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#AllianceAt30: Covenant Intersectionality
by Andrew Gardner
Prior to beginning work on the Alliance of Baptists’ history, I had never attended an Annual Gathering. I attended an Alliance congregation, Knollwood Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., and I had participated in the Alliance’s summer communities of service at Metro Baptist Church, but I had never attended an Annual Gathering.
My first time hearing the Alliance Covenant spoken in unison was at Williston-Immanuel United Church, Portland, Maine, during that Annual Gathering in 2014. At that time I had not yet begun digging into the Alliance’s archives, nor had visited many Alliance congregations outside of Knollwood. While, I found I appreciated the sentiment behind the words, I did not yet know the story behind the words.
Over the course of the next year I spent countless hours in the Special Collections reading room of the Z. Smith Reynolds Library at Wake Forest University. I visited numerous Alliance congregations from Pullen Memorial, Raleigh, N.C., to Oakhurst Baptist Church, Decatur, Ga., to Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, Oakland, Calif. Each congregation I visited provided another textured layer to the Covenant’s story.
I consulted an unfinished history of the Alliance of Baptists from the early 2000s that was being written by Alan Neely, an Alliance founder and interim executive director of the organization before longtime Executive Director Stan Hastey was hired. Unable to complete the project before his death, Neely made fellow Alliance founder Mahan Siler promise to have someone finish a history. As I sat at my computer in Winston-Salem, Neely’s papers sat next to me, offering me encouragement and guidance as I wrote.
By the Spring of 2015 I had turned in a completed manuscript. The hours and hours of research accompanied by the hours and hours of writing followed by the hours and hours of editing had produced a final product. While it would still have to go through other revisions, my rendition of the Alliance story had been composed.
Despite knowing the story, I do not think that I had truly felt the story. I attended the 2015 Alliance Annual Gathering at Northside Drive Baptist Church, Atlanta, ready and prepared to see friends and share what I had learned.
During that gathering, we came to the point in the weekend where we would recite the Alliance Covenant. As the words echoed throughout Northside Drive’s Chapel, my eyes watered up and a few tears ran down my cheeks. It was as if during that brief recitation, I lived through the emotional experiences of not only the history of the Alliance but also my own journey of writing that history. It was the intersection of my life with the Alliance’s life.
At 30 years, not only am I grateful for the story and the legacy the Alliance carries, I am grateful that I am a part of that story along with so many others who cherish the Alliance and for all it stands.