Baptist Assembly 2018 opens
The induction of our new President and the recognition of ministers, preachers and mission personnel featured during a packed opening celebration at the 2018 Baptist Assembly
This year’s Assembly took place at the Kingsgate Centre in Peterborough, and welcoming delegates to the city was David Whitlock, minister of Bretton Baptist Church. ‘It’s my joy to welcome you here - Peterborough is an exciting, growing, diverse city,' David said. He explained it has 'a rich Christian heritage' dating back to 655AD when a monastery was founded on site of the present cathedral, which this year is celebrating its 900 year anniversary.
He added that Baptist churches in Peterborough are very active in the city, with a history of 'church growth and innovative mission'. Just recently a new pioneer ministry was commissioned in one of the growing developments.
‘We are looking with growing expectation at what God will do in that development,’ David continued, adding, ‘I hope you meet God as we fellowship together.’
Worship had a multicultural flavour, and was led by Greenford Baptist Church in London. 'Greenford is a multi-ethnic, multicultural church, and this reflects what we do each week,' explained worship leader Andy Robertson.
After opening with 10,000 Reasons, there followed several songs in different languages - Yoruba (Nigeria), Arabic, Swahili, Zambian, Shona and Hindi featured in the opening celebration. They were mostly sung in dual language, with an introduction to explain their meanings.
At other points during the day there were songs in Mandarin and from the Caribbean, interspersed with more traditional hymns such as How Great Thou Art and Be Thou My Vision.
Interview with Kang-San Tan
The opening celebration featured a short interview with Dr Kang-San Tan, participating in his first Assembly as general director of BMS World Mission. He has now been in post just over six months, and told Lynn Green he has been particularly encouraged by the diversity God has brought to BMS. It is focused on the least evangelised most marginalised and fragile places, and remains at the 'forefront of evangelical mission.'
Asked by Lynn what God laid on his heart, he said, ‘Mission continues to be a call for the church today.
‘And mission is not just out there, it’s here. God has brought the global church together here in the UK. We are living at an exciting time, and God has called the whole Baptist church. Will we see ourselves as a missional community?’
Reflections with outgoing President
Lynn welcomed outgoing president Dianne Tidball onto the stage, stating that she had served us 'tirelessly' over the last 12 months, and had inspired us with her presidential theme ‘As in Heaven.’
Asked to share her reflections, Dianne said her ‘real joy’ had been witnessing God at work in local congregations. She cited a number of churches which had seen particular growth.
‘These churches have something in common: keeping God at heart; honouring him in worship, rooted in scripture; courageous leadership,’ Dianne said.
‘I wish that were the picture everywhere. But sadly there is a drift. We need to keep God at the centre.
‘I finish the year by saying thank you Lord; may we lay down our lives for the cause of Jesus Christ.’
Lynn thanked Dianne for her passion for Jesus and her heart for mission.
Induction of new President
The induction of incoming president Dave Gregory took place during the opening celebration. Dave, who worked as a scientist in the Met Office before sensing a call to Baptist ministry, is the senior minister of Croxley Green Baptist Church in Ricksmansworth. He gave a short introduction to ‘Divine Windows’, the theme of his presidential year.
He began by speaking of the contrasting reaction to the early pioneers in space. Yuri Gagarin was the first human to journey into outer space when his Vostok spacecraft completed an orbit of the Earth on 12 April 1961. He is reported to have said ‘I didn’t see God.’
By contrast, the astronauts on the Apollo moon landing eight years later quoted Genesis when they saw the earth from that position.
‘They looked at that wondrous planet and saw something else,’ said Dave. 'Something of the wonder of the one who created it.'
He moved on to explain science shows the wonder of creation – maybe it gives us too a chance to glimpse the wonder of the one who created everything. He added that there are lots of divine windows in life. For instance, we have long used arts and music to glimpse God. Today maybe people catch a glimpse at the supermarket, or from their office window, or in conversation with someone. In the same vein, maybe science can help us glimpse something of God, said Dave. He will be encouraging us through his presidential year to glimpse God through these divine windows.
Following this introduction, Dave was inducted as president. He was prayed for by Lisa Kerry, Geoff Colmer and Dane Baker.
