Just spent a weekend at a church helping celebrate their anniversary. A Church Anniversary is a bit like a birthday but without the presents. Years ago it was a big deal, and the biggest social event in the Church Calendar. Now the date survives in some church programmes but it isn't the major occasion it used to be.
I suppose one of the more useful functions of an anniversary is gratitude for what has been. That has to be combined though with a willingness to ask about the future. And these two questions, who we have been, and who we are now called to be, lie at the heart of our identity, both as local church, and as denominational expression of our own distinctives.
Nothing of this is peculiar to Baptists. Every denomination is now in that place that can be called liminal. And in a culture fast dissolving and reforming into ever more complex and unpredictable expressions of community and conviction, and evolving increasingly diverse moral codes and social mores, the church is in danger of being what it has always feared being, and at times succeeded in being - an anachronsm desperately seeking relevance to give content to its being and reason for being.
I enjoyed my time with the friends who shared the weekend. Many spoke of being helped and provoked to think in new ways. But I am left with the feeling, not just arising from this weekend experience but from many encounters with churches seeking to find a good way ahead, that who we have been and who we would now feel called to be, are going to be very different pictures. Going to think more about this - but not expecting it will make gently encouraging devotional reading!!