Chris, a former principal of Bristol Baptist College and minister of West Bridgford Baptist Church in Nottingham, preached on Ephesians 3: 14-21. Before doing so he expressed his hope that ‘if nothing else’ people return to this piece of Scripture as a result of his Presidential year. ‘There is so much blessing in it!’ he said. Chris also shared the Let's Talk About Worship
resource which will accompany the year.
He was prayed for by Tony Peck, General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation, and others including wife Marilyn, brother Rob Ellis (Principal of Regent's Park College) and trustee Barbara Carpenter.
Earlier delegates at the Bethel Convention Centre in West Bromwich had been welcomed by Lynn Green, General Secretary of our Baptist Union, and David Kerrigan, General Director of BMS World Mission, in an opening session that featured poetry, art, mime, and prayers, plus worship led by Tim and Becca Judson.
‘We are delighted to welcome you to the Baptist Assembly 2014,’ said Lynn.
‘We are especially delighted to see you at Assembly,’ added David, addressing Lynn directly and referring to her recent cancer scare. ‘Not just because this is your first year as General Secretary, but we have been praying our socks off for you – and we continue to do so.’
David said one of the key things about being at Assembly is that ‘we are reminded that we are part of God’s family in the British Isles.’
He explained that this was a different and shorter Assembly to previous years. One of the reasons was to drive down costs to enable more people to come.
The theme of this year’s gathering and for the continuing year, added Lynn, was Higher, Deeper, Wider: having our eyes fixed on Jesus; knowing the depths of God’s love for us; and realising that this is a God of the whole of creation. ‘Together we all, children and adults, will be getting to grips with this theme,’ she said.
Assembly heard from the previous President Ernie Whalley, who was asked by Lynn to talk about the highlights of his year.
He shared how he was amazed by the number of churches ‘walking the walk’, involved in serious engagement with their communities through initiatives like foodbanks, money management and community art. There were literally ‘thousands of activities’ taking place in our churches each week.
In terms of challenges he spoke of the number of churches in our Union with 40 or fewer members. Some were closing; other were still full of life, but desperately needed support. ‘How do we harness that resource?’ asked Ernie. ‘Together we can.’
The Assembly was opened by the reading of a poem called Invitation to the Dance, after which Millie Smethurst, daughter of Watchet Baptist Church minister Carl, prayed for the gathering. A seven minute mime depicting aspects of the crucifixion interspersed the worship. Assembly was also introduced to artist in residence Oliver Pengilly.
Following the first session delegates were treated to a rousing lunchtime concert from the Birmingham-based Town Hall Gospel Choir, winners of the Songs of Praise Gospel Choir of the Year in 2013.