By Shannon Baker, BCM/D National Correspondent
BALTIMORE—Beginning with Annie Armstrong’s motto to “Go Forward!” the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware looked backward to celebrate its rich history during Connect 2010, the annual meeting held in Towson, Md.
During special features held each session, BCM/D staffers recounted the convention’s history, focusing on the lasting influence of Annie Armstrong and on church multiplication, church strengthening and mission efforts throughout the past 175 years.
175 Feature: Annie Armstrong profile
Ellen Udovich, BCM/D’s team strategist for Acts 1:8 missions involvement, focused on the life of Annie Armstrong, who in the late 1800’s “rallied churches to give more, pray more and do more to reach people for Christ at home and around the world.”
Udovich shared about the influence of Annie Armstrong, who was born in Baltimore and ministered to immigrants, the sick and the poor. Armstrong, who later started the Woman’s Missionary Union, is the namesake for the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual offering for the North American Mission Board.
“In the years since her death in 1938, the skyline of Baltimore has changed, but the needs of its people have not. Throughout the city, courageous churches continue to go forward, carrying light into dark places and sharing the hope of Christ,” Udovich said.
To illustrate, she shared video testimonies that highlighted current ministries that seek to help the poor and disenfranchised, from Salem Gospel Ministries’ Barbara Ngudiankama, who works with African immigrants to help them adapt to their new culture and find employment; Open Door Baltimore’s Rebuild Program, featuring Bill Simpson, Dawan Carpenter and Joe Kirby, who shared about workforce development for formerly incarcerated men; Gallery Church’s Ellis Prince, who highlighted a HIV/AIDS testing ministry, among other ministries; The Church on Warren Avenue’s Lyn O’Berry, who shared about many different practical ministries his church does to reach out to their neighbors, including the Sharp-Leadenhall housing development; and Riverside Church’s Ward Holland, who shared about his church’s weekly feeding ministry to homeless men and women.
Lindsey Shaffer, BCM/D missionary for ministry evangelism, shared how the poor now constitute the second largest minority cohort in today’s society, as well as the fastest growing.
The poverty rate in Baltimore is 18.9 percent (or 32, 689 people), she said. Seventy percent of the population of people living in poverty in Maryland lives in Baltimore City, where 27.2 percent or 22,714 children live in poverty everyday.
Shaffer also shared that 70 to 80 percent of households in East Baltimore are financially benefiting from the sale of drugs.
“This is not a symptom, rather an effect of despair and hopelessness,” she shared, adding that, because of the port, human trafficking also exists in Baltimore.
175 Years of Church Multiplication Efforts
In October 1836, six churches formed the Maryland Baptist Union Association, the precursor to the BCM/D, said David Jackson, BCM/D missionary for church multiplication.
“Henry Sater, Benjamin Griffith and Peter Van Horn, along with John Davis were original champions of what we in Maryland and Delaware today know as ‘church-planting,’” he said, especially pointing to Davis’s Winter Run Church, now Harford Church, which was responsible for half of the founding churches of the Baltimore Association.
The first recorded church plants since the incorporation of the MBUA included Gunpowder, Hereford and Forest Churches. Twelve decades later, with the joining of Bethany Church in 1956, Delaware had its first church plant, “sponsoring several missions including Ogletown.”
“Almost everyone here stands on the shoulders of church planters—lay as well as clergy—who have gone before us,” Jackson continued. “In fact, this year we have planted 32 new congregations across our convention, closing this last decade as the most prolific in the church-planting history of the BCM/D. Over the past ten years alone, we have started well over 250 churches!”
Robert Kim, missionary for Asian church planting and development, noted that language churches comprise a large number of the new church plants. He and Rolando Castro, missionary for Hispanic church planting and development, recounted the first language churches in the Convention: First German Church in Baltimore constituted in 1865; First Korean Church (now Global Mission Church), Silver Spring, Md., 1975; Viers Mill Spanish Mission, Silver Spring, 1982.
Today, BCM/D churches worship in more than 20 languages, most recently including Burmese Chin, Japanese, Swahili and Cambodian, every weekend.
175 Years of Church Strengthening
In their presentation, BCM/D’s Randy Millwood, team strategist for leadership development and support, and June Holland, missionary for preschool/children, noted that for the first 150 years, early churches in the convention all looked alike. They took a standard, one-size-fits-all cookie-cutter approach to their ministries, music and curriculum.
These days, it’s “one-size-no-longer-fits-all,” said Millwood, noting that today’s churches come in all languages, traditions, styles, times, tempos, and models. For that reason, the BCM/D offers a variety of ways to help support churches, employing customized conferences, coaching and consulting through one-on-one trainings (such as Living Faith Ministries, http://livingfaithnow.com/values.php), as well as triad, micro and small group training, plus classes, seminars and other group trainings, as needed by the individual churches.
“We facilitate their journey, asking questions toward their finding the answer—their answer—in an unique way in their church with their people,” Holland said, noting
that the BCM/D is “turning toward more systems and more innovations that respect all of our local churches.”
The missionaries shared that the BCM/D’s e-quip.net online training, which has become one of the largest touches members churches have with one another, has continued strongly, offering opportunities for individual or group training. Within the past few years, 4,000 to 5,000 people have been trained by e-quip.net.
Even Horizons, BCM/D’s long-standing church leadership conference, is “on the move” and will meet in two locations this year: March 19 at First Church, Laurel, Md. and May 14 at Colonial Church, Randallstown, Md.
175 Feature: Our Mission Heritage Lives
In her presentation, Wanda Lee, WMU’s executive-director, recognized the BCM/D’s 175th anniversary by presenting an original Missionary Calendar of Prayer for 1915 to BCM/D’s David Lee and Gayla Parker.
Lee noted that the Convention organized well before the WMU did, but that “so much of our formation—our beginnings—happened right here in this place.”
Calling attention to the early missionary spirit that was prevalent in Maryland’s early churches, Lee shared about the Woman’s Mission to Woman, organized 1871 to gather support, namely for Lottie Moon, missionary to China; and the Maryland Baptist Mission Rooms, formerly opened in 1887 to help publish missions information, chiefly operated by Annie Armstrong, who became the first of only seven women to lead the national WMU.
Edith Campbell Crane, also from Baltimore, followed in Armstrong’s footsteps as WMU executive director, as did Kathleen Mallory, who served 34 years. During Mallory’s tenure, the national offices moved to Birmingham, Ala., where she procured free property and facilities for operations. There, several pieces of Armstrong’s belongings are showcased to give honor to the early efforts of the WMU.
175 Feature: Our Universities and Campuses-Mission Tomorrow
Blake Hardcastle, missionary for collegiate evangelism, shared that the BCM/D presently has eight campus ministers shepherding 334 college students across Maryland and Delaware.
Hardcastle shared his goals for the campus ministries to be the local churches’ access to college students, for the students to know and be known in local congregations, and to connect individual students with families within churches.
“My encouragement to you is to join us in this—in fact, many of you are. Pray that we reach out to the students, disciple them and connect them to your people,” he said.