(My first thoughts were here)
Looking around various blogs it is interesting to see which nuggets are being picked up. On the whole comments are very positive, a sense that this year the English-with-bits-of-Wales-and-we'll-forget-the-three-in-Scotland Baptist Assembly was better than it has been for a while. I certainly enjoyed it (even I discovered a new grouse; hurray!).
At various times I spoke with people I'd never met before, many like me at Assembly on their own, and many who were first timers (I'm just an old lag now). Several of them said how they'd been fearful of something so big but had found warmth and welcome. Several of them told me of pain and struggle in their own churches. Some of them asked me things that were concerning them. I think this echoed in small measure what was different. In my B&B one couple was overheard grumbling that it was 'less slick' and 'less like Spring Harvest for older people' than they had found it in previous years. But there in is why it was better for the people I was talking to - safer for them to risk being honest with strangers.
On the last morning the Public Resolutions and open forum were really quite surprising. The attendance was as poor as ever, but something had shifted. The resolution on nuclear non-proliferation went through with minimal opposition - to the surprise of everyone I spoke to. I think the resolution had matured since the last attempt in this area (which was factually flawed and a tad naive) but also the mood has changed. The resolution on standing against violence against and traffiking of women went through unanimously, as anticipated because it is something that is remote for most people... and yet there useful comments about how to make it real; another change. The perceptible gasp, followed by spontaneous applause, came for David Kerrigan of BMS when he said (I paraphrase closely) what is Good News for people of other faiths, for the cohabiting couple, for the gay couple (or was it gay community, not absolutely sure) ... things they are a changing!
I wasn't wildly impressed by the main speakers - except Anne Wilkinson-Hayes - but they were diverse and some of it should have appealed to my B&B grumblers. Yet even in all that were glimpses of mystery and grace - Kwame Adzam's style doesn't do it for me (sorry) but his call to 'stand strong until the leadership of women among us is fully recognised in all Baptist churches' was truly amazing, speaking right to the churches who perhaps struggle with this most.
God, thankfully, does not so stereotypes, and is not bound by spirituality or theological niceties. I'm always wary of people saying as some did from the platform 'I/we have heard God' because that too often means 'I/we think.' But, and it's not because of the what so much as the how, I am sure that we did hear God in and through each other... we just need the courage to move on from hearing.
Greetings to readers who said hello, shared food, told me not to take days off from blogging (!) or promised to resurrect their own. It was great to see you and hopefully we'll meet again in Blackpool next year.