The first meeting of today took place over breakfast with the Resolutions Committee, of which I discovered I'm a part! Our task is a work-in-progress, meeting together to help formulate some statements which express the mind of the Council and to which Council can agree in the form of final resolutions. The second meeting took place over the evening meal and already it's become an interesting journey.
The Morning Worship demonstrated to me again the power of one musical instrument, in the hands of a skilful performer, to elevate the worship. On this occasion it was a cello played quite superbly, and the worship included a creative marriage of instrumental music, using the cello, and spoken words. One of the emphases of the Council is Youth and Children, and we were encouraged to view the apostle Paul as a model mentor to young Timothy.
Reports occupied the first part of the morning session and showed something of Tony Peck's (The General Secretary of the EBF) remarkable grasp of a huge geographical area with considerable diversity. Preliminary discussion began on the future of the International Baptist Theological Seminary in the context of an encouraging report celebrating its success and affirming its value within Europe as an academic institution and a place of formation for ministry and training for mission. Further discussion will take place tomorrow, but this is a big issue and it was good to pause to pray for the Seminary and in particular the people involved.
There are a number of points in the agenda for 'Encouraging stories of what God is doing', and this morning we heard from the First Baptist Church of Iraq. This was introduced by a reading from Habakkuk 3. 17, 'Though the fig tree shall not blossom ...' The speaker noted that Habakkuk made no mention of an absence of water or electricity and a temperature in excess of 50C in in his list of things that weren't happening! We received an enormously encouraging story of life and growth in the midst of struggle. And though completely different, encouragement came with hearing from the Irish Baptist Network who are among us with the simple desire to get to know the wider Baptist family.
The afternoon began with a focus on 'The Church of Today and Tomorrow' concentrating on youth and children. We were presented with a fascinating exploration of different youth milieus based upon Catholic research in Germany. This has far-reaching ramifications about the very narrow range of young people with whom we as churches engage and was instructive for the situation in the UK. After discussion groups, we continued with further reports, concluding with more 'Encouraging stories ...' this time from the Baptist Union of South Serbia, and then from Russia.
Tonight we were given an Italian Evening with a strong musical flavour. After an assortment of items the finale was a folk duo from Calabria, consisting of voice and twelve string guitar, and electric guitar. This was real class, but what was compelling was the spectacular playing of the electric guitarist, wooing his instrument with delicious effects.
Internet access is limited to the foyer, and populated day and night by people concentrating intensely over their lap-tops, muttering the mantra, 'Are you connected?' Writing this blog I'm one of them!
A good full day.