Christ is Risen, Indeed! The Easter season lasts 7 weeks until Pentecost (this year, Pentecost is on June 5th). In this Easter season, we remember that the disciples experienced the risen Christ as we experience the arrival of spring, as the old hymn “Now the Green Blade Riseth” sings:
Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.
As we emerge in this “pre-post-Covid” time, many of our churches gathered in person for the first Easter since 2020. Some are resuming fellowship with food; others are remaining cautious in care of their elderly and immunocompromised members. One thing we know for certain: our ministry will contain an online component for the future. We have to. Our neighborhoods are no longer the streets around us but the digital reach of our website, streaming and social media.
The Commission on Congregational Mission is hard at work putting together a survey to help your congregations get the support and help they need for technical assistance. This survey will help the Commission pair up churches with volunteers who can assist congregations with needs for upgrading and learning new technology.
We are also recognizing that many of our clergy have carried heavy burdens during this pandemic time. My hope in the next year is to provide space and opportunities for clergy to find respite and renewal. We will be providing spaces (online and in-person) for clergy to gather, to share in their needs, and to have time of retreat and rest. I encourage church leadership to make sure your pastors are taking their days off every week and vacation time. I also hope church leaders will recognize the need for mental health care and provide time and funding, whenever possible, for that care.
I also know many of our churches have experienced loss and grief: death of loved ones, inability to hold funeral services, people who had to move during the pandemic and were unable to say goodbye in person. Many seniors in assisted living facilities have not been out of their homes in two years and may never return to visit in person while they are alive. Church leadership may be wondering how the church will survive moving forward.
And yet, “like wheat that springeth green,” life grows again. We are experiencing a new chapter, with new possibilities for digital ministry and hybrid opportunities. For far too long, churches have been focused on how many people attend Sunday worship and how much money comes into the plate as metrics of success. The pandemic has forced us to shift our thinking and our values. It’s forced us to change our methods and technology. It’s caused us to shift our inward thinking about growth away from the metrics of dollars and people, to outward—how we are reaching people with Christ’s love and what resources we can share.
This shift has been desperately needed for some time. While we didn’t need a pandemic, we did need a wake-up mind-shift. Your region, the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin, is experiencing this shift. My goal is to spend less time in my office over the next year and instead spend more time in your churches, meeting with your pastors and lay leaders, and cultivating this new harvest in this new season of growth.
I’m encouraged! I see so many opportunities for growth and change happening in our churches, large and small, rural and urban. I see models of intentionally inclusive ministry in multicultural settings. I have experienced the love and care of your ministries that reach the most vulnerable in our state. The hospitality and welcome you all have shared with me is an extension of the love you share for one another and for those whom we have yet to meet. Some of our churches and leaders have the ability to be examples and teachers for us. I hope we will create opportunities to learn from each other in the next year.
In this Easter season, may we know the harvest is plentiful, even if it’s just beginning to sprout forth. As we travel through this “pre-post-Covid” time, navigating the changes and precautions to protect the most vulnerable while moving forward, may we look to the new life Christ has sown among us. May we help one another grow, moving away from inward surviving to outward thriving.
Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell
Please see a letter of recommendation from the current elected officials of ABW of WI.
On Saturday, March 5, 2022, Underwood Memorial Baptist Church hosted our first event supported by the New Wineskin Events Grant called Authentic Diversity. Authentic Diversity was an online event in partnership with Rhonda Hill of Race and Faith, Emerald Mills of Diverse Dining, and the Wisconsin Council of Churches. Fifty registrants gathered for just over three hours. We began with a grounding worship service. We then learned about the difference between working as an “actor,” an “ally,” or an “accomplice” in racial justice work. We spent time in small groups digesting what we were learning and ended the day with a panel that included local activists, political leaders, and clergy. All in all, it was a great day and was appreciated by all involved.
Thank you to the Finance Committee and the New Wineskins grant for making it possible. We will begin planning our next event in the coming months.
Rev. Jim Carlson, Ph.D. has retired from ministry. For the last 6 years, Jim has served as the Hispanic Liaison for ABC of Wisconsin. In this unique role, Jim worked with the leadership of the four Hispanic congregations in the region: Kenosha, Iglesia Bautista El Calvario; Racine, Iglesia Bautista Renacer; Milwaukee, Iglesia Evangelica Bautista and the Hispanic Congregation of First, Waukesha. This past year, he has also been working closely with Milwaukee, Smyrna, one of the Karen congregations. In these and many other ways he has been serving the region as a valuable staff member.
