We will pick up with the Baptist World Alliance meetings next week.
I want to comment briefly about the opportunities I’ve had to observe some resources for ministry in Great Britain as I spent some time before the Baptist World Alliance Centenary Conference. I intentionally set out to visit some churches that might model for us new life together in the Union and also have sought to find resources that we might apply to our larger work.
I went first to the Baptist Union of Great Britain’s Resource Centre in Didcot, Oxfordshire. Residing in a massive building in this small Oxfordshire town, the Baptist Union of Great Britain represents over 2000 churches and therefore has both the gift of great resources and a deep reservoir of diversity. The resource centre reflects this background. I have found some excellent work in the area of baptism and ethics and a new book on the subject of church and state which does not simply deal with the contrast between the Christian church and secular authority but also compares the Roman Catholic and Baptist approaches to this topic. Regent’s College, Oxford publishes a series of books on culture, common biblical commentaries & the arts and I was exposed to many other materials which we will inventory and add to our existing resources in the months ahead. Of particular value for us is a new book on worship which takes into account the British and Canadian experience that many Christians use during the church year (i.e. advent & lent) as helpful patterns for personal & corporate worship. I’ve also had a couple of lengthy conversations with Lion’s Publishing in Britain who put me on to what they believe to be an excellent bookstore/resource centre called St. Andrews bookshop (located in Greater Missedon. You have no idea what a hassle it is to get to this little town).
Many of you are familiar with Homestart in Vancouver which is funded by seed money from the Baptist Union Development Foundation. I have had conversations with Homestart in Great Britain, which has a considerably different emphasis and is based all over Britain, but in particular I have talked with those in Glasgow and Leicester. Homestart’s primary emphasis in Great Britain is not furniture but is, in fact, trained volunteers supporting families with young children through the difficult early years – but more of that later.
I asked for recommendations to attend a couple of unusual and renewing churches in Great Britain and received the names of two. I traveled to North London to visit Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship, an umbrella group of four related Baptist churches. I went to the mother church called Willesden Green. It is in a neighborhood which started out Irish, then embraced those from the Caribbean, Asia and finally from Africa. There are over 70 different nationalities worshipping in this church and it was personally very helpful to hear the preacher who happened that day to be from Ghana. His emphasis was on what he believes to be the lost discipline of Christians everywhere – waiting on God. His first illustration was the impatience he felt watching the microwave heat his food and he spoke in a way that challenged and renewed me. For all you Type A personalities out there (and there are many) he used the passage from Isaiah 40 that when we wait on God we renew our strength. So I came away from Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship with the encouragement to be more culturally diverse in the Baptist Union and to celebrate the diversity already found in the union. There are many stories that came out of my experience that morning that will have to wait for the personal conversations I know will come in the fall.
My Sunday evening church experience took me to North Watford (where I was born) to a place well known to many of you called ‘Soul Survivor’. If you’ve ever been to “The Place” at Lambrick Park Church in Victoria (former church of Tom Cowan, currently Sr. pastor at First, Vancouver) then you will have experienced much the same sort of thing I experienced that Sunday night. It is a church committed to contemporary arts, music & culture. There must have been almost 700 young people in attendance and it was a boisterous worship, a reverent and edgy time. One of the most interesting things I was able to take away was that when this church contemplates doing justice and outreach overseas, it does it in a big way. It was announced that a year from now they want the entire church (yes all 700 – 1000 of them) to go to South Africa to work in a township rife with AIDS and unemployment.
Well, that’s a sampling of a week of renewal, research, and personal challenges for me and Britain. The Lord be with us all as we ask Him to speak to us and make Himself known to us.
Warmly in Christ