Out of an abundance of caution regarding the ongoing pandemic, the American Baptist Churches USA gathered virtually for the 2021 Biennial Mission Summit on June 24-26. Attendees from across the United States and around the world could participate in worship, workshops, and even a digital exhibit hall through an easily navigated online portal hosted by Cvent.
The theme Imagine was woven into every aspect of the online gathering. The numerous societies that comprise the American Baptist Churches USA each hosted a mix of live Zoom interactions alongside pre-recorded promotion videos within their own unique exhibit areas. During communal gatherings, each group cast a vision for how they Imagine God’s ongoing mission and future ministry through American Baptists.
In addition to these group meetings, the more than 1,000 attendees could schedule one-on-one meetings with staff members from the Office of General Secretary, American Baptist Home Mission Society, International Ministries, American Baptist Historical Society, Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board, American Baptist Women’s Ministries, American Baptist Men, seminaries and colleges, and other groups connected to American Baptist life.
Participants could also link up with friends and colleagues to schedule one-on-one and group Zoom interactions. The Cvent portal was a great venue because it offered many of the benefits of an in-person experience while utilizing the advantages that an online experience offers, such as video replay. This meant you could attend multiple workshops at your convenience regardless of the live schedule. I was able to attend more sessions during the 2021 Biennial Mission Summit than any of my previous six in-person meetings.
American Baptists seek unity in Christ while celebrating our immense diversity. ABC USA is one of the most racially and ethnically diverse denominations in the United States and has a long history of supporting and encouraging women to be pastors and leaders. Additionally, ABC USA places a great deal of emphasis on local church autonomy and the priesthood of believers. Every local church, region, and society is independent and autonomous of one another, yet choose to partner together for Christian mission and ministry.
This beautiful tension of unity and diversity was on full display during the 2021 Biennial Mission Summit. Women and men representing a variety of ethnic, social, and theological perspectives provided inspiration and encouragement for participants to Imagine the kingdom of God in their contexts. Many of the workshops and keynote addresses challenged attendees to continue the gospel work of community building, justice, reconciliation, equality, discipleship, and faithfulness within the context of our unique Baptist heritage and historical context.
If you did not attend the 2021 Biennial Mission Summit live last week, you can still benefit from every workshop and communal session by registering for post-event access here. There you will be able to access the recordings of all the main sessions, including the Caucus Events, Workshops, MMBB Address, IM and ABHMS Highlights, Business Session, Laugh Your Way to Grace, and all plenary worship services. There is also content from over 30 exhibitors, including video and document resources for learning, ministry enhancement and encouragements, Bible study, and other resources from the On-Demand Library. This virtual hub will be available until September 24, 2021.
The next Biennial Mission Summit will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in June of 2023.
Rev. Dr. Greg Mamula is the Associate Executive Minister for the American Baptist Churches of Nebraska, and a contributing writer for Word&Way. He is the author of Table Life: An Invitation to Everyday Discipleship, published by Judson Press in print and e-reader versions from online distributors including Amazon. To learn more information visit www.table-life.org.