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ABHMS’ Longest-Serving Volunteer Receives National-Recognition Ministry Award

VALLEY FORGE, PA (10/18/19)—American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) Executive Director Dr. Jeffrey Haggray has presented the 2019 national-recognition Jitsuo Morikawa ABHMS Healing and Transforming Communities Award to Anna Young, aged 88, the organization’s longest-serving volunteer. He presented her with a plaque and cash award in early September at Lackawanna County Prison, Scranton, Pa., where she has been ministering since 1971.

 

Haggray thanked Young for her outstanding leadership and exceptional effectiveness in holistic ministry in an urban, small town or rural setting. Young’s Project Re-Entry group seeks to help every inmate find purpose through faith. She not only leads worship and Bible study but also gathers donations from area churches and community groups to fill bags with candy and personal-care items for inmates. She provides returning citizens with attire for job interviews, and she has temporarily housed more than 100 former inmates in her home.

The Rev. Kadia Edwards, ABHMS national coordinator of Volunteer-mobilization and Disaster-response Ministries—who also attended the awards presentation—noted that the prison’s incarcerated women were originally not intended to attend the awards presentation. However, based on Anna’s insistence, five of them were permitted to attend. Young’s influence at the prison is wide and deeply felt.

“Anna has such a level of respect in that prison,” Edwards says. “Everyone spoke about what a joy and blessing she is to be with.

“She embodies what it means to live out one’s calling,” Edwards continues. “Few could walk away without feeling her impact.”

At the close of the ceremony, Haggray and ABHMS staff gathered in a circle with Young, inmates and correctional center staff for a moving time of prayer.

ABHMS’ other 2019 national-recognition ministry awards were presented at American Baptist Churches USA’s Biennial Mission Summit in Virginia Beach in June. Recipients were selected by ABHMS’ board of directors from nominations submitted by clergy and laypersons across the United States and Puerto Rico.

American Baptist Home Mission Societies partners with American Baptists to promote Christian faith, cultivate Christ-centered leaders and disciples, and bring healing and transformation to communities across the United States and Puerto Rico.

American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with approximately 5,000 congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.

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Generosity Is…Giving Ourselves to God

The Generosity Project is a collaborative effort between ABCUSA, regions, and local congregations.  The Generosity Project aims to help pastors re-frame the conversation around stewardship and generosity in their congregations. Bi-monthly blogs help support new growth and understanding as we deepen our ministry and discipleship.

 

Parker Palmer wrote, “…the most important sentence I’ve ever written is that one word, “Enough.” Said on the right occasion, that word can safeguard one’s soul, and saying it comes more easily with age. These days I say “enough” without hesitation to anything that’s not life-giving for me and for the people and world I care about—whether it’s frenzy and overwork, a personal prejudice, an unhealthy relationship, a societal cruelty or injustice…I no longer ask, “What do I want to let go of, and what do I want to hang on to?” Instead I ask, “What do I want to let go of, and what do I want to give myself to?”

As fall descends, we enter the season of letting go. I appreciate Parker Palmer’s wise words about knowing when to say “enough.” In a world full of the temptation for more—more stuff, more work, more busy-ness—“enough” is a sacred word. But this boundary claiming isn’t just about paring back. It is about gaining the wisdom to know what to invest ourselves in with our time, talent, treasure, and temperament. I believe generosity asks us, “what do you want to give yourself to”? Our commitments, our actions, our words, and even our budgets become the answer as we live it out.

And this question isn’t just for the individual, but for the church, for my congregation and yours. What do we want to give ourselves to? What does God want us to give ourselves to?, well, that’s an even better question. We cling to our traditions and the things we have always done, we spend endless hours in committees and talking our way around, but what does God want us to give ourselves to now? Chances are, in our ever-changing world, it doesn’t look like what God was asking of us 50 years ago. I think we would do well to spend time with this question, in prayer and in communal discernment. Listen for God’s voice leading us—and then, may God help us find the courage to go where God sends us.


Rev. Stacy Emerson is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, CT and the Stewardship Consultant for ABCUSA. She is also the Coordinator for The Generosity Project which is about helping congregations deepen their understanding of stewardship as a call to generosity as disciples of Jesus; re-framing the stewardship conversation; and cultivating generosity in pastors, lay people, and congregations.

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