The 116th edition of the annual Original West Texas Baptist District Assocation got off to a rousing start Monday night, with praise and worship music, scripture reading and words of welcome from representatives of several Abilene institutions.

The opening musical program held at New Fellowship Baptist Church set the tone, literally and figuratively, for the coming five days as classes, worship, and other programs will be held. All activities will be at the Abilene Convention Center.




“This is not a concert,” the music leader said Monday night. “I want everyone to stand up.”

And they did. The congregation quickly got into the spirit of the evening, swaying, clapping and singing praises to God. David Young, superintedent of the Abilene Independent School District, was the first of the city representatives to welcome the group, which comes from all over the state, to Abilene. He had the misfortune of following a spirited solo by Jennifer Sherman titled, “One More Day.”

“I don’t know how I’m supposed to follow that,” Young joked.

Young thanked the group of church leaders and members for what they do for children, adding that every day, he tries to make children’s lives better.

“It takes every single one of us in Abilene working hard,” Young said, “to support the young people of Abilene.”

Next up was Travis Craver, newly elected to the City Council, who stood in for Mayor Anthony Williams.

“You get the ‘C Team’ tonight,” Craver joked, but nobody seemed to mind as they responded warmly to Craver’s greetings. He is former youth minister at Pioneer Drive Baptist Church and currently serves as director of spiritual formation at Hardin-Simmons University.

Craver said he was proud of being brought up in a black church with a grandmother who made sure he was present. He assured the visitors that they are welcomed to Abilene.

“Know that you’re being prayed for,” Craver said.

Others offering greetings were Dee Moore, president of the Abilene Black Chamber of Commerce; Will Ford with the Abilene Police Department; Samuel Tabor, superintendent of the Abilene District of the Church of God in Christ; and Deori Newman, president of the Greater Abilene Ministerial Alliance.

Newman jokingly urged all the out-of-town guests to spend money in the city, but added that he wants them to share something more important than money.

“We would love for you to share some of that beautiful spirit you have,” Newman said.

Meeting alongside the association this week will be the Congress of Christian Education, which operates under the umbrella of the association. Presiding over the association events will be Andrew Penns, pastor of Abilene’s Valley View Missionary Baptist Church.

Penns had been serving on an interim basis after the moderator of the association resigned with a year left on his term. Penns was officially sworn in Monday night as moderator.

“I’m always glad to see your smiling faces,” he said, welcoming the visitors to Abilene.






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