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  • Take this moment, sign and space... (1)

    Last Saturday afternoon, I travelled with a small contingent of Gatherers to Tillicoultry Baptist Church to attend an ordination.  If you look closely at the photo, you can see part of my head, as I was invited to among those who laid on hands during the ordination prayers.

    It was a lovely service, with a good sermon on "forgetting what is past, I press on" and a warm, friendly atmosphere.  The candidate's testimony was moving, honest, open, vulnerable and engaging.  The other "stories" likewise affirmed that this was 'of God' and it was good.

    This family heads south to Cambridgeshire, a great gift to a rural area at a time of political uncertainty.  God seems to like moving people across humanly-made geographical borders... there are actually more English-born than Scottish-born in that photo!

    And more divine humour... this ministry will be in a church where I know one of the past ministers a little, as he was a couple of years above me at college.

    May God bless L&M s&p as they journey on, fulfilling their callings in a new context.

  • Baptists Together... in Scotland

    This from a ministerial colleague in Scotland, Rev Norman Graham
     
    Brexit & Mission
     
     
    Ok deep breath...Brexit happened. Now we have to live and minister in this new reality.
     
    We could probably debate all day the rights and wrongs of both campaigns and the final result...but let’s not. Whatever the vast array of differing opinion regarding our place in the EU within our Baptist family of churches, our union with one another via our union with Christ transcends all other relationships, political ideologies and loyalties.
     
    With that caveat, we cannot ignore the new reality in which we are called to minister, and the facts seem to be that the new reality is going to be a very difficult one. The Pound continues to fall along with the value of shares, investment is being cancelled, multinational companies are preparing to move out of the UK and we are bracing ourselves for hundreds of thousands of job redundancies. Today the chancellor has announced that he expects us to go through a prolonged period of financial instability that will require much more severe budget cuts and austerity measures as well as tax rises.
     
    That is the new reality that we now live in and it is the new reality that we must now minister in. According to organisations like the Joseph Roundtree Foundation and the Poverty Alliance, the present austerity measures have pushed half a million families into poverty. It is likely that the new austerity measures, coupled with significant redundancies and tax rises will push far more people into poverty. The two most significant areas of poverty in the UK currently are food poverty and fuel poverty (which may get a lot worse if the Hinkley Point Nuclear plant is cancelled as looks likely, like Brexit there seems to be no plan B regarding energy, except possibly to allowing fracking). Furthermore, an inescapable consequence of the Leave campaign has been the normalisation and acceptance of racism, an evil that is contrary to everything the gospel of Christ stands for. It has left many in our communities feeling very vulnerable, and afraid.
     
    The Baptist family of churches in Scotland must now urgently begin thinking more constructively about how we can reach out beyond our church buildings, or even open them up to community organisations, in order the meet then needs of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our communities. Let us not be in any doubt that many social services, already strained, will be cut back significantly or cut out altogether. My own local authority was already facing a £20 million gap in its funding for next year. We must now begin gearing up and begin thinking about how best we can respond to these challenges and minster to the people in our communities.
     
    Is there a community council in your area or a tenants and residents association. If so, get on it and fight for your community services. If not start one.
     
    Is your church building near a school? Can you start a breakfast club to ensure that children get something to eat at the start of the day?
     
    Is there anyone in your church that can help people with free legal advice?
     
    Can you start a food bank?
     
    Can you start a hardship fund (probably best administered in partnership with Social Services or similar group)?
     
    What can you do to befriend immigrants living in your community, to help them to feel loved, and welcome?
     
    Please do not write off such suggestions as socialism, this is the gospel in action.
     
    The South African missiologist David Bosch has written that, “Mission is more and different from recruitment to our brand of religion; it is the alerting of people to the universal reign of God through Christ.” One of the ways that we alert them to God’s reign, is to be a demonstration and foretaste of the kingdom of God to them. In the Kingdom of God people are not abandoned, they are not left to go hungry or cold.
     
    Such care has always been part of the life and mission of the Church. About 300 years after the Book of Acts was written the Roman Emperor Julian complained bitterly that the influence of the Christians was so great they were in danger of taking over the Empire. Although Christianity was the main religion in the Empire by this time, Julian viewed the early Christians as atheists because they did not worship the old pagan gods of the Empire. He understood Christianity to be a kind of sickness plaguing the Empire and wanted to restore the old religions. Julian wrote to his officials demanding they embark on a programme of social welfare, he said, “We must pay special attention to this point, and by means affect a cure. For when it came about that the poor were neglected and overlooked by the priests, then I think the impious Galileans observed this fact and devoted themselves to philanthropy. And they have gained ascendancy…through the credit they win for such practices…and the result is that they have led many into atheism.” By atheism he meant Christianity.
     
    I really do not care at all if you voted Leave or Remain. Our primary loyalty is not to any sense of national identity or political party or ideology, Queen or country. Our primary loyalty is to Christ and he has called us to a mission. As a family of Baptist Churches in Scotland, we must more than ever speak up for those who have no voice and defend and care for the widow and the orphan, the poor and the vulnerable and the marginalised, the foreigner and the stranger living among us.
     
    Whether our nation realises it or not it needs, now more than ever, for the Church to be the Church.
     

  • Baptists Together...

    Sharing this from BUGB (now using the name "Baptists Together" in an attempt to recognise thar BUGB is not a helpful geographical term , etc. etc.). As well as the link, here's the text...

    An Open Letter to the European Baptist Federation 

     

    Dear Asatur, Jenni and Tony,

    Greetings in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

    When I met with the EBF Executive earlier in the year I assured you of our continuing commitment to relationships with our European sisters and brothers in Christ against the backdrop of our EU Referendum campaign.  As the result of that Referendum has become known this morning I wanted to write to you to re-iterate the importance of our relationships with the EBF.

    Today we, as the Baptist Union of Great Britain, declare afresh that we are one in Christ and no referendum result will change that.  Despite all the challenges and opportunities of political, economic, cultural and environmental change we face across Europe, our first allegiance must always be to our Lord.  We are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God.
     
    We value enormously the relationships that we have with the 54 member Unions that form the EBF.  Not only do we count it a privilege to serve other Unions across Europe and the Middle East, we are also deeply served and enriched by the faith, insight and experience of leaders and churches from their differing contexts.  This not only happens through our formal gatherings, but also through the countless links with individuals and churches that we share with you.  In this way we experience what it means to be the Body of Christ.

    Thank you for your prayers for us during this campaign.  I would ask that you would continue to pray in the weeks and months ahead.  Our churches and leaders have the opportunity to be peacemakers in a divided country.  We are also called by the Lord to continue to offer and embody a prophetic voice that seeks God’s Kingdom in our public life.  Many of you know only too well the cost and the blessing to the church of being faithful in uncertain times; we look to you to stand with us and hope and pray that we will be able to imitate you as you have followed Christ.

    Please be assured that we shall also continue to pray for churches and leaders in the EBF.  As the ripples of our decision work their way across the European political landscape, for good or for ill, we must, together, renew our trust in the Lord and not be afraid. 

    What remains true is that the Lord will be exalted among the nations, He will be exalted in the earth.  One day His Kingdom will come and all things will be made new.

    Yours in Christ,

    Lynn Green