Thursday, January 04, 2007

New year, continuing conversations

Happy new year everyone.

Had a great break in Devon - stormy, windy, hail(!) but great company and it was good to be away from the desk and computer.

The pre-Christmas conversations about membership and community have resumed. We are planning to have a series of gatherings to talk about the issue between now and Easter, giving members and friends of the church the chance to express their views and share their insights.

I've been interested to read on Stuart Blythe's blog some thoughts about baptism as this is surfacing as a key issue to consider as we think about membership. Some reckon that baptism is a non-negotiable - by which they mean the immersion of believers - while others think we need to treat other traditions seriously.

I must confess that I am increasingly undecided on tbe issue. I used to be strongly of the view that immersion was essential and baptism was the door through which everyone had to go in order to be a full member of the church.

Questions include - what does the New Testament mean by baptism? what was the practice of the early church? what did our baptist forbears do? what does baptism as a ritual mean to people in today's world? I'm not sure what the answers are to any of these questions - but intend to think about it over the next few weeks.

This Sunday we're having our first lunch time church family meeting at which non-members will be welcome. We're having a conversation over the lunch tables about what belonging means to us which will include the children as well as their parents. I'm looking forward to it.


Wulf said...

Hmmnnn... baptism or belonging? Which one shall I comment on? I think I will pitch for the ongoing theme of community, although I would be interested in a link to Stuart's blog to see what is being discussed there.

I am interested to know how you plan to organise your lunch time family meeting on Sunday. Are you envisaging people sitting round their tables but having a meeting that is still chaired from the front or a hubbub of simultaneous conversations, perhaps with some pauses where each table is expected to feed back (to avoid them talking about the weather, East Enders and anything but what it means to belong)?

Stuart Blythe said...

Hi Simon

Glad that you had a good break. Re, baptism, at the moment I am really throwing out some things for discussion and comment.

I have enjoyed following the discussions on your blog re membership, covenant, community etc as I think they are so pertinent to everyday as it were church life.

As these discussions have been going on and as I have tried to make sense of my own thinking I guess there is an underlying thought that I am wondering about:

Should our practice be determined by that which is pragmatic from the point of mission (understood as evangelism understood in terms of an increase in numbers) or should it be guided by an underlying theology.

E.g. an open membership Baptist Church may make sense from the standpoint of mission (KBC is open membership) but in taking this approach are we in the long term effectively damaging something important re the place of Baptism and its function in the witness of the Church?

Brodie said...

simon - leaving aside the issues sourrounding open and closed membership in Baptist churches, on the whole area of belonging I'd recommend a read of Joseph Myer's books, "The Search to Belong".