting.
Phil Wilkes, pastor of New Colony Baptist Church in Billerica, Mass., distributed books and gifts to each pastor in attendance. He had personally gathered the items from LifeWay Christian Resources and other organizations. Each director of missions received a gift card.
Wilkes, who was serving his second term as convention president, asked evangelist Phil Waldrep to preach during the time allotted for the president’s message.
Waldrep, founder and president of Phil Waldrep Ministries in Trinity, Ala., preached from Mark 1:9-15 and then was recognized for his years of service to New England ministers and their wives. For more than 15 years, Phil Waldrep Ministries has provided an annual retreat.
Messengers approved a 2012 budget of $2,576,652, down from $2.98 million in 2011. New England Baptists will forward 25 percent of an anticipated $659,079 in Cooperative Program receipts to national and international causes after shared ministry items. The North American Mission Board will provide $1.7 million of the budget, LifeWay will add $70,000 and the rest will come from partnerships and investments.
John Scoggins, BCNE’s disaster relief coordinator, reported on the sacrificial work of the convention’s disaster relief teams through the spring floods in Vermont, a tornado in Massachusetts and Hurricane Irene.
Scoggins thanked the scores of disaster relief teams from across the SBC who came to help in the region and said 26 people made professions of faith in Christ through those disasters.
Church planting was highlighted through the Robert H. Brindle Award, which went to First Baptist Church in Sudbury, Mass., and Seacoast Community Church in Portsmouth, N.H. First Baptist has sponsored 19 church plants throughout its history while Seacoast, formerly Screven Memorial Baptist Church, the first SBC church in New England, has sponsored 16 churches during its history.
Steve Nerger, the BCNE’s church planting team leader, said the two churches have been examples of selflessness in church planting, sending forth key leaders for the sake of the Kingdom.
Bob Brindle, for whom the award is named, served New England Baptists for nearly 40 years as a pastor, church planter, director of missions and interim executive director.
The Raymond C. Allen Award for missions and evangelism was given to Pleasant Street Baptist Church in Worcester, Mass., which was a church restart about five years ago and now sponsors several ministries.
Messengers heard a report on collegiate church planting and testimonies from two churches on the impact youth leadership development was having on their congregations.
Work with Nepalese and Bhutanese was highlighted in the ethnic church planting report.
In the election of officers, Ron Mills, a member of Island Pond Baptist Church in Hampstead, N.H., was elected president and church planter Noel Williamson, pastor of Pleasant Street Baptist Church in Worcester, Mass., vice president. Sandy Coelho was re-elected clerk and Sandy Wideman was re-elected historian.
Two resolutions passed unanimously. The first expressed appreciation to Wideman for 10 years of service as executive director, noting his “consistent modeling of servant leadership” and innovative thinking while upholding the convention’s core values.
The Wideman resolution commended his advocacy for New England within the SBC as well as his wisdom, humility, gentleness and the encouragement he has provided BCNE churches. Messengers also expressed gratitude to Sandy Wideman, who “has unselfishly shared her husband” with the convention and who has shown a commitment to mentoring the women of the convention’s churches.
In addition to the resolution, the convention honored the Widemans with a trip to North Carolina, a love offering and a reception.
The other resolution expressed appreciation to vendors who donated gifts for the annual meeting as well as to those who were instrumental in the planning of the event.
The BCNE encompasses about 315 churches and church plants within the six New England states: Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
Next year’s annual meeting of the Baptist Convention of New England will be Nov. 9-10 in Marlboro, Mass.
Based on reporting by the staff of the Baptist Convention of New England.