I was one of many in our Cooperative Baptist Fellowship family who rejoiced yesterday upon the announcement that Dr. Paul Baxley had been named the new Executive Coordinator for our Fellowship, following Rev. Suzii Paynter as the fourth leader of CBF. If you’re wondering if you read that right, you did! Paul Baxley, son of John and Nancy, spouse of Jennifer, dad of Livy, Maria, Matthew, and Caroline, pastor of First Baptist Church of Athens, and child of our church.
As I read the news release, the countless words of affirmation for Paul and his ‘profoundly theological leadership,’ and the stories about Paul and Jennifer’s shared love of the church, I enjoyed clicking through a host of pictures of Paul — some more recent of his family, others from points throughout his ministry, and one that made my breath catch in my throat.
I recognized that pulpit and gold cross, the curves and the columns — our Sanctuary, the backdrop for the drama unfolding front and center as teenage Paul prepares to preach on youth Sunday more than thirty years ago. Bearing a grin that makes you wonder what he was thinking in such a moment and eyes that see abundant possibility, young Paul looks right at home.
As I sat in the beauty of history colliding with future, of seeds now abundantly fruitful, I couldn’t help but think of our dynamic children and youth — right here in 2019, right here in our midst.
Image after image flood my mind, all from how I’ve seen them lead us just this very week. Karly on her mama’s lap telling adults about an upcoming mission project. Micah and David leading a small group to squeal with joy through their music. Hannah calling us to reflection through her art on our community board. Norah proclaiming Luke’s good news of belovedness and baptism. Ray and Bradley sharing generously of things they know Liam will enjoy. Ashleigh caring for the littlest who make her spirit sing. Babies Nora, Amelia, and Wilson causing even the stiffest among us to soften. Kara and Kate alive with the new stirrings of the Spirit in their life. Hailey and Bryanna patiently leading the younger ones to learn and listen. Naomi and Lydia dancing with delight. Elizabeth and Isabelle stepping courageously into new adventures. James and Silas buddying up in the nursery. Nathan’s dry wit making us laugh. Ella, Jack Elden, Reagan, Sarah, Elysse, Micah, Flynn, Owen, Lorelei, Emmett, Mary Grace, LaDonna, Caroline, Evie, Anna Scott, John, Annabelle, Casey, Lilah, Grayson, … oh the list of our young faithful and their abundant gifts of God shared with the world could go on and on!
Bound up in beloved community and called upon to lead — much like young Paul was all those years ago — the possibility of what God might do with these precious lives is endless. May we dwell in such possibility with bold expectation. For God is on the move!
Together in the work of Love,