From Wednesday to Friday of next week, 12-14 October, we will be holding the first Baptist Order Convocation.
Well over two years ago, four of us, close friends for many years, found ourselves talking about the possibility of a Baptist Order. We invited another friend who had some more developed thinking to join the conversation. This took place in Oxford in October 2009 and we agreed to take things further. We each invited a friend on a similar journey to a 24 hour conversation, and also we asked someone to facilitate the gathering. On 11-12 March 2010 eleven of us met in Warminster and through a process of discernment produced The Dream, which has been something of a foundational document since. How this came about - from thoughts going in every direction to something quite coherent - had a touch of the awesome about it!
We met again on several other occasions but hosted a further conversation in January of this year to which we invited those who we thought might be interested. And over 50 people travelled to Milton Keynes. As expected, many questions were raised in addition to those we were asking ourselves. We're still working through these and there is no hurry, but there was a real sense of affirmation and a desire to take things further.
At the heart of what we're doing is a commitment to prayer and attentiveness through a daily rhythm of prayer, spiritual accompaniment and retreat. And there's a commitment to gather, regularly in a cell, and annually as an Order. Acknowledging a debt of gratitude to communities like the Northumbria Community and the Franciscan Third Order, we're continuing to explore ways in which we acknowledge our belonging to the universal Church and yet express that which is distinctively Baptist. This is no small task but one that feels hugely worthwhile.
It seems as though we're on an adventure with that mixture of both excitement and apprehension. I have to say that I'm really looking forward to what could be a significant milestone on the journey.