As you prepare to turn the page to our coverage of 2019 Annual Meeting, please consider these observations from our reporting team in Marion. It’s a brief look at our yearly big Baptist family reunion.
The Meeting that almost wasn’t
Some years, the Annual Meeting theme emerges quickly, and with it the content to populate the challenge and promote the event. Consider 2017 and 2018, when the state’s bicentennial, Mr. Lincoln, and his log cabin fueled our thoughts about “Pioneering Spirit.”
And then there was this year. In our planning sessions, we knew the Meeting would, in some way, be about the revitalization of our churches and ministries, but knowing what shape it would take was a long time coming. One leader described the overwhelming flurry of activity as “the heart attack that is the week before Annual Meeting”—except that it lasted many weeks—and still without the assurance that it was leading to something big, important, or worthwhile.
Then, just ahead of our arrival in Marion, one vital production team member was waylaid by illness, a key leader’s wife experienced illness that prevented her traveling, a presiding officer had a mid-week funeral alter his participation, a platform presenter had a car mishap, and we had to report breaking news that broke our hearts.
What good could come from the Marion meeting?
In the end, refreshment and refocus could come from it all.
After the whirlwind, a still small voice.
And God showed up. Again.
Southern Baptist Convention President J.D. Greear commented recently on how many of the pastors and church leaders he’s heard from are broken about sexual abuse in the denomination, and ready to take action to protect vulnerable people. Illinois Baptists showed the same spirit after I shared in Marion about a recent conference designed to help Baptists navigate the abuse crisis.
In hallway conversations and quick visits between business sessions, they echoed IBSA President Adron Robinson’s words: “We have to do better.” Better at reporting allegations of abuse, they told me, better at taking new measures to prevent it, and better at supporting those who lived through it.
They wondered aloud how abusive adults could continue to move from ministry role to ministry role, and committed not to let it happen on their watch. Their steely resolve was an encouragement to me, and a reminder that a united front against abuse is imperative as Baptists find a way forward.
Dear hearts and busy people
The couple of months leading up to the IBSA Pastors’ Conference and Annual Meeting were a whirlwind for the Church Communications Team. Then, when the meeting started, the pace picked up!
Exhibit hall set-up began Monday afternoon, the Pastors’ Conference started Tuesday, and the Annual Meeting ran Wednesday afternoon through Thursday noon. Through it all I rushed from place to place to check on exhibitors, answer questions, snap photos, post meeting updates online, and take notes of meeting proceedings for the Illinois Baptist. When it was over, it seemed a blur.
During the meetings I felt like I was everywhere and nowhere, wondering what I missed when I stepped out to be someplace else.
In between there were good times to catch up with longtime Illinois Baptist friends and hear wonderful stories of how God is at work in their lives and churches. It’s the best part of the meetings that makes all the busyness worth it.