The Barnabas Spirit
Last month I talked with Sister Barnabas who was attending the joint ministers’ conference with the Baptist Union of Wales and BU South Wales. She was one of a fascinating number of people I met at the event in Saundersfoot. Sister Barnabas is linked to the Ffald-y-Brenin Retreat Centre in Pontfaen, near Fishguard; a community which God is using richly to bless people (Roy Godwin tells the story in The Grace Outpouring.) Sister Barnabas spends much time in intentional prayer.
We know from Acts 4: 36 that ‘Barnabas’ means ‘son of encouragement’. Last week, I had the opportunity to read Tony Benn’s The Last Diaries – a blaze of Autumn sunshine. Within all his reflections on the political scene, he writes movingly about encouraging others, including his family and the younger generation.
Those of us who are a bit older have more time to encourage others, but it is an opportunity for all of us. It is a greatly needed gift. In a busy world, we can easily take folk for granted. The same applies in church life. A word or gesture of genuine encouragement can be restorative. Such moments can ‘strengthen the courage within’ so that people can carry on with a stronger spring in their step.
I can still remember a sermon of 40 years ago delivered by the Revd Ernest Moore, a New Testament Scholar and my tutor at Northern Baptist College. Shortly before I left college and, along with others, was preparing for my first pastorate, Ernest reminded us that the word ‘paraclete’ used for the Holy Spirit was often translated as ‘Comforter’. But he thought the word ‘encourager’ was as good a translation – the Encouraging Spirit.
As Lent proceeds, how can I cultivate the Barnabas spirit within me towards those around me and in my community; amongst family and friends and within my church?
(Ernie has prepared a series of 6 Bible Studies ‘Like Stars in the Universe’ based on our Assembly 2013 theme: ‘Reclaiming Philippians for Today’s Church’. Copies of this are available from the online shop – priced £3. Ernie encourages churches to join a conversation based on the themes of the study – see www.likestars.org.uk throughout this year)