Let no one be a stranger
The Baptist minister who leads the church which hosted three services marking the 200 years of relationship between Jamaican and British Baptists said not even a major BBC hitch could spoil the day
A technical problem prevented BBC Radio 4 from broadcasting the 8.10am service at Cannon Street Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham on Sunday as planned, and instead a standby programme was aired.
While this was an understandable disappointment to the 300 strong congregation who had gathered, it was nevertheless a ‘fantastic day’ said the Revd Bryan Scott, the team leader at Cannon Street.
‘Obviously the one downside was the BBC equipment broke down, which was a shame as everybody had put so much effort in,’ he said.
‘But we didn’t let that stop us enjoying the day. The services were excellent. There were inspiring speakers and messages, and great worship.’
That early service still went ahead as planned, followed by further bicentenary services at 11am and 6.30pm.
The General Secretary of the Jamaica Baptist Union the Revd Karl Johnson spoke at both morning services, while the Revd Karl Henlin, a former JBU president, addressed the evening gathering. There were contributions from the Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary of our Baptist Union, the Revd David Kerrigan, General Director of BMS World Mission, and the acclaimed Town Hall Gospel Choir. All three services were packed.
After the early morning service a communal breakfast was shared, with people eating together before staying for the 11am service.
Mr Scott (pictured) said there were members of his congregation who had arrived in Britain in the 1950 and 60s for whom the day was a particularly poignant one.
'Our church was a suitable venue for these services, as we have some of the first wave of immigrants from the Caribbean.
‘For some it brought back bad memories of when they first arrived. They had sought refuge in the Baptist church because they knew there were Baptist missionaries in Jamaica, but it took them a while to be received and accepted.
‘So it was emotional for some. But it also showed how far we have moved on, and have contributed to the multi-cultural society we now live in. The Apology in 2007 has been very important. It has enabled us to move forward, and build on that. It has been incredibly helpful.’
The theme of the services – and indeed the motto of the church – of Let No One Be a Stranger, has a resonance for today, continued Mr Scott.
‘People came over to rebuild the country after the Second World War, to do the menial jobs that others didn’t want to do,’ he said. ‘It’s happening again now, which is why it’s so important for us to welcome the stranger. We have been there, we understand more than anyone what it means not to be welcomed.
‘The words “Let No One Be a Stranger are engraved on the wall of the church. We hope they will continue to be a guiding principle for Jamaican and British Baptists.’
JBU General Secretary Mr Johnson (pictured) spoke of the sense of celebration at the occasion of the bicentenary, in particular of the effective intervention of God into “our human life and experience for our own good and well-being, individually and collectively”. Both Jamaican and British Baptists played important roles in ending slavery.
Turning attention to the present day he said we spoke of the need for Christians to make space for people, “even if we have to confront deeply entrenched motifs and practice.”
‘This may well be the mandate for our generation,’ he continued, ‘to offer a real model of this new reality where no one is a stranger and all realise and experience what it means to belong!’
Speaking following the service, Lynn Green said, '“It was a bittersweet day at Cannon Street Memorial Baptist Church; I could sense the deep pain that our shared history has caused and yet there was also a tremendous sense of joy and worship that was fabulous.
'Whilst we were all disappointed that the service did not go on air, I am looking forward to going back to Cannon Street to worship again!'
It is hoped a future date can be found to broadcast the Bicentenary service on Radio 4.
In a statement Conor Dwan, Publicist for BBC Radio 4, said, ‘Due to a technical problem on site, we were unable to broadcast the live Sunday Worship as planned. We apologised and played out a standby programme from Eton College instead. We are making every effort to mark this important anniversary in Baptist history by taking Sunday Worship back to Cannon Street Memorial Baptist Church in Birmingham in the near future.’