The Baptist Assembly opening celebration
This year’s Assembly took place at the King’s Centre in Oxford, which opened with a Psalm and worship, as well as a brief guide to Oxford and an intergenerational quiz
Delegates were welcomed by worship leader Andrew Fitzgerald, minister of Canterbury Baptist Church.
'It’s such a pleasure to be here,’ he said. ‘Are we expectant this morning?’ He began worship by reading Psalm 95: 1-7.
The event host was local minister Beth Allison-Glenny of John Bunyan Baptist Church, who gave a well-received introduction to Oxford.
She explained that that Christians have worshipped here for 1400 years, and Oxford is a fervently religious place – but a divisive one. Protestant reformers Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer were tried, condemned and burnt at the stake here.
Baptists came to Oxford in mid 17th century, and the fledgling church founded in dissenting circumstances in 1653 still exists today: that church is New Road Baptist Church, and 10 churches have been planted in Oxfordshire from it.
A mellowing approach to non-conformists saw Regent’s Park College established in the city in the 1920s, where Violet Hedger became the first female ordained in the denomination.
Oxford, the home of CS Lewis, has great contrasts, she continued. An area with no child poverty is only 2000m from an area of highest. It remains a place of Christian identity, but also great interfaith co-operation.
‘On behalf of churches of Oxford it is my great delight to welcome you,’ said Beth, ‘thank you for coming!’
The children and youth were also part of the first session before leaving for their groups.
All delegates were invited to take part in a quick-fire quiz. ‘It’s called the give yourself-a-point game,’ explained Ed Jones, in his last outing leading Arise Ministries. Questions were fired from the front by Ed and Abby Crawford, one of the youth programme leaders, relating to age and circumstance. ‘Give yourself a point if you’re a boy. Are you retired? Do you go to school?’
There were 50 questions in all to highlight the intergenerational nature of the gathering.
‘It’s great we’re here as a mixed bunch of people,’ said Ed, ‘but it’s also reminding ourselves we are as God’s family. It doesn’t matter whether we are old or young or whatever way society tries to separate us. ‘
The children would be looking at what it means to love your neighbour. The youth programme was facilitated for the first time by Sandra Crawford, Regional Minister for Youth at the North Western Baptist Association, and Bob Morris, the Youth and Children’s Pastor at Cirencester Baptist Church, and led by young people from their churches. Along with Assembly as a whole, both programmes had a special focus on refugees.
As the children and youth went out, the remaining delegates were invited to pray God’s blessing on them for the day. The children and youth were then invited to pray for everyone.
Greetings were also given from Paul Msiza, President of the Baptist World Alliance. He encouraged UK Baptists to keep their focus on mission, ‘to continue to the carry the torch lit by people like William Carey’. Watch the short film below:
A video message for the Baptist Assembly from BWA President Paul Msiza from BMS World Mission on Vimeo.