I was just thinking about the numerous calls, texts and emails I have received, asking about the 2020 BMA of Arkansas meeting.
An associational meeting on the campus of Central Baptist College is always a wonderful experience. President Terry Kimbrow and his staff are exceptional hosts for the messengers and guests from the churches comprising the association. CBC always goes “the extra mile” in planning and preparing for the meeting. Such preparation is done in conjunction with the associational officers.
However, at this point, we have little idea what the meeting is going to look like — if we are able to have it at all. I have corresponded with the Governor’s office and, as of today, we are urged to continue planning. However, COVID-19 has proven that it is no friend to large gatherings in our state.
Next week, First Vice-president Dr. Gary O’Neal, Second Vice-president Michael Battenfield, CBC Director of Church Relations Duffy Guyton and I will have a first meeting to lay out plans for the 71st Annual Session of the BMA of Arkansas, scheduled for Thursday evening and Friday, Nov. 5-6. I humbly request that you pray for us as we work through a number of potential obstacles and hindrances.
The last couple of months, churches in our state have resumed meeting for worship services. Most have had little difficulty preparing their sanctuaries for social distancing and have gone to great lengths to ensure that seating is in line with state guidelines. They have also prepared with proper sanitizing of surfaces and providing hand sanitizers for worshipers. So, it seems we can easily follow those same procedures, right? Not exactly!
The associational meeting is not a single worship service. Preparation must be made for committee meeting rooms, for the Womens’ Missionary Auxiliary and the State Brotherhood to have places for their meetings, and the common area outside the Burgess Auditorium has to be prepared for social distancing before messengers and guests can enter. Registration tables are required, especially for the messengers from the churches as they register in preparation for voting throughout the meeting. Will we utilize plexiglass shields or just depend upon the wearing of masks for protection during these face-to-face encounters?
Previously, the college has provided opportunity for those attending the meeting to enjoy meals in the cafeteria. That is another big consideration when planning for the association.
For decades, the associational meeting has enjoyed the various ministries and departmental displays in the hallways of the Cooper Complex. We must weigh options regarding whether to have those this year or not.
I have been attending the annual sessions of the BMA of Arkansas since 1964, and I love taking part in these meetings. It is always a joy to see friends and family that some had not seen since meeting the previous year. Firm handshakes, big hugs, beaming smiles and laughter are all integral aspects of the annual meeting. But this year, the handshakes and hugs will be replaced by fist or elbow bumps. The smiles will be hidden behind masks, and the laughter will be muted. Things may be very different, but I assure you that if we meet together, the love for the brothers and sisters in Christ will prevail.
If, and that is a big “if,” we are able to have the meeting, your officers and the wonderful staff of CBC will do our utmost to make it a pleasant and memorable experience as we meet to worship, to hear the annual message, to hear wonderful music, to carry on the business of the association and to hear reports from the State Youth Department, Publications Committee (the Baptist Trumpet), State Missions and Central Baptist College.
I was just thinking… we definitely desire your prayers!