I was in Berlin recently for the meetings of the European Baptist Federation. We took the painful decision to sell the buildings in Prague, which have been the home of the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) for the past 14 years.
The seminary has played a crucial part in the life of Baptists in Europe, and its graduates are now playing key roles in many of the 53 Baptist unions within the European Baptist Federation.
The decision was taken that the seminary should move to Amsterdam, where it will work in partnership with the Free University and the Baptist Union of the Netherlands.
The reasons for IBTS moving to Holland are many.
The impressive buildings in Prague were extremely expensive to run and the needs of churches have changed, and especially so in Eastern Europe where many unions now have their own seminaries.
The move to Amsterdam offers exciting possibilities and is a very creative response to the present circumstances.
However, it is impossible to disguise a deep sense of sadness at the need to move away from the Prague seminary, which has proved such a delightful home for these years.
Situated at the end of a wooded valley on the edge of one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, the seminary has been visited by thousands of people.
Many hundreds of people in this country will retain wonderful memories of time spent at the seminary, but clearly we must move on.
The story of IBTS gives a poignant picture of the faith journey that we all share. As Christians we are confident that God is leading us and that life is at its very best when we commit ourselves to journeying with him.
However, that doesn’t mean that walking in obedience to God is free of pain or questions.
Indeed, the journey of faith can have long periods that are dominated by both pain and questions. As we pray for the community of IBTS, we need to remember the cost which they bear both together and as individuals as they seek God’s will for the future.
I am conscious that these are days of profound change for many Christian organizations.
Last month, I hosted a gathering for the general secretaries of all the mainstream denominations. We spent most of our time updating one another on current developments and, because I was the host, I was the last person to share news.
Comfortingly by the time the meeting got round to me, I had nothing original to share! Every denomination is involved in radical changes and deep financial cuts to adjust to the present economic situation.
Amid the conversations that are taking place within our own union, it is important not to lose sight of our need to remember our Christian brothers and sisters as well as they face similar challenges.
I often return to Hebrews 11. The writer is brutally honest about the problems that men and women of faith face. But the writer begins the chapter by asserting that faith is “being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.”
That is to say faith is the most secure ground on which to build a life. As we face many challenges in the days to come, let’s never lose sight of that.
Jonathan Edwards is general secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain. This column first appeared on his blog, A Baptist People.