Chris Ellis was welcomed as our new President at the Baptist Assembly in May 2014. His focus for the year is ‘Higher, Deeper, Wider’ – based on the second half of Ephesians 3.  A new resource to accompany Chris during his Presidential year is based on a conversation about worship between Chris and Baptist minister Ruth Rice.  This series of eight studies is called 'Let's Talk about Worship', and is available to download free of charge for your small group to join in the conversation.

Each month Chris will be sharing his thoughts from his travels through this blog site.  He would love to engage in conversation with you and your church, and there will be opportunity for you to leave your comments at the end of each blog post. Please share your feedback in this way.

Click here to access the blog posts from Ernie Whalley during his Presidential year 2013-14.

Pray and Fast for the Climate

I’m told it’s been a warm year, maybe the warmest on record. Many of us have been basking in sunshine which we have complacently called ‘unseasonal’. But deep down we have known that this is likely to be yet another sign that all is not well.

Through our profligate use of resources, and especially our use of fossil fuels, the earth and its climate is out of joint. While for some this means more temperate weather, for others it can mean floods or droughts, lost land and failed crops.

We know that something must change, but again, deep down, we know that we must change – our politicians need to commit more, our communities need to plan more, and we need to use less. Yet we have always found changing ourselves to be so hard. We need resolve, but even more, we need to seek God’s help.

Now Christian organisations in the UK are coming together to launch a year of prayer and fasting for the climate at special services across the country on 1 November 2014. This initiative calls on Christians to pray and fast on the first day of every month to make a stand for climate justice. The coming year is a crucial time for faith communities to act in response to the climate crisis, as momentum builds towards a new international climate agreement to be signed in Paris in December 2015 to stop dangerous climate change.

I want to encourage, no, urge, Baptists to become a part of this prayer movement. Politics is bound up with prayer, economics is entwined with spiritual disciplines. We pray to God the creator, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’. We pray for God’s world, we pray for ourselves and we pray for those who suffer as a result of our selfish policies and actions.

Creator God,
this world is majestic with your glory,
yet delicate are the balances of your handiwork.
Forgive our abuse of your creation
and our selfish overuse of its wealth.
By your grace,
create within us a spirit of true repentance
and a passion for your kingdom which bears fruit
in new ways of living together
and a greater stewardship of your gifts,
though Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
To find out more and to become part of this prayer movement, go to the
Pray and Fast for the Climate website.

See also the information on the Joint Public Issues Team website.
Chris Ellis
If you want to think more about worship with Chris, then visit Let's Talk about Worship where you will find a series of interviews with Chris and some great linked resources for small group study in your church.


Pioneers of Faith

Newness is in the air.  New initiatives, new forms of church, fresh expressions of Christian community, missional approaches, pioneering ministries.  And it was some pioneers in mission whom I met on a recent visit to the West of England Baptist Association.

Dan and Beth Doherty, together with their toddler Pippa, have recently moved to a Somerset coastal town.  The association is paying the rent and Dan is working part-time at a nearby shopping mall and they are both reaching out into the community and forming relationships.  Beth, with a background in nursery teaching has developed a strong link with a local wetland trust and is leading nature trails for young children and their parents and carers.  Both are exploring what it means to be missional in a new context, perhaps eventually with a new form of church.

I had lunch at the home of Phil and Alice Lawrence on the Knowle West estate in Bristol.  The Cairn is a former Anglican vicarage which they have bought as a missional resource and as the beginnings of an intentional Christian community, alongside other Christians who have moved into this challenging area.  Already they asking ‘What next?’

And then tea with Ali Boulton and members of the Stowe church in south Swindon.  Ali and her family arrived on a new estate in 2009 as the first houses were being built.  Mission has had a community development face here, partnerships and trust have developed alongside people coming to faith.  Empowerment courses for women offer new forms of discipleship, pamper evenings show foot washing in a new context and offer Kingdom affirmation.  Already, the new church is asking how it needs to change in the light of a changing context.  Mission earthed in the reality of people’s lives, yet flexible and responsive to changing opportunities.

This visit was a kind of missional Safari Supper.  Not in terms of food, (though there was great hospitality) but, where possible, in the course of the day each of the pioneers, as well as the regional ministers, met with each other and visited each other’s place of witness.  So my visit as BUGB President became an opportunity for each group of people to reflect together on each other’s situation in context and offer suggestions, support and prayer.  Perhaps here is a model of networking support that will energise others.

You will see that I came away inspired – excited by the ability and desire to think and witness in new ways, moved by the sacrifice that pioneers often have to make when they minister outside traditional church structures, and determined to pray for them and for others who are called to act and trust ‘outside the box’.  ‘Pioneer’, I guess, means not only trail blazer, but person of faith – and what better witness is there than that?
Chris Ellis
If you want to think more about worship with Chris, then visit Let's Talk about Worship where you will find a series of interviews with Chris and some great linked resources for small group study in your church.


Where you go, I will go

In recent months there has been a string of events and TV programmes marking the centenary of the beginning of the First World War.  Pundits have reflected on the whys and the what ifs.  Historians have reviewed the social changes which happened in those years 1914-1918, and so many families have remembered how that terrible conflagration touched so many towns and villages and engulfed so many lives.

But the remembering took on a particularly personal note for me when I was invited to attend a special celebration. 1914 not only saw the outbreak of war, but also the establishment of the United Board which was to oversee the appointment of Baptist, Congregationalist and, later, other ministers as chaplains in the British armed forces. Of course, there had been ministers and clergy from other denominations serving as chaplains before 1914, but the routes to this particular ministry were closed to our own forbears until that momentous year.

I’ve tried to choose my words carefully – we mark the centenary of World War I, but we celebrate the centenary of Baptists and others serving as military chaplains. Those of us who gathered in the chapel of the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre at Amport House, near Andover, offered prayers of thanksgiving - not only for those chaplains who had lost their lives in the course of their ministry, but for all who had served faithfully.  We listened to the stories of those who had served courageously under fire and had embodied the love of God in extreme situations. It was a particular delight to meet up with some of my former students who are now serving chaplains.

But what sticks with me most is the bible text from which the preacher preached, for it gave me a new perspective on ministry and the call to serve. The text was from the book of Ruth, where the widowed Naomi encourages her widowed Moabite daughters-in-law to return home and not travel with her as she leaves their country.  Ruth replies, ‘Do not press me to leave you or to turn back from following you! Where you go, I will go, where you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die, I will die – there will I be buried.’

I remembered all those brass plaques in countless chapels where I have worshipped and preached. Lists of names of young men who never came back, let alone those not listed who did return and who were changed by what they had endured. And then I thought of the ministers who saw their youth group lads volunteer or eventually be conscripted. There were those who said, ‘Where you go, I will go – in the name of Christ’.

This is incarnational ministry – in 1914 and in many situations of conflict and danger since then. It is relational and it is inclusive, in that it is offered to those of faith and those of no faith. It is God-centred at times and in places that many may describe as ‘Godless’.  Please pray for all those who engage in this ministry as they say to our young people, ‘Where you go, I will go.’
Chris Ellis
If you want to think more about worship with Chris, then visit Let's Talk about Worship where you will find a series of interviews with Chris and some great linked resources for small group study in your church.


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