The National Baptist Convention of America, International met in person at St. Stephen Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky, and online for its 142nd annual session.

Members gathered from across the country and Samuel Tolbert Jr., president of the organization, welcomed them to the city of the late boxing champion, Mohammad Ali.

“During the week, we will have an opportunity to hear reports of our stewardship, be challenged to intentionally do church differently in this semi-post COVID era, call for economic justice and debt-free living, as well as support evangelism, missions, and education,” he said.

Tolbert added: “We have some great preachers this week and I look forward to us being blessed by the Word.”

A sidewalk leading into a church building with a sign in the grass next to the concrete sidewalk.

(Photo: Starlette Thomas)

Hosted by St. Stephen Baptist Church and in partnership with Simmons College of Kentucky, host pastor and president of the college, Kevin W. Cosby shared his excitement.

“Our mutually beneficial partnership represents an exciting model for Black organizations sharing their strengths and resources to create even stronger institutions,” Cosby said. “As Simmons College of Kentucky and NBCA, International labor and build together, our capacity to accomplish more increases exponentially. For more than a century, each of our organizations have pulled our respective weight apart from each other, working toward the progress of our people and institutions.”

This theme of partnership continued throughout the gathering of hundreds of members. It is also a part of the organization’s mission, which seeks “to positively impact and influence the spiritual, educational, social and economic conditions of all humankind.”

The meeting sought to cover all bases and address the various needs of attendees. From food trucks to lively panel discussions and energetic worship services, from start to finish, the National Baptist Convention of America International demonstrated a coordinated ministry effort.

People standing in rows during an event looking toward the stage..

(Photo: Starlette Thomas)

Beginning with the president’s reception at the organization’s retreat center and including special tributes to Forestal Lawton, a longtime Brotherhood Union Auxiliary president, as well as Hattie Wade, a devoted director of music, this set the tone and established a deep sense of gratitude and praise for all who had partnered and shared their gifts with the convention.

A mix of tradition and pandemic realities were evident, as ushers handed out programs, masks and mints to well-dressed participants. The Usher’s Auxiliary also offered an instructional training for new members. The “Pastors and Ministers Convocation” highlighted the marks of “The Five Star Church,” while reviewing the church’s current rating. There was also a special emphasis on fundraising.

The Senior Women’s Missionary Auxiliary, led by Barbara F. Wright, agreed that they were “privileged to serve” as good stewards of their gifts. The Junior Women’s Auxiliary had a comparative discussion on their work pre- and post-pandemic to determine their future as part of the organization

The Brotherhood Union Auxiliary featured brief morning devotions, special presentations and multiple panel discussions. The Health Awareness Team focused on Monkeypox, church safety regarding mass shootings, as well as the abortion debate and the church’s response.

A man standing behind a podium holding a microphone while speaking.

(Photo: Starlette Thomas)

On the “President’s Night,” Tolbert was praised for his work by pastors from around the country. He then addressed the member body.

Forgoing his report, he delivered a powerful message titled “A Case for Reparations” that ended with a standing ovation.

Centering restorative justice and making a case for reparations to the descendants of Africans who were enslaved in America, Tolbert told the audience, “Slavery is a sin” and then cited its affects in African American communities.

The annual session also included a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony at Simmons College of Kentucky, which is now the site of the NBCA’s new national headquarters.

With talented soloists and dynamic choir renditions, music also played a central role. Participants were treated to a free gospel concert, “An Evening with Ricky Dillard,” a Grammy award-winning gospel artist, which concluded the meeting.

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