Celebrating ‘Mr. VBS’ James Blakeney’s years of service, upcoming retirement

James Blakeney (back, second from left) showcases his VBS moves as longtime VBS songwriter Jeff Slaughter (front) leads the group in the Amazing Wonders Aviation theme song from 2012.

James Blakeney (second from left) showcases his VBS moves as longtime VBS songwriter Jeff Slaughter leads the group in the Amazing Wonders Aviation theme song from 2012.

TALLASSEE (Jennifer Davis Rash) — How else would you celebrate the nation’s best known Vacation Bible School (VBS) promoter? A VBS to blow out all VBSes of course.

James Blakeney, an associate focused on preschool and children’s ministries at the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions since 1997, will retire from his position Jan. 31.

While he plans to move immediately into a part-time role focused primarily on promoting VBS, the state VBS leadership team would not settle for a traditional retirement routine. These are sold-out VBSers, after all. Whatever they did, it had to be over the top. And they achieved their goal with a surprise retirement celebration Oct. 11.

Seventy-five friends and family from across the state and nation drove to the home of Jamie and Beth Baldwin in Tallassee to be part of the 17-themed VBS reflection event complete with VBS songs, dances and refreshments. DSC_0782

The energy apparent behind the planning and execution of the surprise for Blakeney falls in line with the passion put into planning each year’s VBS training for the leading evangelistic event in Southern Baptist life.

Jerry Wooley, VBS ministry specialist at LifeWay Christian Resources, attended the event to help celebrate Blakeney’s passion and heart for VBS.

“He understands that a successful VBS is where the workers are trained,” Wooley said. “Alabama provides one-eighth to one-tenth of everyone trained in the nation. There’s a phenomenal number of people who gets trained in the state.”

Jeff Slaughter, Nashville-area VBS songwriter who wrote 16 programs for LifeWay, said, “Alabama Baptists are always the forerunner in everything related to VBS because James Blakeney is so passionate about VBS.”

Blakeney was overwhelmed and humbled by the event and those in attendance, noting it felt like a family reunion — the exact goal Beth Baldwin had in mind.DSC_0956

About thealabamabaptist

State Baptist newspaper serving Baptists in Alabama, providing information, inspiration and interpretation as well as challenging readers to serve and find opportunities for ministry that further the kingdom of God.
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