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.

New Year

We had the annual conversation: "Weren't the fireworks great, but what a lot of money to go up in  smoke!"  Then the annual frustration of trying to phone loved ones with New Year greetings only to be told, "Network busy!"  Happy New Year to you!
It's a good time to reflect on past, present and future, to remember absent friends and to hope and pray that the year to come has more promise than the one past.  A time to take stock and perhaps even to consider a resolution for the coming days.
This reflective mode set me thinking about our Union, about our relationships between churches, associations and colleges, about times past and times future, as well as time present.  We have been living through a time of transition, attempting new ways of decision-making and shifts in ways of relating, especially between the regional associations and the national structures.  We are still learning that 'national' doesn't mean 'them' but means 'us' - all of us. We are still learning how to relate without the level of institutional life we have known in the past.
Above all, I believe we still have a journey to travel on what it means to be a fellowship which is locally supportive and trusting, regionally creative and strategic, and nationally rich in its spiritual and practical resourcing.  As a Union, we are a fellowship with national dimensions.  The New Testament word koinonia, which is usually translated 'fellowship', means far more than a rosy-tinted warmth of friendly feeling.  A better translation is 'fellowship-sharing' - as Paul makes clear in 2 Corinthians 8, that fellowship between congregations is not just about good intentions but practical and costly mutual support.  So as a Near Year unfolds, let us look forward with a clear and an intentional commitment to support one another through prayer and practical sharing.
But my musings take me further.  Paul ends his second letter to the Corinthians with the familiar words which we repeat most times that most of us meet: 'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the communion (koinonia / fellowship-sharing) of the Holy Spirit be with you all.'  This communion, which is our Union, is a work of the Holy Spirit which binds us together and inspires us to mutual encouragement and common action.  I believe there is a mystical dimension to God's call to us for life together as a Union.  Let us resolve to explore this common life in the Spirit in the coming year, allowing ourselves to be stretched and excited by the God of grace without whom we can do nothing.

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.


The Big Picture in the Detail

Minds work in different kinds of ways and different eyes see from contrasting angles.  People just see the world differently.  Some hear the words, others see the body language, some see the big picture while others spot the detail.  Two people go for a walk in the country: one comments, ‘What a magnificent view!’ while the other observes, ‘Look at the colour of that petal!’

Speaking personally, I have tended to see the big picture.  It’s not that I can’t do detail, but I have to work harder at it.  Ideas and patterns come naturally, giving holding on to detail can be harder. Yet listening to other people’s stories, I am able to give attention to the specifics of what they have done, or thought or hope to happen, while at the same time seeing patterns of human striving and hoping and traces of God’s grace at work amidst it all.

For much of this year I have been sharing in the teaching of a course on spiritual accompaniment, exploring some of the riches of Christian spirituality, as well as the gifts and skills necessary to listen and discern with another Christian something of God’s way in their life.  At the same time, my travels have continued around the country, visiting our churches, associations and colleges.  In these travels I have heard stories and seen examples of God at work with lives changed, communities enriched and Jesus made real in the specifics of people’s lives.  I have celebrated with churches at their anniversaries, shared in quiet days and retreats, celebrated the two hundred years of Jamaican-British Baptist partnership, participated in association days and ministers’ conferences, and continued to listen to personal accounts of God at work in human need and endeavour.

To share these stories is to share testimony, to witness to the living God and to demonstrate that God’s gracious big picture is always meeting us in the specifics of our apparently small situations.

Soon it will be Christmas, when we give thanks for the eternal Word of God made flesh in Jesus – the ultimate example of the big picture brought down to earth in the details and specifics of messy human existence.  This is the nature of God’s grace – it reaches us where we are, rather than where we would like to be.  It meets us in mercy and embodies the big picture of good news that is not above the details of our lives and promises to transform them.

But even this affirmation is not specific enough, or down-to-earth enough, because grace has a human face.  There is nothing abstract about Jesus - only our attempts to explain him.  Here is God, in human flesh, born and killed, walking, talking and suffering for us and for our salvation.  And here, in our stories of grace, the Word continues to become flesh as the Holy Spirit brings new life and hope in hard places.

This Christmas there is much to pray for in our world.  But, above all, let our prayers be ones of thanksgiving - for the human face of grace in Jesus and in the faces of those around us in which his love is embodied.

May I wish you a happy Christmas and a grace-filled new year!

 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.


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.


Previous Blog Posts

August 2014: Pioneers of Faith
July 2014: Where you go, I will go
June 2014: Let's talk about worship
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