The Baptist Assembly in Scotland
A fine sense of family, a strong sense of purpose and a great deal of hope for the newly-forged future, writes Mark Craig
If there’s a word to describe the Scottish town of Motherwell, it might be ‘solid’.
It’s a solid, but not a pretty, place, and it bears now-healing scars of its post-industrial redevelopment. Where there were once massive steel mills, there are now the same out of town retail parks and small business units that you find in most places.
The people are solid too. They’re strong, hard-working souls, with a deep-rooted sense of identity. They’re dependable, and they’ll make the transition from steel forges into a new world of soft skills and soft hands.
The Baptist Union of Scotland is completing its own voyage of transition, and it seemed appropriate that this year’s Baptist Assembly in Scotland (which is the joint Assembly of BUS and BMS World Mission) came to Motherwell.
Under the leadership of Alan Donaldson, the Union has made a startling series of changes to the way it is, the way it relates and the way it sees its role.
This year’s theme ‘Forging the Future’ saw the Union emerge into a key moment of looking to the future, with the vast majority of Scotland’s Baptist churches represented, and playing a full part in that process.
Headliner Adrian Plass had to drop out, due to a back condition that will see him need surgery. Into the breach stepped Alan Donaldson (pictured) and David Kerrigan, General Director of BMS. Between them they filled the Plass-shaped gap – perhaps a little less funny, but perhaps also a little more rooted in the issues the churches in Scotland are grappling with.
Experimental ideas were to the fore. The second day saw the whole venue reset, from all chairs to all tables, allowing a different kind of engagement for the audience. The invitation to text in responses to issues overwhelmed the system, and that’s a first; in other Assemblies in the UK, the response to invitations to text responses has been very limited, but next time will see new software in place!
Micro-seminars were also very well received. With a maximum of 20 places, specialised inputs including fostering and ministry to travelling people were snapped up instantly.
And it was great to see leaders from the biggest churches in Scotland supporting the Union and the event, amongst them Karl Martin from Central Baptist Church in Edinburgh and David Gordon from Kirkintilloch Baptist Church. To have many of the country’s biggest, most influential churches there is a huge encouragement to the rest of the Baptist family.
BMS World Mission, as co-partner with the Union in the Assembly, again undertook the technical production of the event. The Revd Judy White, whose senior missional role in Scotland is funded jointly by BUS and BMS, also helped lead the conversations, through her links with congregations the length and breadth of the country.
With the Assembly’s children and young peoples groups joining the main event for the closing communion, this event saw a fine sense of family, a strong sense of purpose and a great deal of hope for the newly-forged future.
Mark Craig is Director of Communications at BMS World Mission
Related: A personal reflection on this year's Assembly, by Catriona Gorton