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Executive minister: ‘See beyond danger to embrace opportunity’

By the Rev. Dr. Harry Riggs

The characters that make up the word crisis in the Mandarin and Cantonese languages of China are a combination of the English words danger and opportunity — an appropriate way to look at the state of the church and Christendom today. In these languages, crisis is a two-sided proposition. As I have said to American Baptist Churches of Connecticut’s board of managers, I have begun to reframe the set of challenges ahead of us, referring to them as opportunities. They are opportunities because the results can be significant for the good.

However, as with the Mandarin symbol for crisis, danger looms because some of what we need to do is going to be risky. It will be dangerous because we have never done it before. The work evokes danger because it will yield unexpected returns. The work can also be dangerous because it may fail. This risk can cause us to become stuck and afraid. That is when we need to exercise our faith, seeing the truth of Paul’s words: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

Any opportunities that I have been privileged to see come my way have had similar qualities that go with them. They appear out of the blue. At first, they do not look like I want them to look. In fact, often they look, at the time, like something with which I do not want to be bothered at all. Finally — and this is a big one — I am always changed by accepting the challenge of the opportunity. So it will be, as we address the crises (the dangers and the opportunities) that present themselves at this time.

I believe the way forward to confront these challenges is by contemplative practices. Contemplative practices help one to see beyond the danger and embrace the opportunity. Contemplative practices are transformative practices that help us find God in the most unique places — our crisis, our pain and the darkness that would seem to hide God from us.

Focusing on pastoral and congregational health through contemplative practices, we can confront the dangers of these days. Working collaboratively, we can generate new ways to support leaders and create programs that add value to our mission. For churches in Connecticut, it means partnership, sharing resources, and inviting and equipping disciples.


The Rev. Dr. Harry Riggs is executive minster of American Baptist Churches of Connecticut.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.