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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- Apart from the AGMs, having a series of 20 minute optional sessions worked well; giving people an opportunity to engage with some particular issues.
- 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).
- Making lunchtime into part of the whole day with the big picnic ensured some great interaction.
- 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.