Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Baptists in Bournemouth

Well, buzzwords aside, it's time for some Bournemouth highlights (me and everyone else!)
  • Calcot, one of the Fashionable Friends of Finsbury (pictured above), joined the Russian Baptists one evening over a Chorizo and Stilton Salad to the accompaniment of lots of 80s music in Sixty Million Postcards
  • John Weaver concluded a significant but exhausting presidential year, which has seen him travel the length and breadth of the UK on a weekly basis. It's been an inspiration to have seen his selfless giving to the Union over the last 12 months, and I like to think that the early-morning coffee we share most days is what has kept him going!
  • It's great to see Kingsley take up the mantle for a year. I hope he finds it a stimulating and fruitful time of service.
  • The seminar on God and the Art of Seeing, led by Graham Sparkes and Richard Kidd, offered a welcome oasis of spiritual reflection. I was reminded how much I like Rothko, with the energetic, vibrant and alive red of the dominant panel unable to completely quell the darkness which lies beneath it. I've mentioned MBTI and spirituality before, and this session brought home to me that my dominant iNtuitive nature leads me into the more abstract and metaphorical, while I find it harder to engage with the more literal. I'm reminded of Sandi Toksvig who commented recently: "I don't know a lot about art, but I know what I like... ... ...Books!"
  • It's always great to catch up with lots of friends, and the random coffee moments are some of the most precious, and it was brought home to me what a fantastic family I am part of.
  • Pat Took's Bible Study was another highlight: scholarly, insighful and challenging. But I'm still not convinced by the exegesis of Matt 25's Sheep and Goats which seeks to identify the 'least of these who are members of my family' with the generic poor, hungry and naked of the world: I think it makes a lot more sense to see this as a parable not of social justice but of the cost of discipleship. By this reading, the challenge is to so identify with Christ that we might actually become poor, hungry and naked for the sake of the gospel, as we live as disciples of the mendicant Christ. It seems to me that this reading better expresses the radical nature of discipleship than the more traditional reading. I might post more on this later.
  • Like Craig, I balked a bit at the suggestion that unless we offer for missionary service, we are 'frittering our lives away on things of no eternal value', but was pleased to see both David and Jonathan (I still can't stop smiling over that one) either consciously or unconsciously retrieiving the situation in their addresses where they stressed the importance of calling for all Christians, whether engaged in missionary service, pastoral ministry, secular employment, caring for family or elderly, or indeed College Tutoring!
  • I remain impressed by Jonathan's repeated reiteration that we are a Union of Churches, Associations and Colleges. Thank you Jonathan.
  • I was particularly grateful for Neville Callum's excellent trinitatian exposition of a theology of mission. I think this was timely and I hope his words aren't lost. I have also been reading the BMS Strategy Document and am impressed with their Theology of Mission as well. Should BUGB perhaps have a similar document?
  • I didn't go to Sally Nelson's Whitley Lecture, having heard it in Bristol, but I had a great conversation sparked by it, over Peri-Peri Chicken in the Harvester: Are disabilities made whole in heaven? I think the conclusion I've come to on this one is that 'disability' is a social response to a physcial impairment, so for example in the land of the blind, inability to see is not a disability. Similarly, in some cultures a birthmark disables someone from playing a part in society, but not in ours. So the tears and wounds of disability are dried and healed in God's eternity, but the physicality of our beings, complete with all our physical imperfections, remain a part of our eternal existence also. Just as the wounds of Christ remain in eternity: glorified, transfigured and beautified, so also all our own causes of pain are themselves transfigured, beautified and glorified through our identification with Christ's resurrection. And regarding those whose bodies degerate (i.e. all of us) I remain grateful that eternal life is not a final salary pension scheme.
  • It was moving and heartening to see the missionaries and ministers presented on stage - and a privilege to now start seeing those trained during my time at SWBC completing their NAM period and entering onto the accredited list.
  • A final highlight: 'Ali's Story' and the subsequent affirmation of women in pastoral ministry. As I head off in a few minutes to Birmingham for a meeting of the BUGB Task Group of Women in Leadership, all I can say is: Amen.

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