By MICKEY NOAH, NAMB Communications
NEW ORLEANS (BP) – The Rachel Sims Baptist Mission and the Carver Baptist Center – now owned and operated by the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board – are to close effective Dec. 31. Effective Jan. 1, 2011, ownership of both properties will transfer to the New Orleans Baptist Association.
“The closing of the two ministry centers and the property transfer reflects NAMB’s process over the last 12 years of giving NAMB-owned properties to local Baptist associations or churches,” said Richard Leach, the mission board’s team leader for servant/ministry evangelism in Alpharetta, Ga. The New Orleans Baptist Association (NOBA, formerly the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans) is an association of 107 Southern Baptist churches in the New Orleans area.
[img_assist|nid=6826|title=Rachel Sims Baptist Mission in New Orleans is to close Dec. 31 and the property transferred to New Orleans Baptist Assoc.|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=65]“Along with many others, I am grieving the loss of our mission centers in New Orleans,” said David Crosby, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Orleans. “Rachel Sims was a member of our church in 1910 when she founded the mission that now bears her name.
“Our church has been strongly connected to the centers through a century of partnership in ministry in New Orleans,” Crosby continued. “The missionaries are dear friends to us. We are praying for them and for this time of transition not only in their lives but in our mission landscape in New Orleans.”
For several years, dating back before Hurricane Katrina, three entities – NOBA, NAMB and the Louisiana Baptist Convention – have discussed a new Southern Baptist ministry strategy for New Orleans, Leach said.
Under the 2020 Vision strategy adopted by NOBA in 2008, NOBA, the Louisiana Baptist Convention (LBC) and NAMB remain full partners in the rebuilding of New Orleans for the glory of God. The strategy agreement includes the transfer of assets from NAMB to NOBA.
“The Baptist community in New Orleans is grateful for the historic partnership we have shared with NAMB,” said C. Duane McDaniel, executive director of the New Orleans Baptist Association. “From the founding of the SBC in 1845 – when the Domestic Mission Board [now NAMB] was commissioned to reach the great city of New Orleans – to more recent years when Southern Baptist volunteers through NAMB poured in by the thousands to help rebuild the city after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has been the focus of our cooperative efforts to share the Gospel.
“Now, five years post-Katrina, we are turning the page to a new chapter,” McDaniel said. “Building on the foundation that has been laid, we are looking to the future, excited about the possibilities for partnering with NAMB, LBC and churches across the SBC in a newly envisioned mission/rebuild strategy to reach New Orleans through church planting, compassion ministries and volunteer mobilization.”
Crosby pondered the life cycle of churches and ministries.
“The forces of mobility and urbanization combine to challenge our traditional approaches as Southern Baptists,” Crosby said. “We have yet to learn how to penetrate with the gospel the masses who now live and work in urban America.
“Churches age like all human institutions, and their communities change around them,” the First New Orleans pastor continued. “The larger culture has experienced tremendous upheaval and transition in the last half century. Sociological forces beyond our control ebb and flow like flood waters around our churches. If we ignore these forces, we marginalize our churches and assume museum status in the midst of what should be dynamic and exciting times.”
NOBA Executive Director McDaniel concurred.
“There is yet much to be done in this city, and we believe our very best days are ahead of us,” McDaniel said.
The Carver Center – established in 1951 – is located at 3701 Annunciation St., while the Rachel Sims Baptist Mission – founded in 1910 – is located at 729 2nd St., a mile and a half from each other on the edge of the city’s Garden District. Both centers are primarily involved in after-school ministries for children.
Leach said Larry Miguez, director over both of the centers, and Linda Middlebrooks, director of programs at Rachel Sims, will retire under the current retirement incentive now being offered to all NAMB employees age 54 and older with at least five years’ service. Jennifer Fannin, assistant director at the Carver Center, will have the option of accepting a severance package from NAMB.
“Words cannot express how much we appreciate and applaud the dedicated Christian service of Larry, Linda and Jennifer,” Leach said. “Only God knows how many lives they touched and reached for Jesus Christ during their many years of service.”
A third Southern Baptist ministry center in New Orleans, Baptist Friendship House – located at 813 Elysian Fields Ave. and founded in 1944 – will continue to operate as a ministry for homeless women with children.
The Baptist Friendship House is a ministry that responds to the growing number of displaced, homeless women with children in need of food and overnight lodging, medical assistance, education and job training. Under NOBA’s new 2020 Vision strategy, the center’s ministry may be expanded.
Kay Bennett, the center’s director since 1997, will continue in that position – her salary paid by NAMB – although effective Jan. 1, 2011, she will be under joint supervision of NOBA and NAMB.
“In the homeless women’s ministry, our program has ministered to 27 women and their children each night since January of this year,” Bennett said. “In addition, our food ministries have provided food to 76,192 people during the first three quarters of this year.
“One reason Southern Baptists created the old Home Mission Board was to evangelize and minister in New Orleans,” Bennett continued. “And we’re going to continue to do ministry in New Orleans. Here at Friendship House, we will continue to help people rebuild their lives – to continue to minister to homeless and abused women and their children.”
“As NAMB and as the Home Mission Board, we’ve enjoyed many decades of ministry in New Orleans,” Leach said. “NAMB will continue its historic partnership with NOBA and the churches of New Orleans for years to come.”
Leach said Baptists were never more involved in New Orleans than during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina following the Aug. 29, 2005, disaster. Thousands of Southern Baptists from across the United States donated their time, talents and resources to help rebuild New Orleans after the hurricane.
“Southern Baptist work in New Orleans today is better and stronger than it has been in the five years since Hurricane Katrina forever changed the city and churches of New Orleans,” Leach said.
As a result of the closings, mission teams that already planned and scheduled 2011 mission trips to the Carver and Rachel Sims centers will be notified and an attempt will be made to re-schedule at other venues at a later date.
“NAMB encourages all Southern Baptists to continue to pray for the city of New Orleans, to support the churches of the New Orleans Baptist Association and to send volunteers to partner and work with New Orleans Baptists to meet the great spiritual and physical needs of this mission field,” Leach said.
With additional reporting by the Baptist Message staff.