The largest predominantly African-American denomination in the U.S. is bringing upwards of 30,000 people to Minneapolis over Labor Day weekend for its Annual Session.

With an estimated membership of 7.5 million people, the National Baptist Convention, USA is the oldest and largest African-American religious convention, which acts much like a denomination.

“This is a really big deal. The convention planners are very careful in selecting a city. The Annual Session was held in Minneapolis nearly two decades ago, but planners were wowed by how much better our city has gotten,” said the Rev. Dr. Billy Russell, president of the Minnesota State Convention, NBC, USA Inc.

Russell says this past year he has been a traveling salesman pitching Minnesota to a denomination that is predominantly based in the South. Only 30 of the NBC, USA’s 31,000 churches are in Minnesota, including Russell’s home church of Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.

“People have different perceptions of Minnesota; asking ‘Are there Black people there?’ ‘How racist is Minnesota?’ I tell them, Minnesota is just like any other state, I’ve experienced some of the same things here as I did when I lived in Mississippi,” said Russell. “And that’s why we need the presence of a historically black denomination here.”

The Annual Session will be held over Labor Day week (Sept. 3 – Sept. 7) at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Starting Sunday morning and running through Friday evening, the week will offer praise and worship and speakers.

“All denominations and all of Minnesota will be brought together for worship. We are trying to change the whole city. In the past whatever city the convention goes to, that city is changed for the better,” said Russell.

The convention’s presence will be felt across the entirety of Minneapolis with plans to do evangelism, crime prevention, employment outreach and opportunities to serve the homeless from North to South Minneapolis.

The theme for the Annual Session is “We Are Better Together. Injustice of Any Kind Disturbs Us.” There will be a focus on social justice and specifically crime and violence prevention, entrepreneurship, and education and employment.

“I will present a plan for crime and violence prevention, based on what has worked in Minnesota,” said Russell. “Two years ago, churches across all denominations got together with gangs in our communities to raise funds and call for peace and de-escalation. We have been able to accomplish on the streets what the police couldn’t do.” 

The general public is invited to the entire assembly, and is encouraged to participate in the outreach, evangelism and praise and worship opportunities.

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