Meetings for state and regional groups associated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship are a standard element of CBF’s Annual Gathering and for North Carolina CBFers, always a highlight.
This year’s gathering attracted a standing room only crowd of 300 or more participants who munched on M&Ms (a tradition at CBFNC state meetings), donned leis, and enjoyed a time of “Love Boat” themed fellowship. CBFNC staffers emphasized the organization’s broad reach and willingness to welcome all persons, they said, “whether they prefer the port or starboard side of the boat.” New pastors in North Carolina, mission personnel, and other guests received a glad welcome.
The gathering featured a tribute to Randall Lolley, former president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and former pastor of First Baptist Churches in Winston-Salem, Raleigh, and Greensboro, in addition to many interim churches. Amy McClure, associate pastor at the First Baptist Church on Fifth in Winston-Salem, spoke about her experience in learning from interviewing Lolley for a class project, learning as a Lolley scholar at Campbell Divinity School, and appreciating his efforts to support women in ministry — noting that the church Lolley once served now has a woman as senior pastor.
In a joint effort, CBFNC and Nurturing Faith recently published Journey With Me, a hefty collection of “through the Bible” sermons that Lolley preached during his pastorate at First Baptist in Greensboro. Lolley donated the manuscript, and proceeds from sales of the book support the Randall and Lou Lolley Endowment for Theological Education, a scholarship fund established in 2008 by CBFNC to benefit students engaged in theological education.
Randall and his wife Lou both face health-related challenges, but traveled to the meeting, where they were greeted with a sustained standing ovation. Randall had previously signed several cases of books, which were made available for sale. Signed copies are still available at the Nurturing Faith booth during the CBF gathering, and through CBFNC afterward. Unsigned copies can be ordered directly from www.nurturingfaith.net.
In reflecting on the CBFNC’s 2016 General Assembly at Hayes Barton Baptist Church in Raleigh, I noted that “love was in the air,” and that spirit remained evident in Greensboro. In a cynical time when so many people are giving up on denominational entities or on church altogether, it’s refreshing to be among positive and enthusiastic folk who not only love Jesus but love the church and love each other as we journey together — by land or by sea.