John Bishop, Carol Murray, Colin Mead and family members, wife Carolyn, and children Rachel and Sarah Gregory joined him on stage.
Dave, who leads Messy Science sessions, finished in his own imitable style: he led delegates in a prayer based on our values as Baptists Together, before launching the prayer via a stomp rocket prayer into the audience.
An Assembly, and presidential, first.
The session also included the In Memoriam, led by Rupert Lazar, our President 2016-17, with names of ministers and mission personnel who have died since the last Assembly displayed on the main screen.
‘It’s good to take time to stop, remember our brothers and sisters, and honour them,’ said Rupert.
‘I’m sure like me there were names you know. We thank you for the opportunity to have known them and served with them; for all the ways their lives enriched the lives of others, and the life of our Union.
‘At times like this we can take comfort from Lamentations. His mercies never come to an end. Great is God’s faithfulness.’
Thanks to Richard Blyth and Ann Bothamley
Thanks were also expressed to Richard Blyth, a governor for BMS at Eltham College for 20 years, and Ann Bothamley, who has served BMS for 50 years in Vellore, India.
Both received a plaque before Ann was invited to share her thoughts.
She began by saying that main stage speaking was really not her scene. ‘I’m much happier sitting with patients or leading a Bible class.’
But now she was here, she wanted to say two things. Firstly, that her heart was full of thankfulness: thankfulness for God – ‘for his faithfulness and enabling.’
She thanked God for BMS and all their ‘amazing support over years and years’, over all ups and downs and difficulties. ‘Nobody could have been more supportive.’ And she thanked all those who have prayed for her. ‘I couldn’t have been in Vellore without your prayers.’
Secondly, she wanted to make a challenge. ‘How can I stand here and not make one?’ Ann said, before inviting delegates to reflect on where they are at the moment.
‘Are you in the place God wants you to be? Or has He an exciting journey to challenge you on? Be challenged – God has a very special place for each of you – but are you in that place?’
She said that when we give ourselves wholeheartedly to God, he will guide us and we can do immeasurably more.
Read more about Ann's extraordinary life and ministry here.
Recognition of Ministers and Mission Personnel
The commissioning of ministers, preachers and mission personnel took place, described by Lynn as a 'holy ground moment.'
She said, ‘We want to welcome them, commission them, and most all want to pray for them as they respond to God’s call.’
She encouraged delegates to be challenged in this moment. ‘While the focus is on them, this is also a time to think about our calling. It’s an opportunity to rededicate our lives to Christ and recommit to them.’
All the BMS mission workers to be prayed for have now arrived in the countries in which they have sensed a call to serve, which include Mozambique, Albania, Guinea and Bangladesh. Similarly, not every minister or lay preacher was present. ‘Some are here, some are not; but we want to recognise everyone,’ said Lynn, as they were invited to the front of the stage one association at a time.
Dave Gregory led the commissioning, which involved each person on stage making a promise to play their part in God’s mission through the Baptist family. Delegates were in turn asked to play their part in supporting the ministers and mission personnel, before a general declaration was made.
Life's First Cry - address from Kang-San Tan
Kang-San Tan gave a short address which introduced the new BMS video, filmed in Afghanistan, called Life’s First Cry.
He began by saying that it had been wonderful morning. There had been a reminder from Ann that mission is still with the church, he said, adding it was wonderful to see that God continues to call ministers here for the church in the UK.
Taking Romans 8 as his text, he said that verse 17 reminds us that as children of God we are co-heirs with Christ.
In the text Paul introduces the idea of a ‘groaning creation’. It’s out of the current world that God is bringing about a new heaven and earth.
In verse 22, not only is creation groaning, but we the church are to groan with groanings of creation. This remains the role of the church in today’s world, and this is what it means to be co-heirs with Christ. It’s why BMS works with the least evangelised, most marginalised and most fragile places, Kang-San said.
He said BMS brings the gospel – without it life can’t be transformed – but we are still called to demonstrate it in places where traditional missionary workers can’t be sent out, like North Korea and Afghanistan.
Afghanistan represents a fragile state. The moving video shows how through its workers, BMS is helping to educate people in the remote mountains about safe child birth practices - and the transformative impact this is having on people's lives. Watch the video below: