The Rev. Billy Russell has been pitching the merits of Minneapolis to fellow National Baptist Convention members across the nation for two years, and this week about 15,000 faithful are taking him up on his offer to visit the Twin Cities for the denomination’s annual gathering.
It’s an unconventional location for the group. The National Baptist Convention USA is the nation’s largest, predominantly African-American religious denomination. The vast majority of its 7.5 million members are from the South, where the historic denomination was started more than a century ago.
For its Minnesota leaders, hosting the event is a way to deepen connections and share ideas with their national colleagues, as well as to showcase a state that isn’t well-known by members of the faith.
“I’ve been traveling around the country to promote this, and the rumors I had to dispel!” quipped Russell, president of the Minnesota State Baptist Convention — the word “convention” meaning their denomination.
“People ask, ‘Should I bring a coat? Are there many black people there?’ ” he said. “I thought this would be a great experience for Minneapolis to have that many African-Americans coming to the city and making a difference. And it would be good for the church.”
It’s just the second time that the National Baptist Convention, started in 1880, has held its annual convention in Minnesota. With 30 churches serving about 10,000 members, and a relatively small black population in general, Minnesota has among the fewest adherents to the faith.
“We are delighted to be coming to Minneapolis,” said the Rev. Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention, crediting Russell with persuading them to visit. “Our main thrust while in the city is to help equip our churches to become much more effective in light of today’s culture, to extend the life of Christ, and to express His love.”
SOURCE: Jean Hopfensperger
The Minneapolis Star-Tribune