Jim is a longtime friend of the region, having served as pastor of Waukesha, First from 2001 to 2012. We wish Jim all the best and extend heartfelt thanks for his ministry.
The following is a piece composed by the pastor of Iglesia Evangelica Bautista, Rev. José Encarnación. Pastor Encarnación is the director of the Hispanic Lay Institute, where he and Jim taught all of the classes.
Sobre Jim Carlson
Conocí a Jim Carson hace muchos años en República Dominicana. En ese tiempo Jim iba a mi país como líder de jóvenes en viajes misioneros.
Unos años más tarde, en una reunión annual de nuestra Región, fui sorprendido al ver a Jim allí. Me acerqué a él, nos reconocimos y entonces hicimos una amistad que ha sido duradera. Estuve presente cuando él fue instalado como pastor de la iglesia First Baptist of Waukesha y, a partir de ahi nuestra relación se transformó en compañeros del ministerio.
Puedo decir que Jim Carlson es un fiel amigo y excelente compañero ministerial; es un fiel siervo de Dios, lleno de humildad y sencillez, excelente maestro y expositor de la Palabra de Dios. Juntos formamos el Instituto Hispano Bautista de Wisconsin con el fin de preparar lideres laicos que sirvan en nuestras iglesias hispanas locales y puedan suplir la eventual necesidad de pastores en nuestras congregaciones.
Jim es un maestro teológico y doctrinal excepcional y él hizo possible que nuestros estudiantes sean graduados por el Seminario Central Bautista de Kansas City.
Su retiro me deja un gran vacío. Siento soledad sin él. Oro a Dios que Jim sea bendecido y prosperado en todo lo que haga y sueño con que él pueda seguir enseñando en nuestro Instituto Hispano.
Te extrañaremos, Jim.
Tu pastor y amigo,
Rev. José Encarnación
About Jim Carlson
I met Jim Carson many years ago in the Dominican Republic. At that time Jim was going to my country as a youth leader on mission trips.
A few years later, at an annual meeting of our ABC/WI Region, I was surprised to see Jim there. I approached him, we recognized each other, and then we made a friendship that has been lasting. I was present when he was installed as pastor of First Baptist of Waukesha and from there we became partners in ministry.
I can say that Jim Carlson is a faithful friend and an excellent ministerial partner; he is a faithful servant of God, full of humility and simplicity, an excellent teacher and expositor of the Word of God. Together we formed the Hispanic Lay Institute of Wisconsin in order to prepare lay leaders who serve in our local Hispanic churches and can supply the eventual need for pastors in our congregations.
Jim is an exceptional theological and doctrinal teacher and he made it possible for our students to graduate from Central Baptist Seminary.
His retirement leaves me with a great emptiness. I feel lonely without him. I pray to God that Jim be blessed and prosper in everything he does, and I wish that he could continue teaching in our Hispanic institute.
We will miss you, Jim.
Your pastor and friend,
Rev. Jose Encarnacion.
I have spent my first month unpacking, getting settled into a routine, learning how to pronounce certain names like “Waukesha” (but don’t ask me to pronounce “Oconomowoc” yet) and meeting many of you! In my first month I have visited nine churches of our region, and I have scheduled most Sundays through mid-June at this point to either visit or preach.
At our Board of Managers meeting on March 5th, I asked the board two questions. The first was “What are your hopes for the Regional Executive Minister for the first six months?” These were some of the responses:
-Make initial contact with all the churches.
-Built relationships in our region, keeping in mind our geographic distribution.
-Connect with pastors and lay leaders.
-Feel welcomed and inspired.
-Feel affirmed in my gifts and skills.
-Reach out if there is anything I need.
-Connect through our methods of communication, including the Synergy.
The responses to this question are excellent ones (thank you, Board of Mangers!), and I wanted to share that indeed, I feel welcomed and inspired, affirmed in my gifts and skills. I am excited to continue meeting you, and I do encourage pastors and lay leaders to reach out to me at email@example.com While my Sundays may be filling up, I am happy to drive and meet people during the week for coffee or to schedule a Zoom call.
The second question I asked was about our board’s priorities coming out of the Strategic plan, and the first priority is leadership. The board brought up the request of some churches to have more training in financial programs and record-keeping. The result of the Board’s conversation is to have a training day in a few months for treasurers in our region. This will go over best practices, tax reporting, program to use, and more. John Jones and I are also in conversation about having a training for church boards and providing resources on restructuring/reorganizing as well as roles and best practices. We will keep you informed as we put together these trainings.
We are also working on opportunities for continuing education for our clergy. Under Ministerial Resourcing on the website, you will find links to some of those training opportunities along with scholarship resources. There may be some trainings that are open to church leaders, and I will share that information as it comes.
