Monday, 2 May 2011

A Celebration of Baptist Life

This is a slightly edited version of my report for our Church Magazine

From 30 April to 2 May, I and my family attended the Baptist Assembly in sunny Blackpool, along with about 2000 others.

What is the Baptist Assembly? Well, it is best described as a celebration of Baptist life, especially for churches in England and Wales. It included the Annual General Meetings of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, and of BMS World Mission. Before you yawn …..


The two AGMs are kept as brief as possible. This year, for the first time, they were held back to back and lasted a total of an hour or so. Happily, although times are hard and some tough decisions have had to be made, both organizations continue to balance their books. This means that the money that churches are able to give is being put to best use in resourcing ministry and mission at home and overseas.

Who can go? Anyone! Each local church can send its minister and delegates (two for our church), who are entitled to vote at the AGMs. But any Baptist Christian (or others, should they choose) can sign up. You might want to go next year! We can (almost) guarantee you will enjoy it and be blessed.

So what else did we do? We went to morning and evening meetings in the main auditorium at the Norbreck Castle Hotel. This year’s theme was ‘Your Kingdom Come.’ The main evening speakers were this year’s BU President, Pat Took, Jeff Lucas and Julie Pennington-Russell, an American Baptist minister. All were inspiring with Pat giving depth, Jeff providing humour, and Julie combining the two! In addition, I went to two afternoon seminars delivered by Jeff, one of which looked at ‘The Power of Creative Kingdom Leadership’ and the other which explored lessons drawn especially from Jeff’s own church setting in Timberline, Colorado.

Worship was led by Andy Scarcliffe from the Baptist Union of Scotland. Andy led with grace and diversity. He is not averse to giving a few surprises. For example, a song ‘Majesty’ (not the old one we know) was followed by ‘Silent Night’ (well, why not?)!

Our celebration of communion was fantastic – perhaps the best large-scale Lord’s Supper at which I have been. Music was provided by a Jazz ensemble, playing sensitively and with beauty. Questions asked by two children formed a framework that opened up the mystery of the bread and wine (although other children were not present – perhaps they should have been?). Our friend, Lynn Green spoke powerfully on the need for churches not to exclude but to include people in the Kingdom.

Other highlights, which happen every year at the Assembly, were the recognition of new ministers in the BU and the commissioning of new missionaries for BMS. At the 2009 Assembly there was a call for us to pray for God to raise up many more people for missionary service? Well, God has answered in a mighty way with around 20 being sent out this year, and a similar number due to enter training next September!

What about our children? They attended ‘Innovation’, the event for secondary school age. When we asked them what they did, they said ‘Stuff.’ That generally means it was OK, coming from teenagers! We think there was lively worship, and good teaching. We know they had a good time with friends, some of whom they have met at Leading Edge and previous assemblies.

What was the best bit? As always, it is meeting up with friends old and new. One lunchtime, we attended our College reunion and caught up on news of the college, as well as with some of our contemporaries. There were many more friends that we caught up with from all parts of the country as we wandered through the hotel where the assembly was based.

We came away feeling that it is great to be a part of God’s family, the Church. It is great, too, to have a home in the Baptist denomination. God has much for us to do as a denomination, and as the local Baptist church at Park Road, Peterborough, in bringing the Kingdom to earth ‘as it is in heaven’!

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