So, I'm back home after the Ministers' Conference which was, as these things inevitably are, akin to the curate's egg. To dwell on that which I liked or didn't, found helpful or hindrance seems a little ungracious to the organising committee who had worked hard to bring it all together. The format was similar to that which I'd experienced in England, but the feel was different. Partly this was its intense maleness - two women and over a hundred men - and partly about its Scottish Baptistness. Another English person whose been up for a few years said the difference was something that ran deep but was hard to identify; I think he was right. Around a decade ago I recall reading an account in a church magazine from a Scottish Baptist minister who'd transferred south and attended his first conference and had experienced a similar sense of dislocation.
The differences are tricky to pin-point since a broadly similar pool of speakers is invited speaking on broadly similar topics and saying broadly similar things. The worship songs are broadly similar, if drawn from an (even) narrower range and with a residue of redemption hymns that were abandoned a century ago further south and a total absence of Taize, Iona, Northumbria Community etc.
It did have a feel of laddish blokiness (sp?) that I have never encountered either in BUGB or for that matter when I was a lone female engineering student in the early 1980s, which gave me pause for thought. I found I was saying to myself 'remember Margaret Jarman' and 'remember Violet Hedger' who once had to enter this arena totally alone and without a network of VIKs with whom she could connect. I met some fantastic people (who were by default men!) who welcomed me as one of them (without having to be an honorary male) ensured I was invited to the pub after the evening session ended and who demonstrated the richness the BUS is blessed to enjoy.
So, now it's back to my familiar routine.
Will I go next year? Yes, I will. Attendance is about much more than enjoying the worship style, more than the quality of the input, and more even than networking... maybe it's important to go for what I can give (by my presence) as well as what I receive?