It’s been a period of such upheaval that no one has been unaffected. Certainly churches have had to adapt in ways that would have been unthinkable this time last year. The life we knew before Covid-19 has at the very least been put on pause; in all probability it’s unlikely to ever be what it once was. Our full withdrawal from the European Union, now the transition period has ended, adds to the atmosphere of change.
It’s natural to ask foundational questions about who we are and what we do at such a time, and the magazine editorial group took this as its starting point. Our previous edition focused on what we might be learning from God during the pandemic; our current offering seeks to step back and explore something of our general identity as Baptists. Under the authority of Jesus, we acknowledge there are huge differences in approach and understandings. One piece suggests that ‘to be Baptist is simply to participate in the conversation about what it means to be Baptist’, we therefore offer a space to listen to some of the conversations taking place among us right now.
After our General Secretary Lynn Green reminds us about why and where we can draw our confidence with her reflection on Hebrews 10, Andy Goodliff asks directly what it means to be Baptist, and emphasises the importance of knowing and interrogating our past. We then hear briefly from the Baptist Historical Society about four distinct areas of our tradition.
Church meetings and making space to hear from one another (and how God might be speaking through us) is another area of focus, as are mission and different areas of justice. We hear from several churches on how the Covid restrictions have impacted thinking on meeting together, buildings, and singing. Other pieces highlight the identity of ministers in relation to the new focus on Continuing Ministerial Development, and the thinking behind a new resource that seeks to make our churches safe spaces for all. We are delighted too to share an international perspective on Baptist identity from Luke Shaw, pastor and past president of the Jamaica Baptist Union.
As ever, we hope there is much here to reflect on and inform as we make space to listen to the different voices among us. And conversation is a two way street – do drop us a line to comment on anything in the edition, or with suggestions for future editions – we’d be delighted to hear from you. The world is changing, but may the Baptist commitment to walking together and watching over each other be as strong as it ever was.