Giving what we have to Jesus
The story of the feeding of the 5,000 formed the backdrop to the Annual General Meeting of the Baptist Union on Saturday afternoon
Phil Jump (pictured), Regional Minister Team Leader of the North West Baptist Association, outlined how this story related to our life as a Union. God’s people were in a ‘resource deficit’, but Jesus decides to go for a ‘needs-driven, collaborative approach’ by asking Peter to act differently. Rather than tell the people to go away, he is asked to place what he has in Jesus’ hands.
As a Union we have had to learn to act differently in the last couple of years, Phil continued. Let’s go for a collaborative approach, give what we have to Jesus, and see what happens.
Treasurer Malcolm Broad then shared a financial update. It had been a difficult transitonal year, but a better than expected financial result had been achieved – a surplus of more than £290,000. He also remembered the people who had left their posts, and paid tribute to staff who have to adapt to new challenges. Malcolm was later re-elected treasurer during the session.
General secretary Lynn Green took to the stage to outline some key themes. In five years time, what do we want people to be saying about our Union?
The first was a 'confident people'; the second a kingdom people (‘we need to be nurturing kingdom-shaped churches rather than church-shaped kingdoms’). She also said we need to be more open to the prophetic.
Being richly diverse and integrated was the third point. ‘I would love us not to be an 'either or' culture, but ‘and, and, and’, because we have so much to learn from each other,' said Lynn.
The fourth and final point was to be known as a deeply loving people. She said how she had been challenged by the well known 1 Corinthians 13 passage on love. ‘Without love, we are nothing,' she said. 'We need to be a deeply loving people, so others can hear and experience the unconditional love of God.’
She then shared her own three major priorities. Listening, both to each other and to God ('I see prayer as the primary role in my job description'); building relationships of trust; and simply ‘let’s just get on with it!’
‘I’m continually humbled, encouraged and inspired by what I see in our churches – let’s keep on keeping on.’ But we also need to ask the question: what is going to be different in our mission next year?
Stephen Keyworth, Faith and Society Team Leader, gave an update on the sexuality conversations that have taken place over the last year in churches, Associations, colleges and gatherings of ministers. The focus had been to understand and appreciate why others who read the same Bible think differently; but more importantly 'to recognise where our shared values lie, to recognise and celebrate all that is held in common and to celebrate our unity as brothers and sisters in Christ'. They had been conducted in gracious ways amid the 'breadth of opinion' in our Union, he said.
He read an expression of where we are on the journey, which will form a backdrop to the continuing conversations. This expression has been shaped by the conversations and correspondence over the past year, and developed in recent months by the Baptist Steering Group, with input from Baptist Union Council in March. This expression was published after the Assembly in the Faith and Society section
of the Baptists Together
Delegates were also asked to break into small huddles to swap 'stories of adventure' in their churches. A small number were shared to the whole room via a roving microphone; everyone was asked to write something on a piece of paper which was then collected by stewards and placed at the front of the stage.
As these stories of adventure were brought to the front, the following prayer was said by Karen Martindale of the Heart of England Baptist Association:
We walk together humbly
Inspired not by who we are, but what Christ can make us
Recognising that in our fragility, God’s strength is made complete
We place ourselves, our churches, our hopes, our disappointments
We place our Union into your hands O Lord
Forgive us if our vision has been limited by the resources that we can muster
Rather than infinite possibilities of the one into whose hands we are invited to place them;
When our instinct has been to dismiss the needs of others
Rather than embrace the opportunities for faith and service that they reveal;
When we have clung to the little we have
Rather than abandon ourselves to the purposes and possibilities of your Kingdom
Anoint us afresh with your Spirit
Unite us afresh in your love
Make our hearts restless in pursuit of your Kingdom
Grant us courage to embrace the adventure of your Gospel
Inspire us, fill us, send us
That you may be revealed and encountered
In our every shared endeavour. AMEN
Lynn closed the session by saying that the feeding of the 5,000 was a miracle, the baskets were full to overflowing - and the Lord is with us now. ‘I firmly believe our Union is ready for generational change,' she said, ‘Brothers and sisters, it is time for us to be the change we want to see!'