By continuing your visit to this site, you accept the use of cookies. These ensure the smooth running of our services. Learn more.

A Hope & A Future... Blessings from Blackpool

As one of those rather sad individuals who loves Baptist Assembly (songology not withstanding... we did sing that song I so do not like, even if it was twice 'unpacked' before we did so - ha!  Finally people are beginning to grasp that a  bouncy tune does not automatically a good hymn/song make) I feel that I am returning from Blackpool well blessed.

Of course there were niggles and bits I didn't much like, but that's part of the wonder of Bappyness, so I am going to choose to note mostly what was wonderful.

I loved the two morning prayer sessions I attended, the first led by Clare McBeath & Tim Presswood, the second by BMS.  At 8:15 to be still, to pray for God's world, to slow down (or slowly crank up, whichever it was) was fantastic.  Very different styles of prayer but each special.  Indeed, I loved the whole 'Open Space' experience and the artwork by someone I knew from one of my former placements which formed a version of a crucifix/cross: very striking and thought provoking.

I enjoyed Prism Bible study - because it is closer to Bible study than the big stage event where you are addressed for almost 60 minutes.  There is nothing wrong with the latter, I just preferred the former.  Thanks Ruth, Simon & gang for making it so good - even in that dreadful space you were assigned.

Recognition of ministers & missionaries and In Memoriam are always special moments.  The usual request for restraint from cheers & applause and the usual wilful refusal to obey will no doubt raise the usual comments.  I did think this year's batch of ministers looked a bit scruffy and it seemed the dress code we were given last year had not been followed this time around.  As someone who is not a fan of dressing up, but who also thinks that there are times to do as you are told, I was a smidgeon disappointed to see people on stage in jeans and teeshirts but it remains a very special moment.  10/10 to Geoff Colmer for best turned out RM!! (See photo below, Geoff on rhs, photo nicked from Assembly website) I hope, and pray, that this year's batch will have found it a special moment in the way we did last year (notwithstanding being reduced to a number to allocate their seats)


The closing All Age worship was great fun.  Not everyone's cup of tea, but I enjoyed the party atmosphere and slightly irreverent ending to the power points - perhaps a few scowled at the frivolity of the latter, but it sent us out smiling.

The thing that made me think the most was called 'The Full Monty'- a session on spirituality preference/types and (allegedly) mission.  Using nine types including naturalists, sensates, ascetics, intellectuals, enthusiasts, contemplatives, activists, care givers - and one I've forgotten! - should enable a person to understand what helps them to engage with God, and can also be used to understand how a congregation encounters/relates to God.  This should in theory be able to shape or inform mission.  What intrigues me then, is that Assembly is predicated very much on two of these: the worship is designed to suit Enthusiasts - bouncy, loud and fast moving - whilst most others sessions suit Intellectuals - lots of information to listen to and try to assimilate and understands.  So what happens to the contemplative or sensate (presumably Open Space is in some way a response to their needs)?  What happens to the caregiver or ascetic?  Is it the case (alas I think it probably is) that Assembly meets the needs of only some people and that there are those of profound faith and spirituality who would find the whole event a total turn off.  I am fortunate, I think to have a spread of preferences, so can enjoy the bouncy worship and feed on the long talks, but I also need the interaction, multi-sensory and silence that the 'fringe' that is Prism and Open Space provide.  I guess I hope that we can one day find a way to bring the rainbow diversity of authentic Baptist spirituality into the main arena not to 'offend everyone equally', but so that we may learn with and from those who encounter God differently.

I reckon I met around 50-60 people I know, and was introduced to a few people who are kind enough to read this twaddle.  I hope that they, too, had a good Assembly, were in some measure able to encounter God (rather 'do business with God' a phrase I really dislike because it reduces faith and spirituality to a transaction).  Assembly is not perfect because none of us who takes part is perfect... but it does help remind me why I love being a part of these whacky people called Baptists.

Apologies to Scottish Baptist readers for whom this is probably unbearably dull... but we did have Fischy Music all the way frae bonnie Scotland to lead our closing worship.

