Thursday, 16 October 2008

A Gospel for All Nations

From Monday to Wednesday of this week we held our annual CBA Ministers' Conference, and following on from last year when we looked at 'A Gospel for All Ages', this year we took as our theme, 'A Gospel for All Nations'.  These gatherings can be occasions of rich fellowship and personal refreshment, and my sense, together with feedback so far, is that this was so.

We had my colleague from the London Baptist Association, Pat Took, lead our Bible Readings and she was simply brilliant, which didn't come as a surprise! She took as her theme, 'Signs of Glory' and explored with us John 4, 11, and 21. These passages are well known, and well preached upon but Pat brought deep insight and fresh perspective.

Dorothy Selebano, the Baptist World Alliance Women's Department President, travelled from South Africa to be with us, and spoke on 'Mission from a Global Perspective'.  Dorothy was compelling in her passion for the gospel for everyone, and she brought a fresh and invigorating dimension to our Conference.  John Smith, our BMS World Mission Area Co-ordinator spoke on 'The new C4:World Mission and the Emerging Church'.  His address with an enigmatic title, was his swan song as he takes up a pastorate in Godmanchester in the new year, and as we've come to expect it was pacy, informative and challenging.

The final session, when we might have been flagging, was presented by Kumar Rajagopalan, 'Developing a Mindset for Cross-cultural Mission'.  This session was superb as Kumar challenged us about the manner in which we relate to our black and Asian neighbours.  I quote from him, 'Our attitude in serving a missionary God should be humble, careful, circumspect in our claims about God, and in awe of God's missionary endeavours.'  His gracious approach to other cultures is to affirm them; to be careful in how we practice our faith; to work with other faiths to achieve kingdom purposes; to embrace different cultural expressions of Christianity; to accept and apologize for past mistakes of church and society, and to have an openness to see and affirm aspects of God that are absent or lost within the Christian tradition.  I'm expecting a hand-out to be available on the CBA Website, together with one particular acetate which was awesome!

We didn't just sit in sessions!  And actually this year I think we got the balance right with each session finishing in ample time for breaks and meals.  The Tuesday afternoon, we had a number of Conversation Points where people could host a conversation around a current interest.  

My colleague, Colin Pye, led worship creatively and sensitively. Communion gave opportunity for people to receive prayer with the anointing of oil. And then, probably the main reason why people come, there was opportunity for leisurely conversation over meals, coffee, and a drink in the evening, with much laughter as well as sharing of concerns.  

It takes a lot of planning and organization, and there's a sense of relief when it's over, but pretty soon we pick up on the ongoing planning for next year.  And this will be a conference with a difference because I've asked Roy Searle from the Northumbria Community to lead the whole conference but as a retreat.

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