The annual conference of the United Board
Baptisms in the bucket of a JCB, deployments in Afghanistan and Oman and the introduction of the latest fighter jet aircraft were just some of the topics discussed at a three-day conference for chaplains to the military, last month (January)
The annual conference – organised by the United Board which represents sending churches, the Baptist Union of Great Britain, United Reformed Church, Congregational Federation, Elim, Assemblies of God and Churches in Communities - provided some much need ‘R and R’ for more than 40 chaplains, the majority of whom are Baptist ministers.
This year the conference, held at the Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre near Andover, marked the retirement of David Lovegrove, who has served as treasurer of the United Board for more than 40 years. David started working with the United Board in 1973 and became treasurer in 1978. His father was an Army chaplain who served in the Second World War and was awarded the Military Cross following his ministry on D Day.
The Convenor, and former Chaplain General, the Revd Jonathan Woodhouse CB, said, ‘David has given so much, his quiet demeanour and his unstinting service and sharp, incisive comments warrant a huge thank you in Christ’s name. Our love and affection and deepest thanks go with you.’
A highlight of the conference was a series of talks on ‘Christian engagement with people of different faiths’ given by Dr Kang-San Tan, Director of BMS World Mission and his wife Mrs Loun-Ling Lee.
The three day conference also saw the launch of a new book by the Revd Dr Neil Allison, The Age of Conflicts 1950-2014, which is the third volume of his history of the United Board. Dr Allison, currently minister of Helensburgh Baptist Church in Scotland, outlined the important role played by the United Board in ensuring the freedom of chaplains in the armed forces to preach, on whatever subject they choose, without reference to their commanding officer.
The co-Chair of the United Board, the Revd Lynn Green, who is also General Secretary of the Baptist Union, led prayers for the chaplains, who often work in very challenging circumstances, but also see amazing answers to prayer.
The Revd Gary Birch, recently returned from a deployment, said of his time overseas, ‘The best moment was being able to baptise three young men in the bucket of a JCB on the prairie. All professing Christians but not yet baptised, they asked if we could do it there, and so we did. Then it went viral on social media, reaching 10 million views on Facebook and Twitter.’
Report by Liz Hogarth
Picture | United Board chaplains, guests and Board members assemble in full mess kit and evening dress after dinner.
Front row, left to right, Revd Jonathan Woodhouse CB, Convenor of the United Board; Revd Lynn Green, General Secretary of the Baptist Union; David Lovegrove, former Treasurer of the United Board; Revd John Proctor, General Secretary of the United Reformed Church; The Venerable Martyn Gough QHC – Chaplain of the Fleet; The Revd Paul Mellor - Church of Scotland and Free Churches Principal Chaplain and The Revd Michael Fava QHC– Deputy Chaplain General.