BUGB / BMS Baptist Assembly 2015

Back in the UK I attended the annual BUGB/BMS Baptist Assembly on Saturday. This year it was a one day event, which worked better than I thought it might. Obviously reducing the events length means that there are lots of things there isn’t space for, such as opportunities for other Baptist Organisations, plenary sessions with speakers, engagement with Scripture, and if we keep having one day events we will be much poorer for it; but this was kept fast moving and engaging.

Most people will have things they wish were done differently, mine include:

  1. If, as people who believe in discerning the mind of Christ, we think that doing AGMs as one of a range of 20 minute optional events is right, we need to give ourselves a long hard look in the mirror.
  2. Doing ministerial recognition for new ministers and the in memoriam session for ministers who’ve died in a fresh way is fine (personally I happen not to like it) but when we don’t name the people individually we lose something important and honouring.
  3. I’m most comfortable with the style of worship used (contemporary band led worship songs), and too much responsive liturgy does my head in (so the absence of it was welcome) but our annual worship gathering needs to be more inclusive. [Actually the need for inclusivity isn’t just about worship].

There are lots of things worth celebrating, not least that over 1000 Baptists want to gather from across the country. But I’d also note:

  1. Apart from the AGMs, having a series of 20 minute optional sessions worked well; giving people an opportunity to engage with some particular issues.
  2. The number of different people contributing from the front was good; it was great to see the Young People involved in this (not least because two of them were my children).
  3. Making lunchtime into part of the whole day with the big picnic ensured some great interaction.
  4. Each year Assembly needs a multitude of volunteers to make it happen, and many people (especially folk who work for the Union and BMS) put in long hours to pull it together. We should celebrate their commitment!

Assembly is one of the key moments when our vision and values are expressed and the shorter assembly makes it much harder to do this. It provides a good way of gathering people together but is a much weaker tool for enabling a Baptist movement: something that will be vital over the next five to ten years.

One thought on “BUGB / BMS Baptist Assembly 2015

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  1. Hi Neil – thanks for the post…I smiled when I read your points…I agree with some of what you say…having 20 minute sessions worked well, having the young people involved, making lunchtime a key element of the day are all positives of the day. But, I felt that having an AGM for BUGB and then for BMS that was just 20 minutes long was a great way to have an AGM. I agree that we are a community that seeks to discern the mind of Christ, but I really don’t think that a gathering of 1200 people is the best place to do that. So, 20 minutes of reporting etc is fine by me. I was interested in some of the comments on your twitter feed about the BU Council. I’m not entirely sure of the role of the BU Council and so I can’t really comment…other than if it is fluffy then there’s probably no point. My own view is that it is the local church that is the priority and we need to be careful and/cautious about trying to make policy and mission decisions at a national level.
    My other other point of difference is that I would have liked way more responsive liturgy… The band were great, the songs generally were ok, by I do prefer congregational engagement by way of responsive liturgy.
    I was glad that there was no ‘keynote’ speaker. In the past I have too often struggled with ‘not very good’ keynote addresses. That doesn’t apply to everyone of course, but too often that has been the case.
    I did appreciate the number of folk who spoke for a limited time – 4 minutes I think was the rule.
    I agree that the ‘building on the foundations of those who have gone before’ was an excellent way to honour those who had died in the last year and recognise new minister’s/missionaries, but I too would have like the new minister/missionaries to be named and so on…
    I am aware that the decision has been taken to have three one day Assemblies.I am particularly interested in what might emerge following this period…
    blessings Neil.


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