Sniffle, snuffle, sneeze, splutter... I have a 'post Assembly cold' the product of the outrageous generosity of those who attended whilst suffering from colds, the outrageous generosity of a warm hot venue, the inevitable consequences of people gathered together in close proximity given each of the above, and the fact that, like it or not, my resistance to infection is still compromised.
Setting that aside, cos it's not really what it was all about, what are my first thoughts?
Baptist Assembly in Scotland is very male. This observation was made to me by guest speakers who had travelled from England. Although some laudable efforts were made to have male and female speakers, and a small attempt was made at moving beyond all Caucasian leaders, the reality is it is a very male event - even with half the delegates being female. I could - and inwardly do - harumph that the on-screen biblical texts were in NIVi (good) but the readers all used the NIV'e' (bad). I could - and inwardly do - bemoan the poverty of prayer language where God was exclusively described as Father - scripturally justified, but woefully inadequate. I could become a moaning Minnie, but it doesn't achieve much. Instead I will endeavour to model better practice, and encourage others to do likewise.
Baptist Assembly in Scotland is less brash than its southern counterpart. This observation was made by a friend who'd travelled up to take part in closing worship. That's true. By its very nature, it is smaller, more homely, and becomes almost a hybrid between what English/Welsh readers would know as an Association Day and an Assembly. One southern friend observed that it felt more relaxed, less highly scripted, but I am not entirely sure that's so, I think they happened to present in a session where a couple of mavericks were at play. Another southern friend, after an opening session that was explicitly theological rather than specifically motivational, observed that you wouldn't get that much theology in an 'English' Assembly. That may be true, but I think it was a new departure in a Scottish one too.
Baptist Assembly in Scotland is very like Baptist Assembly in England. Despite differences of size and culture, there is an awful lot that is the same. There are opportunities to catch up with folk we haven't seen for yonks, and to meet new people who may become friends. There are inspiring and challenging speakers. There is opportunity for worship and learning. There are 'business' matters to be attended to - from approval of reports and accounts, to debate and decisions on diverse issues.
Last night a couple of my C of S colleagues said wryly, 'so, how was Assembly' assuming that their experiences of their Assembly would be echoed. I can honestly say that overall it was a very good Assembly, I was inspired and I was challenged. There were parts that disappointed, in different ways, and I'm really not convinced that when the time came for the rubber to hit the road on showing 'outrageous generosity' we managed. However, generosity demands that we do not dwell on the negatives but celebrate the positives, and work to do and be Good News.
Some of my southern readers will be surprised to find no comments yet on hymnody. It seems that 'that song' has finally been consigned to its rightful place in the dustbin of Assembly repertoire (at least for now). There was a pretty good blend of traditional hymns (even if the musical arrangements left a bit to be desired sometimes) and newer worship songs. I say newer, since many took me back to my student days thirty years ago! If I have a criticism, it was what my college essay markers used to term an 'over-dependence' on Matt Redmann (c) 2011 material. Some of Matt's material is fabulous, I'm not so sure this was his best, just his latest.
Still trying to process all the stuff - and have decided to make a change to the advertised programme for next Sunday in order that I can share some reflections with my congregation. So our revised title will be Outrageous Generosity?
Sniffle, snuffle, clear throat....