So, I am home again, have consumed a pizza (delivery type) and checked the gazillion emails, several of which necessitated urgent replies. All of which relegate Assembly to the past very quickly. Already people are posting their views, e.g. Neil, Andy, Sue.
I am tired, and my joints are complaining (not many helpful people on the rail network today) so my thoughts for now are unformed and relatively brief.
As ever, valediction of missionaries and ministers at the end of their probationary period, the in memoriam and sharing communion. If we could combine all these into one session, then I think I would be very happy indeed.
Chris Duffet's simple, gentle presidential address which oozed encouragement. We are totally different personalities, spiritualities and probably theologies. but he was bang on - THANK YOU Chris
Aradhna - a Hindi inspired worship group.
Ruth Neve's skilful and gracious leading of the Communion service - including gently and helpfully overcoming a few techy glitches - and Jane Day's gentle encouragement to build community in and through our churches.
Use of the NRSV - so good THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU! Now just need to persuade the speakers to use it... And the inclusivised version of Be Thou my Vision.... thank you.
Seeing those friends I managed to find.
The Things I Appreciated...
The courage to try a new format, with day conferences. I'm not convinced it was entirely successful, and mine disappointed, but it was brave and I applaud it.
The setting aside of a large chunk of time for the Futures topic. Again, I'm not sure it was entirely successful, but it was an important first step towards a more deliberative and participative Assembly. And I was secretly pleased to note that comments I'd made on the online questionnaire (which were probably a voice of one in 1663) were heard (thank you PG)
Oh yes.... and not singing "that song"!!!!
Things We Need to Attend To...
My one teeny weeny contribution to Christian liturgy is this... in churches where I preach, when I announce the hymns/songs I say "we stand, if we can, to sing..." or "if you are able, please stand as we sing..." I'm so used to saying it, it really jarred being instructed to stand to sing - especially as there were wheelchair users present. We are good with BSL interpreters, good at supplying giant print words for people with visual impairments, good at making sure wheelchair users have a choice of spaces ... but it's the spoken word that trips us up.
Timing - and especially telling north American speakers that 20 minutes means 20 minutes not 40 minutes. Some people have to travel substantial distances home, and it is not fair that they miss out because they have to leave before the end. And, frankly, it is a terrible witness to our hosts, be they a church, a hotel or a conference centre... staff are forced to work late, probably for no extra pay because we are too self-obsessed to finish on time. There is nothing spiritual about abusing hospitality.
The "Not Very Gorgeous"
(To use a Warrington expression)
I found Tony Campolo too loud (I don't need to be shouted at) and too anecdotal (stories I've heard before) and, if I'm honest, somewhat ignorant of BRITISH Baptist life. A three point talk only managed two points in double the allotted time... Disappointing. I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing him in the past, and had looked forward to this time.
I missed my college reunion (we turned out to be the only college who didn't have one) even if I understood why that was. More generally I missed the opportunities to sit and chat with friends, to bump into them in coffee queues, to go and walk on the beach.
For justifiable reasons, there was no public issues session, but I missed it. Maybe in future years we can less big-name speakers and more time to think theologically about 'hot topics' of justice, peace and (that nice catchall) 'Kingdom'
Not the most inspiring Assembly I've ever been to, yet I am glad that BUGB and BMS had the courage to attempt something different rather than simply stick with the jamboree formula of recent years. Massive thanks to all the planners, directors, producers, techy people for all their work. Hopefully it will turn out to be an important stepping stone on the way to a new way of assembling and discerning together.
Will I be at Blackpool 2013...? You betcha (DV).