“Your Kingdom Come” was the theme at the recent annual meeting of the Baptist Union of Great Britain (BUGB).
“Our hope is that we will each find the part of the jigsaw we fit into,” BMS World Mission’s general director, David Kerrigan, said on the opening night.
“My prayer for this weekend is that we go on this journey together,” BUGB general secretary Jonathan Edwards said.
The gathering is the joint assembly of BUGB and BMS World Mission. The weekend saw highs and lows. High points included the set-piece events, with deep and rich contributions musically, visually, intellectually and spiritually.
Sermons from Pat Took, Julie Pennington-Russell, Jeff Lucas and Jonathan Edwards fed the mind and the soul. A jazz communion on Sunday was a revelation to many.
BMS mission personnel were prayed for, in the spirit of William Carey’s original commissioning in 1793: the same prayers and Bible passages were used, including Psalm 16, which begins, “Keep me safe, my God.”
Delegates replied by saying, “We affirm you as servants of God and we commit ourselves to care for you.”
Uganda, Chad, China, Thailand, Zimbabwe and Mozambique are among the countries to receive them.
A first for any Baptist assembly was the commissioning of a chaplain-general. Rev. Jonathan Woodhouse is to take on the army’s most senior chaplaincy appointment in the summer – the first ever Baptist in the role – and assembly members prayed for him.
The recognition of newly enrolled ministers provided a bittersweet moment, with the death of a minister’s husband. The Matt Redman song, “Blessed Be Your Name,” with its refrain “You give and take away” was sung after the announcement.
As Kerrigan said on Sunday night, “Life takes us to the highest points – and takes us to the depths. We’ve experienced that over this assembly weekend.”
One feature of the main arena was a comment wall, where delegates were able to share their thoughts and feelings. These were sometimes moving, sometimes thought-provoking:
· “Jesus never said ‘Try harder, do it better.’ Jesus said, ‘Surrender more.'”
· “He took our sorrows so that we could drink from the chalice of joy.”
As in previous years, there was a recognition that not everyone finds that big gatherings and mainstage events are for them. Prism, the alternative assembly stream, offered creative ways to engage with the event’s theme in different spaces, and it was warmly supported.
By the end of the assembly, many of the hopes with which it began had been fulfilled. As one young man said on a video on Monday morning, “It completely shocked me, how amazing I found it. It’s the first time I’ve been, and it was brilliant.”
This article appeared originally in The Baptist Times of Great Britain.