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- Page 5

  • Baptists Associating Beautifully

    Today was our half yearly Association Day and around 200 of us gathered at a very functional 1960's (?) built and pre-fab portacabin type extended secondary school in Derbyshire.  The weather was dull and by the end of the day had degenerated to drizzle.  It perhaps doesn't sound like a very auspicious occasion but in fact it was in some measure a thing of colour, beauty, light and hope.  Topped and tailed by creative acts foworship combining skilful liturgy, drama, interaction and singing, we had some superb speakers brought up specially from Didcot (bow, bow) to share thoughts on Baptist People - Transforming Communties.

    The keynote speaker was Revd Graham Sparkes who allowed paitings by the African American Jacob Lawrence to illustrate the potential for discovering beauty not despite struggle, not even alongside struggle but actually within it.  That seemed a word in season for so many in our Association at this time.  I wish I could find online one of the paintings he used which showed a wooden stair ascending to a blue rectangle with a yellow-orange circle superimposed upon it.  Was it a closed door, blue with a gold handle?  Was it the moon in a night sky seen through an open window?  Although my first thought was the second of these, either could be valid, functioning not as some crude optimist/pessimist test but a relfection of the ambiguity of life.  After all, even a closed door just might open to something wonderful...

    In the closing worship we were invited to make our own Salvadorean crosses - emulating in some small measure the beauty that can arise from places of pain and struggle - which were then used to decorate a large wooden cross.  Here again signs of colour, life and hope even in a tough world.

    As we left, a few of us comented that it is always the same people who go the Association days - the churches who are represented. None of us from massive churhces, though several from large ones.  All of us face challenges and struggles wherever we are, but when we come together are encouraged to continue to be what we are - something beautiful for God.

  • A Moment's Pause

    The Baptist Union of Great Britain must have almost ground to a halt today, or at least the Didcot and East Midlands bits thereof, as so many of us gathered to say farewell to Peter Grange, celebrating his life and praying for those who mourn and miss him most.  It was a truly great service in which we worshipped and remembered, gave thanks and were encouraged for our own ministries.

    Meanwhile, about 10 miles away a family with no church connection drafted in a minister to conduct a funeral for a loved one at the local crematorium.  I know this, because after careful thought, I declined the request from the undertaker to 'help them out' - and offers of alternative times did not fit what was already booked.  I genuinely hope their needs were met.

    And fifty miles away a friend was attending a funeral in difficult circumstances and, even as I laughed at funny stories and sang with gusto where I was, I was aware that others were facing more challenging services.

    Lots of death around at the moment in Baptist circles, or at least those in which I move.  Lots of different circumstances as unfulfilled potential sits cheek by jowl with immense achievement, as 'taken too soon' follows 'fullness of years,' as 'sure and certain hope' is mirrored by 'the mercy and grace of Almighty God.'

    It seems good, to me, to pause, to reflect and to wonder at the amazing God who holds it all...


    The text for the address at Peter's service was the one to which I trace my own call to ordained ministry - and I'm sure I'm not alone in that - and it was a fitting place to hear that call reaffirmed, to recommit myself to obey it in the future I as yet cannot see.

  • Rule 1...

    Recently I came across a rules list for a junior youth club, and was reminded of the list that I saw on the wall of one of the rooms of our building soon after I arrived here - a list that had hung there for at least five years after the demise of the club to which it referred (nuff said).

    The list on the chapel wall, so far as I recall began  "no swearing" and the list I came across recently began "running is only permitted in the large hall."  Now these rules are fine, though the problems that prompted their imposition seem self-evident, but hardly my idea of 'rule 1'.  In each case some way down the list was something along the lines of "show respect to everyone" or "treat others as you would wish to be treated."  Now, I might be a bit pedantic, but I'd have thought that these ought to have appeared higher up the list than "no balls games in the sanctuary" or some such similar thing.  Surely the list of rules needed is pretty minimal, as a good 'rule 1' will negate the likes of 'no name calling' or 'no thumping or kicking.'

    Rule 1 - Love God with everything you have ,and love others as you love yourself (God via Moses)

    Rule 1 - Love one another as I have loved you(God via Jesus)

    I am challenged to look at lists of rules that we draw up and to see what our implicit priorities are.  Restricting running to the large hall probably makes good sense, but if we love/respect each other and other people's property then it will follow on, won't it?

  • Theology and History - Missiology as the the Link?

    "The contemporary situation may offer a golden opportunity for believers concerned about history.  I do not myself know anyone from the community of faith who has seized fully that opportunity, but it seems to be there for the taking.  That opportunity is created both by modern intellectual confusion and by the specific forms of contemporary thought that, in striving against each other, create the confusion.  The opportunity is to practice a history that accepts with discrimination, but also eagerly, the historiographical wisdom of the world.  That opportunity is to show the beauty, power and coherence of the Christin faith make it possible to learn from the modern world without falling prey to intellectual confusion or anti-Christian conclusions.

    "Who in the tribe of Christian historians is in the best position to work simultaneously with aspects of the premodern, the modern and the postmodern?  The answer must be missiologists...."

    Mark A Noll, 'The Potential of Missiology for the Crises of History' in Ronald A Wells, ed.  History and the Christian Historian, Cambridge, Eerdmans, 1998, p 122


    As the saying goes: discuss.

  • Ecclesiastical Matchmaking

    This is the time of year that the leaving students of Baptist, URC and Congregationalist persuasions enter the unsettling experience of 'the settlement process.'  This year my kid sister is doing it URC style. I pray regularly that she will see the light and move to the one true church, but as she does the same in reverse, God is caught in an unenviable theological bind.  Unity in diversity and a bit of sibling rivalry to boot - makes for good, practical ecumenism somewhere along the line.

    I have huge respect for those who endeavour to match ministers to churches, and understand that this week around 30 Baptist leaving students enter the 'pot' and wait for the first list of names of churches.  I'm not sure how many URC's there are - probably around half a dozen by all accounts - and they will be waiting for similar information, albeit only one church at a time and with a slightly different process.  I have no idea about the Congs.  But there will be around 50 people waiting and wondering what their future holds, seeking God's will amidst the muddle of their own desires, dreams and fears.  It's a scary time, and we do well to hold in our thoughts and prayers those ministerial students known to us who are leaving college at the end of this academic year.  L at Bristol and F at Westminster (plus anyone at either of the Northerns), you are in my thoughts.