My family and I look forward to meeting many of you at the Executive Minister and Family Meet and Greet on Saturday, May 21st from 11-1:30. This is part of the Spring In To Camp. Please let Carolyn Dugan (firstname.lastname@example.org) know if you’d like to attend so lunch will be provided for you.
As we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, may we find signs of new life springing up—both physically and spiritually. May we find the seeds God has planted, in our lives and in the world around us, have begun to break forth. May we have the wisdom to know how to cultivate God’s harvest, and I am so glad to be with you on this journey as the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin.
Rev. Mindi Welton-Mitchell
The Commission on Congregational Mission has taken up the issue of Racial Justice and Racism in the church as its focus for the latter part of 2021 and the first part of 2022. Commission members have been tasked with reading a volume and returning to the Commission with a review of the text as part of the study process.
Rev. Terry West of Milwaukee, New Hope has penned this review of No Innocent Bystanders: Becoming an Ally in the Struggle for Justice by Shannon Craigo-Snell and Christopher Doucot.
ABC Commission On Congregational Missions
Continuing a Second Project dealing with the issue of Social Justice.
“Racism in the Church”
Social Justice: The view that everyone deserves equal economic, political and social rights and opportunities.
Racism: A belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement usually involving the idea that one race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
The book that I selected for review was “No Innocent Bystanders: Becoming an Ally in the Struggle for Justice” by Shannon Craigo-Snell and Christopher Doucot.
A bystander is a person who is present when something happens and who sees it, but does not take part in it.
If churches have a disconnect between the Teaching of God’s word and the Practice of Racial & Gender Justice, the writer’s introductory type book may be a good place to begin the necessary tough conversations, within a congregation. But talking religion and living religion, are two different actions. Conversations are good, but “walking a mile in somebody else’s shoes,” could make all the difference, in the world. As a Viet Nam Veteran, I truly know what “boots on the ground” means! The writers wanted the reader to understand the struggles for LGBTQ Equality and Racial Justice.
First of all, the practical layout of this book is written like a small-group study guide. There are short chapters followed by discussion questions. The writers selected Racism and anti-LGBTQ oppression, as sins that require repentance, reparation, and God’s grace to repair these kind of issues. It is within that framework that the authors covered some of the basics of Racism and Homophobia (a dislike of or prejudice against, the Gay community [LGBTQ]).
(March 8, 2022) Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis (Florida) has signaled he would sign a bill which would ban/prohibit “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender.” The bill has been referred to the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Other states are following Florida’s lead.
Secondarily, getting Ready to Become an Ally in that struggle for Justice laid upon the selected sector of the LGBTQ community for this book. An Ally is one that is acting on behalf of others, in the pursuit of helping to end whatever type of oppression, might exist. This goal can be accomplished by educating others, being a voice for others, being a sponsor for others or being a mentor for others. Every Christian ought to be an Ally!
Thirdly, the author sets out several Resources for Being an Ally one would need to carry out this assignment, by considering the words of the Apostle Paul: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity (love) these three; but the greatest of these is charity (love)” (1 Corinthians 13:13). “For God SO loved the world…” (John 3:16).
Finally, some Concrete Steps are provided in order to carry out the mission. A number of individual leaders share some of their lifetime experiences to shed light on a number of actions they successfully took along their journey in times like these.
Above all, as the body of Christ, as an Ally, let us study, teach and live out God’s word directly and through His prophets of old.
“If my people, which are called by my Name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways: then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)
“The grass witherth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God, shall stand for ever.” (Isaiah 40:8)
“If a man say, ‘I love God,’ and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God, whom he hath not seen”? (1 John 4:20)
“For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in;….Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt 25:40)
“For ye have the poor always with you;” (Matthew (26:11a)
“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good to all men, especially unto them, who are of the household, of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)
As a child of God , a true Ally in the struggle for Justice, a favorite songwriter reminds us:
“If I can help somebody as I pass along, If I can cheer somebody with a word or song, If I can show somebody he is traveling wrong; Then my living, shall not, be in vain.”
Rev. West is ending his term of service on the Commission on Congregational Mission. The Commission and the region at large wish to extend their heartfelt thanks for sharing his time and talents in the work of the Commission.
