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New Englanders exhorted to foster ‘birthplace’ for pastors, churches


HARTFORD, Conn. (BP)–“New England ought to be known as a birthplace for pastors and churches” rather than as “a burial ground” for new ministry endeavors, challenged Randy Fearon. With those words, the Baptist Convention of New England’s president set the tone for the 17th annual BCNE meeting, Nov. 11-12 at New Welcome Baptist Church, Hartford, Conn.
Fearon, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church, Hanover, Mass., reflected on the difficulty inherent in being a pastor in New England. “There have been days,” he said, “when my burial plot has had a down payment made on it.”
Offering poignant examples from the birth of his children, Fearon challenged messengers and guests to transform the reputation of New England as a tough place to minister into a region that is “budding with potential life and ministry.” He observed that New England Baptists “have the opportunity to change the concept of New England from a burial ground to a birthing room.” To illustrate the choice, he held high a shovel and a birth certificate.
Paige Patterson, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, closed the annual meeting on a similar note. Reflecting upon Exodus 1, Patterson suggested that serving a church is similar to midwifery. Both church leaders and midwives know that they “have life and death in their hands” and both should fear God, he said.
Patterson once prayed that God would give him a chance to share his faith every day, insight to recognize the opportunity and courage to act on it. He told of a day when it seemed he would not be able to witness to anyone. After midnight, a traveler knocked on his door. With map and flashlight in hand, the visitor said, “I’m lost. Can you help me?” Patterson recounted providing both geographical and spiritual direction that night.
He challenged the 142 messengers and 91 registered guests from 66 churches to make a 60-day commitment to share faith each day.
Preaching the annual sermon, Mark Acuff, senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Hudson, Mass., asked those present a basic question: “What do you expect is really going to happen as a result of your church or ministry?” Vision and faith are at risk in ministry, being replaced too often by a “lack of spiritual vitality,” Acuff said. Christians should “commit our hopes and dreams and expectations” in ministry to God, he continued. “Lives change when the Word of God spreads.”
Ken Lyle, the BCNE executive director, preached a challenging sermon that committed the state convention to “keep on equipping leaders and empowering churches” in today’s “pre-Christian” world, “a world that no longer has boundaries.”
Lyle observed that it is more important for New England Baptists to be prepared for spiritual developments than the potential year-end “Y2K” computer problem. He urged messengers and guests to “stay ready for the imminent return of Jesus Christ” and live the Christian life “with steadfastness.” He concluded that New England Baptists must “bring missions to the forefront of everything we do” and they should “teach each other how to be in the marketplace” with authenticity.
A stirring 68-minute medley called “God For Us” by a 100-plus-voice choir followed Lyle’s challenge. Phil Young of Island Pond Baptist Church, Hampstead, N.H., directed the musical celebration.
During the annual meeting, messengers also:
— Honored Bob and Susan Brindle and Dick Risas who retire at the end of December. Brindle is the convention’s missions/evangelism team leader who has devoted 33 years to various facets of New England Baptist work. Risas has been director of missions for the Massachusetts Baptist Association for 16 years.
— Adopted a $2,764,747 budget for 2000, which includes, for the third year, a deficit, next year totaling $96,782. The budget will continue to send 21 percent of Cooperative Program receipts to Southern Baptist Convention national and international missions and ministries. The budget includes one shared item, $17,000 for church annuity plan.
— Approved a budget amendment to cover a 3 percent salary increase for BCNE staff. David Platt, senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Sudbury, Mass., made the motion about the salary adjustments.
— Gave an offering of $1,017 for the James H. Currin Mission Fund that provides church construction loans.
— Elected unanimously Dale Morell, pastor of Maine Street Baptist Church, Brunswick, Maine, as BCNE president and Tim Christian, pastor of Island Pond Baptist Church, Hampstead, N.H., as first vice president.
— Heard staff reports about various ministries, partnerships and strategies including BCNE’s four priorities, which are church strengthening, new work, leadership development and resource development.
— Heard a challenge from Jack Parrott, city coordinator for the 2001 “Hearts for Boston” strategic focus city initiative for Boston in conjunction with Southern Baptists nationwide.
— Recognized outgoing board of directors members and elected new board and committee members. The board members, meeting after the annual meeting, elected Maner Tyson, pastor of Waterbury (Conn.) Baptist Ministries, as board chairman. He filled the position Randy Reno vacated.
— Expressed appreciation for New Welcome Baptist Church and all who helped organize the annual meeting, which was the only resolution.
Next year’s annual meeting will be Nov. 9-10 at Grace Baptist Church, Hudson, Mass.

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  • Dan Nicholas