MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Thousands of church leaders from around the country are in Minneapolis this week for the National Baptist Convention.

It brings together more than 15,000 African-American church leaders and their families. It’s only the second time the event has been held in Minnesota.

WCCO’s Angela Davis talked with church leaders about the focus of the convention.

They are pastors, youth ministers, choir leaders and devoted members of Baptist churches across the nation. A big topic of conversation this year is politics, and organizing voter registration drives in black communities.

“I think the midterm election is so important and we as African Americans and the church need to be together,” Billy Russell, senior pastor of Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Minneapolis, said.

Reverend Billy Russell is the president of the Minnesota Baptist Convention.

“Our communities are hurting, suffering. Our young people are suffering, hurting,” Russell said.

He says mental health is another priority for the Baptist church, and finding ways to deal with racial disparities in education and household income.

“When people see Minneapolis and St. Paul, they see all this wealth. But they don’t see the average income for whites is $67,000 and for blacks it’s like $27,000,” Russell said.

Reverend Runney Patterson, pastor at New Hope Baptist Church in St. Paul, is co-chair of the convention.

“I still think Jesus is the way and the only answer, and we still need to make people aware of that and despite all the programs that come through, we have to look to a higher power,” Patterson said.

Late-night worship services are open to the public this week at the Hilton Hotel.

“We have two sermons and singing each night. We are in by 10 but we get you out before the next day,” Russell said.

National President of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, is speaking at Tuesday night’s dinner.