Since the theme of this year’s Baptist Assembly was Your Kingdom Come, it was a little ironic that the location onto which thousands of Baptists converged was a castle. Now while the Norbreck Castle would not be first choice for a Royal honeymoon, not least because the coffee they serve there tastes like very expensive moat water, it is a venue that creates a more house party-like atmosphere for the assembly.
These events are much more about the people you meet and the fellowship over meals, than the event itself, but everything this year seemed to combine to make a truly great event. It’s clear from what others say I am not alone in feeling this.
The theme of kingdom was wonderfully worked through all the sessions I attended and the three main speakers – Pat Took, Jeff Lucas and Julie Pennington-Russell, were exceptional. A trio of inspirational, honest and totally authentic preachers who brought the challenge of the kingdom clearly into focus in three very different styles.
The worship was real and unpretentious; the worship band accomplished and subtle; and the songs sometimes a little off-the wall. O when the saints, I danced in the morning and the odd Christmas carol thrown into the mix – but surprisingly combing to produce some good times as a Baptist family enjoying worshipping together.
It may be really uncool to admit that I didn’t venture into Prism at all this year, but I felt I didn’t need to. The worship and speakers in the main sessions created an atmosphere that I just wanted to be part of. I’m sure Prism was good too.
The only iffy moment was also the greatest. Two children helped us reflect on the meaning of inclusive communion. They were brilliant, but a little ironic that the rest of the children were not present then or at any time during the main sessions. They actually had a fantastic time thanks to the Inovation and BACE teams in their own sessions, but with such talk of inclusiveness, we seem to have missed something here. Somebody even pointed out in the final plenary session that the highlights video missed them out too!
I do think that the theme brought us all back to the core of the gospel – the kingdom – the main topic of conversation when Jesus spoke. It’s openness and inclusiveness. Or as Dallas Willard put it: “the free availability of God’s rule and righteousness to all of humanity through reliance upon Jesus himself, the person now loose in the world among us” (quoted a few weeks back in this post)
The Norbreck is nothing like staying in a castle really, but then the Kingdom isn’t quite like earthly kingdoms either.