The Baptist Assembly opening celebration
The launch of the new Pentecost People worship resource, reflections with outgoing President Rupert Lazar, the induction of new President Dianne Tidball – and a warm Yorkshire welcome
The Harrogate Convention Centre was the venue for the 2017 Assembly - and delegates were quickly treated to a ‘proper Yorkshire welcome’ in an entertaining sketch from Baptist ministers Roy Searle and Simon Hall.
'Welcome God’s people. Welcome to Harrogate,' said Simon. 'Sit thee down, and enjoy the Assembly.'
Following this opening, event host Ann Chesworth, minister of Harrogate Baptist Church, introduced a short film featuring three churches from the Yorkshire Baptist Association to share something of what God is doing in the region. They included Cottingham Baptist Church in Hull, which is seeing great opportunities provided by Hull being the City of Culture.
Next up was Cemetery Road Baptist Church, Sheffield, a vibrant multi-cultural church, with two dozen nationalities. In recent years it has welcomed many refugees and asylum seekers. There is now a separate Karen-speaking Baptist congregation there. The church saw 56 baptisms last year.
South Craven Baptist Church was the third church in the film. It was facing closure when a retiring Baptist minister joined in 2013. The church is now seeing signs of growth: numbers have increased by 80 per cent, and there is a thriving youth work, including the Girls’ Brigade and Boys’ Brigade.
Ann then spoke about Harrogate. It’s a church facing 'challenges that many of you will be facing'. Many of the congregation can remember a time when more people came to the church, when there were more families and young people. Harrogate is an affluent area, and in such a place people find it harder to understand their need for Jesus.'
‘We don’t have too many good news stories to tell at the moment,’ Ann continued. ‘But we do have hope, that God is doing a new thing.’
Referring to 1 Corinthians 3: 5-7, she said, ‘As we water and plant, that’s our prayer, that God will make it grow.’
The launch of Pentecost People
The multicultural resource Pentecost People was launched, a resource which aims to help churches to embrace the different cultures within them, to learn hospitality in a new way and to experience multicultural worship and prayer.
Baptist minister Dave Mahon shared how he led a Bible study in an inner city evangelical church in Kingston, Jamaica on the Prodigal Son. The reading was initially in English, but then in Jamaican Creole, or Patois. During the latter reading, the atmosphere ‘changed markedly and became much more lively and interactive,’ Dave said.
People shared with him what a difference it made, with one lady saying that she ‘thinks in Creole, she doesn’t think in English.’
‘As someone used to worshipping in other languages,’ Dave said, ‘I think we must move to multicultural worship.’
Pentecost People is made up of four video-based study sessions filmed in British Baptist churches, and additional resources to help small groups and churches to explore these areas. A clip was shown.
The new resource, said Alina Rai, minister in training at Anderson Baptist Church in Reading, is full of ideas and practical help.
This resource has been developed by members of the Racial Justice Group and Regent’s Park College.
Alina led delegates in a responsive prayer:
We stand together in the presence of our Father
Who made all people in God’s image
We stand together in the name of the Son
Who died and rose again for every one of us
We stand together in the power of the Spirit
Who calls and sends us continually into the mission of God
We stand as one
One body, one baptism, one Lord, Amen
The resource can be accessed here: http://www.baptist.org.uk/Groups/289380/Pentecost_People.aspx
See also this introduction to Pentecost People, written for the Summer 2017 edition of Baptists Together magazine.
World church music featured throughout the worship sessions during Assembly. Worship was led by Margaret Gibbs, minister of Perry Rise Baptist Church, London, and a former BMS Regional Secretary for Asia. She was accompanied by the Kairos Ensemble.
Reflections with outgoing President
Thanks were given for the ministry of Rupert Lazar, who has served our Union as President 2016-17. ‘In this last year Rupert has inspired us brilliantly with his theme Anointed to do Good,’ said General Secretary Lynn Green.
Invited to share his thoughts on the year, Rupert said, ‘It’s been great for me, a privilege and honour. It’s been fun. A little bit tiring, but a joy to serve the family in that way.
‘I hope I have been sharing what an excellent leader we have in Lynn – been saying that unashamedly, because I think you’re great!
‘I’ve been taking the Anointed to do Good message around. We are to stand firm and know who we are in Christ. We are to move forward and do good, being a people of proclamation and demonstration.’
Lynn added, ‘You’ve really inspired us. We’ve really valued your spirituality and wisdom. Your prophetic insight too – you’ve brought a word to us, especially to the Baptist Steering Group. It’s been such a privilege to serve alongside you.
‘We want to say thank you to your church and (wife) Joanne for releasing you.’
Induction of new President Dianne Tidball
The opening celebration saw the induction of our new President Dianne Tidball. 'We're delighted to be welcoming you,' said Lynn. 'You're passionate about God's word.'
She invited Dianne to respond to the words of induction. Dianne was joined on stage by family and colleagues, and was prayed for by Jenny Tidball and Rupert before signing the President's Bible.
Dianne’s theme for her presidential year is “As in Heaven”. She began to unpack the theme in an address following the induction, taking Matthew 6:9 and Phil 3:10-14, 20-21 as her text.
Richard Tidball read the scripture. Alina Rai repeated 'May your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as in heaven' in Nepali before and after the English reading.
Reading scripture in an international language before the English reading was a pattern repeated throughout Assembly.
Click here for a summary of Dianne's address.