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New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church to Receive Church of the Year Award from NAACP

by Clarence Thomas, Jr.

New Beginning Missionary Baptist Church is on a roll. The Unionville church is set to receive its second "Church of the Year" award in 2017. This time from the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). And deservingly so says an NAACP official.

Led by Reverend James Baker, New Beginning has help change the dynamic of church and community relations through personal outreach. It has initiatives already underway and others on the way that are designed to enlighten and empower according to Baker. The church is focusing on disrupting the prison pipeline for instance. New Beginning is doing this by providing opportunities for those without high school diplomas to get their GED's through various partnerships. Former inmates returning home after they’ve paid their debts to society have a safe haven and a friend in New Beginning. The church is committed to normalizing the lives of ex-offenders by welcoming them and providing information concerning job opportunities, financial management and maintaining a healthy lifestyle says Baker. And people that are light in the pocket and belly can participate in the church's feeding program. This ministry provides free nutritious meals and grocery items to residents in need. "We thank God that we have a body of people that believe in helping others inside and outside of these walls," Baker said.

The work of New Beginning and its attitude about serving impressed the National Action Network first. NAN bestowed "Church of the Year" on New Beginning and Baker in early August during three days of local NAN sponsored activities that included a speech by NAN founder Reverend Al Sharpton. Sarah Hunt is the president of the Macon chapter of NAN and feels that New Beginning best expressed this past year what a church should be doing. "This is what churches should be about. Jesus spent most of his time with those that others didn’t want to be bothered with," Hunt observed. "If you say you are about Jesus, then your life and work should reflect that. New Beginning is really doing this."

NAACP Macon President Gwenette Westbrooks says New Beginning was chosen for reasons similar to NAN. The church was a standout during the selection process because of Baker’s leadership and the church's ability to do so much from a small location with a small number of members. She pointed out Baker's hands on involvement in education, the arts, youth development and civic affairs. And for her organization, the Macon native and his congregation are most deserving of the "Church of the Year" award New Beginning will receive during this month’s annual NAACP sponsored Earl T. Shinhoster Freedom Fund Award Banquet. "I think it's very important that we minister outside of the church. That's what Pastor Baker is doing. He has exemplified that in a powerful way," said Westbrooks. "I'm so grateful that we have someone like him out there not judging and trying to help. Sometimes people just want someone to reach out and except them where they are."

New Beginning partnerships are impressive. Mercer University, Central Georgia Technical College, Middle Georgia State University and Wesleyan College are all being tapped to assist with a new After School initiative. And a cross worship relationship with Nation of Islam Mosque 93 in Macon that began last fall is coming up on its 1st anniversary. It has proven to be a mutually beneficial outreach effort that members from the church and mosque are calling a contagious, courageous, constructive, collaboration. "It's very humbling to receive these awards. I'm so grateful. We're excited. This whole church is on fire," Baker said. "New Beginning is well rounded and grounded in what is going on in Unionville and the entire city. It’s time to live and give the people the truth so they can make better choices."

The annual NAACP Earl T. Shinhoster Freedom Fund Award Banquet will take place on October 21 at 6 p.m. at the Buck Melton Center located at 150 Sessions Drive. The featured speaker is Revered Henry C. Ficklin of Mount Vernon Baptist Church. Tickets are $45.00 and includes dinner and entertainment. Call 478-745-9944 or email to purchase tickets and for additional information.

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Rev. James K. Baker