The last two days were spent at Gartmore House at the residential Council of the Baptist Union of Scotland. Two of the sunniest days of the year in one of the picture postcard locations of Scotland. To take two days out of a working week there need to be some compelling reasons for going to what is essentially a two day committee meeting. Or is it?
It was time well spent - which doesn't always have to mean there were tangible results, concrete achievements, far reaching strategic decisions. Though each of these were evident without being the main deal. Meeting with over 50 other Baptists for a series of long conversations, in a community that believes when we meet together in Jesus' name, the risen Lord is present and we are together trying to understand the mind of Christ, is some of what we mean when we use that most Baptist of phrases, communal discernment.
When we meet together with that intention fo helping each other discern, find words for, and jointly own, what we believe to be the mind of Christ we are doing several things at once.
We meet together under the Lordship of Christ,
His living Presence assumed because promised,
our thoughts and words open to the guiding wisdom,
the disruptive purposefulness,
and the generous giftedness of the Holy Spirit,
with Bibles open and our hearts focused
our wills quietened to obedience,
and our minds malleable and receptive,
listening to God expectantly, attentively and trustfully,
listening to each other humbly, carefully, openly and generously,
listening to God through each other in shared conversation,
submissive to the witness of Scripture,
in the context of worship,
in a disposition of prayer
in the shared love, life and faithfulness,
of the Triune God into whose life we are drawn,
by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
through the love of God,
in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
A communal Baptist spirituality
embodies the crucial disctinctives of our tradition,
it's radical roots in a gathered community,
its Trinitarian foundation lived out
as we are called into relationship with the living risen Christ,
nourished and nurtured by the Holy Spirit,
seeking to bear witness to the creative, reconciling, renewing love of God,
in a world fractured, often self-destructive, and its own worst enemy,
and doing that by being a community of contradiction,
where forgiveness, love, welcome, peacemaking and hope
are the central values of the good news that,
God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.
What happens at the Council is no more important than how it happened, and why,
and that it happened through such a dynamic and risky process.
But one with a profound theological rationale,
rooted in a faith tradition in which the gathered community
is believed to be a true church of Christ.
That means called to follow faithfully after him,
on a road that leads to the cross and beyond,
to life affirmed, recovered and gifted by the Resurrected Lord,
to be lived as love on fire energised by the Holy Spirit,
and therefore our lives of discipleship continuously transformed
by the renewing of our minds
that we might present our bodies as a living sacrifice,
holy and acceptable to God,
which is our spiritual worship.
That is as near to a Baptist spirituality as I can come. I offer it as the primary reason for taking two days to seek together the mind of Christ as we seek to serve God in the power of the Holy Spirit. And if taken seriously, it justifies far more time given to such prayerful conversation and communal discernment.
Anyway, as a young friend sometimes says after defending her corner against all grown ups who think they know better, 'That's what I think' :)