~Your Commission on Congregational Mission
- Bonnie Sorenson, Wauwatosa, Underwood Memorial
- Carolyn Parker, Milwaukee, Progressive
- Terry West, Milwaukee, New Hope
- Linda Cutler, Milwaukee, Greater Mt. Zion
- Russ Antos, retired
- Karen Sundland, West Allis, First
Camp Tamarack is pleased to announce the dates for this summer:
Sr. High (just finished 9-12 grade): June 12-18
Jr. High (just finished 7-8 grade): June 19-25
Junior (just finished 5-6 grade): June 26-July 2
Grandily Camp (for families and anyone over 18 that wants to attend): July 3-6
Kayak/Canoe Camp: July 8-10
Middler (just finished 3-4 grade): July 10-16
Primary (just finished 1-2 grade): July 10-13
Reunion Camp: July 29-31
There will also be a project “week” camp where you can come help us work on a project or two – week and projects are TBD and info will be added as we know more.
We are assessing our COVID protocols for the summer, but it appears that we may be close to running camps “normally” while keeping a few of our enhanced processes such as quarantining anyone who has symptoms and sending them home, plus we will be keeping up our current cleaning regimen.
Registration will open in April and we will be encouraging on-line registration and payment again.
If there are any questions, please let Carolyn know: email@example.com or 715-281-2269.
Looking forward to a great season!
You are invited to join us at Camp Tamarack on Saturday, Feb 12th for a day of ice fishing! If you have your own equipment, come on up and set up for a fun day on the ice. If you don’t have equipment and want to try or see what it is all about, come on up and we will get you started.
There will be a campfire on the shore to keep warm, plus we will have a lunch available for $5/person.
Looking forward to spending some time in God’s creation!
(Picture was taken on Jan 22, 2022 at Camp Tamarack during a break from the Winter Youth Retreat – photo of Patrick Lehman and photo credit to Caleb Patrie )
The Commission on Congregational Mission of the American Baptist Churches of Wisconsin has chosen as its focus for the first half of 2021 the topic of “stewardship.” The Commission has pursued research on the topic, particularly as it relates to engaging younger generations. Members meet monthly to share their learnings with one another and to develop a strategy for sharing more widely across the Region. The following is a brief reflection on those learnings in light of the effects of the pandemic.
“Realities of Our New Normal”
The COVID 19 era has been a curse and, in some ways, a blessing for so many churches. Several churches have closed while others have flourished. This deadly COVID 19 virus has caused much fear and loss. It has forced the church to permanently change the overall concept of what church means, is and does. This Commission on Congregational Mission has researched current information on stewardship, today’s churches, and their youth. The following is a brief reflection drawn from our efforts.
Discussions about the “graying” of the traditional church were occurring in the years prior to the pandemic. Adults were living longer, and this generation was not training or making a way for successive generations. Countless numbers of young adults and their families were leaving the traditional church. Some traditional churches were having more funerals than baptisms and weddings. Pastors who managed to maintain intergenerational congregations prior to the pandemic have stated that they continue to focus their sermons on universal themes. They have encouraged their members, seniors, and youth to use their smart phones and new technologies in their ministries. Youth were encouraged to help the older generations increase their knowledge of and comfort level with the new technologies that are available to communicate and to worship.
Today’s young adults have found there is now a need in church for their skills with technology and social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube. They have also found church to be a refuge to turn to where they can address the emotional and financial trauma caused by the COVID 19 pandemic. Church without walls has allowed members to continue to fellowship and “congregate” while respecting the public health requirements for social distancing. The longer the pandemic lasts the more creative our churches are becoming, thanks to our young adults as well as Pastors and Ministry Leaders who are “tech savvy.”
Core memberships in several family churches have remained intact and eager to participate in ways not previously imagined. More people are reaching out to our churches and receiving the Good News than were able to in our brick-and-mortar edifices. Today’s churches are still able to provide human services, such as food, clothing, COVID supplies and financial support, to populations in their local church and in their local community. Today’s church members are praying more, teaching more, and reading God’s word in more unique ways. Let us pray that we continue to develop a “new normal” in today’s churches as COVID 19 becomes less of a threat. Let this “new normal” continue to utilize inclusive thinking, intergenerational ways to worship, and multigenerational leadership in service to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The members of the 2021 ABC Wisconsin Commission on Congregational Mission are:
Bonnie Sorenson, Wauwatosa, Underwood Memorial (chair)
Dr. Carolyn Parker, Milwaukee, Progressive
Rev. Terry West, Milwaukee, New Hope
Rev. Walt Hoshaw, Beloit, First
Linda Cutler, Milwaukee, Greater Mt. Zion
Rev. Russ Antos, Ixonia, First
Set aside Thursday, May 13 through Sunday, May 16 NOW for Spring Into Camp 2021 — and get to praying that we will actually have an on-site camping season at Camp Tamarack in 2021!