Friday, September 8, 2006

National Baptist Convention Underway

35,000 to 40,000 delegates expected to attend 5-day gathering

By SAM HODGES / The Dallas Morning News

As any local Methodist or Presbyterian will tell you, Dallas doesn't lack for Baptists. And battalions more are pouring into the city for this week's annual session of the National Baptist Convention, USA.

Among those glad to see them is Phillip Jones, CEO of the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau.

"It's one of the largest conventions to meet in Dallas this year," said Mr. Jones. "We're expecting 35,000 to 40,000 delegates, with an economic impact in excess of $40 million. And it's occurring during a period that's traditionally slow for us."

The National Baptist Convention, USA is one of the country's largest predominantly black religious groups, claiming 7.5 million members.

That's less than half the size of the Southern Baptist Convention, but when it comes to annual meetings, the National Baptist Convention, USA routinely turns out the bigger crowd.

The group's meeting begins today and runs through Friday with most of the action scheduled for the Dallas Convention Center.

That's the venue for tonight's Convention Musical, a three-hour extravaganza featuring mass choirs and various styles of sacred music.

"We expect to hear it all, and done in such a way that folk will look back and say, 'My, what a time!' " said the Rev. Stephen C. Nash, pastor of Dallas' Mount Tabor Baptist Church and a leader of the local welcoming committee.

Throughout the week, delegates and others will gather for worship services full of rousing oratory.

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