More photos can be found here


  • There's no need to apologise to the Scottish lot, Catriona. Your comments are always appreciated. Greetings from way up in the Isle of Skye where there are plenty of Catrionas but not many Baptist ones!

  • Hello Geoff, thank you for your kind comment.

    I know of two other English Baptist Catriona's - one married to a Baptist minister in St Alban's, and the other a lovely little girl of about 6 I met this weekend who was already encountering the joys of those who can neither spell nor pronounce her name... her mother told me she regularly asked 'Mummy, why do people write my name with a K?' Why indeed.

  • I didn't realise there was a dress code. Though I am curious why lots of ministers who normally wear dog collars, never do so at a Baptist Assembly! Last time I saw Jonathan Edwards was at an induction wearing a dog collar for example.

    As for not cheering, it seems pretty crazy to try and suppress a natural human response to such an occasion? I'm just glad my rugby supporting congregation couldn't afford the day pass to come, or I'd be remembered for being more that just number 34!

  • Hi Catriona!

    Thanks for the 10/10 - it made my day! I'm with you on the cheering - although my son Andrew thinks I'm being a kill-joy! However, as I pointed out, this isn't a football match (soccer or rugby) but a serious moment in which if we could exercise a tad of deferred gratification, would result in an even bigger explosion of joy at completion. Then, everyone would be equally affirmed, those who are being supported by a coach-load, and those who are maybe there on their own, but equally accepted.

    I was going to say 'Hi!' at the BUGB stand but you were engrossed, and then I became engrossed, and the opportunity passed. Next time!

  • Hi, I too had a great assembly - I was annoyed by some bits thrilled by others. But most of all I just love being part of the family. Good to bump into you there even if it was just for a moment.

  • Hi Tim,
    last year we were told quite clearly that we needed to be smart - I can't recall the exact words and have long since shredded the letter but the implication was jackets and ties for men and suits or dresses for women. Most people made the effort and it added to the feel of occasion - for me/us anyway.

    The cheering one is always going to be a tricky one - and I still carry the 'guilt' of being the first person who was cheered in 2007 (not by people from my church cos they weren't there, buit from others who know me). There are people who are at Assembly alone, who have come through Hell to reach that moment, and for whom a silence when others were being cheered might be the final straw of disaffirmation (if there's such a word). I always feel for the good people of Central Association who are obedient and then find others are less so.

    I guess what we need is to make it more clear why we don't cheer and whoop along the way and then have what Alistair has now naemd as 'Baptist Frenzy Time' once everyone has been 'handshaked.'

    For me it was almost as special watching others be 'done' as it was being 'done' myself. Maybe how 'it was for us' affects the way we see it overall? Anyone else got thoughts?

    Oh, and I've never seen Jonathan in a dog collar...

  • Richard - it was great to see you too... even after 'that song' ;o)

    Geoff - apologies for engrossment :-( As you say, some other time...

  • I agree that the way we handle the cheering needs a bit more thought. There's a fine line between wanting to be supportive and showing some restraint for the sake of others.

    I heard one person suggest that it was silly to try and stop people cheering for thiri minister, they failed to see that they were not being asked to refrain, but to wait.

    I felt so sorry for the folks who had deathly silence following some other who'd had airhorns, rattles and a great crowd cheering. How sad must that have felt?

    Last year's Prism got it absolutely right, with the applause at the very beginning as people arrived into the venue - it was like a victory parade, with all the ministers being greeted as one cohort - much more fitting it seemed to me.

    Prism was good this year, despite the venue restrictions, and Fischy Music we just brilliant. More of that in ChurchWorld please.

  • Hi Catriona, The type of worshipper you could not remember is the Traditionalist, and they all come from a book called 'Sacred Pathways' by Gary Thomas, which I'm reading at the moment!

    It's interesting to reflect on who is best served by the assembly. So far I'm coming out as a naturalist (better outside!), an activist (probably covered by the Creation Care emphasis) and I guess I'll come out as an enthusiast as well.

The comments are closed.