Building Baptist Networks
Churches in Southend have been challenged to be 'bold and imaginative' in exploring a different way of working together.
The call came from former president of the Baptist Union of Great Britain the Revd Roy Searle, who had been invited to address 13 churches gathering at Belle Vue Baptist Church last week.
It was the first time such a meeting had taken place for many years, arising out of a new commitment by ministers in the area to explore what it might mean to support and partner together.
Organisers said they were delighted to be joined by Roy, who leads the Northumbria Community.
He encouraged the group 'to be bold and imaginative in exploring a different way of being Baptist churches together, taking seriously the idea of walking together and watching over one another'.
The theme of the meeting at Belle Vue was based around an image shared by the Revd Ivan King of Church from Scratch around 18 months ago.
He said that churches are either marbles or honeycombs: the marble image suggests that there may be some small points of contact, but each church remains separate from the others. The honeycomb image suggests much more connection: when you look at honeycomb, while there are particular honeycombs at the same time they are part of one another. If one piece breaks, six more are affected. *(see below for the source of this metaphor)
Each church was invited to complete a hexagon, saying something about themselves (pictured). They were brought together to make a giant honeycomb, representing both the individual churches - and the possibility of being something else as well.
The gathering happened against a backdrop of the Futures Process which has encouraged the building of deeper networks among local Baptist churches. A report on networking will be presented at next week's Baptist Union Council, highlighting some current good practice drawn from a number of Associations, before suggesting an outline for a way forward.
Some of this networking is already happening in Southend: some are exploring a new church plant aimed at young people in the town centre. There may be other opportunities to mission together; it may result in practical watching over each other, such as allowing some voice into church meetings or budget planning.
The Revd Andy Goodliff, minister at Belle Vue, and the Revd Peter Dominey, of Church from Scratch, issued a statement following the meeting, stressing that this was just the beginning.
'We share this story as perhaps one way of taking the BU's encouragement for Baptist churches to build deeper networks with each other.
'We are still very much at the beginning of a journey and the hard work of turning from marbles to honeycombs is one that we recognise will not come naturally or easily, and will require a commitment and imagination to see and build the kingdom beyond the walls of our churches.'
To hear Roy Searle in Southend, follow this link: http://andygoodliff.typepad.com/my_weblog/2012/11/roy-searle-and-baptists-in-southend.html
* The source of this marble/honeycomb metaphor from Ivan King is John Bennington, Culture, class and Christian beliefs (London: Scripture Union Publishing, 1973)