Some 30,000 attendees converged on Kansas City, Mo., September 6-10 for the 130th annual session of the National Baptist Convention USA Inc. By the time the meeting was over, the group had pumped about $12.5 million into the local economy, according to the city's convention and visitors association.
“At this economic time for the city and the country, it's a nice chunk of change, absolutely,” said Rick Hughes, president of the Kansas City Convention and Visitors Association, in a local television news report.
The meeting had the highest attendance of any convention held in the city since 2003 — the last time the National Baptist Convention met in Kansas City. (The first time the National Baptists came to Kansas City was in 1929.)
The convention kicked off with an inspirational musical featuring a 400-person choir. The exhibit floor, spread out like a giant church bazaar, offered everything from Bibles to hats, clothing, and gospel music for sale. The weeklong program was packed with auxiliary meetings, workshops, worship services, and several community outreach projects.
Working with Habitat for Humanity, volunteers helped restore some homes for the elderly. The women's auxiliary hosted a luncheon and shopping outing for homeless women who needed clothing. The Prison Ministry conducted services and outreach at the county jail.
Much of the planning and logistics for the annual session was handled by the local host committee, headed by the Rev. John Modest Miles. According to a news report in The Kansas City Star, Miles coordinated 200 volunteers working on 50 subcommittees, with preparations beginning two years in advance of the convention.
While the economy did not put a crimp on the meeting's attendance, it did make it more difficult to raise funds for the 2010 meeting than for the 2003 meeting in Kansas City, Miles said in The Kansas City Star news report. “The city money was cut by a third and business help was down about 40 percent from the last time,” he noted.
The National Baptist Convention, based in Nashville, Tenn., is the oldest African American religious organization in the country, tracing its roots back to 1880.