From a spark to a flame: BMS at the Baptist Assembly 2019

From a spark to a flame:

BMS at the Baptist Assembly 2019

BMS World Mission’s trailblazing sessions looked to the future with clear-sighted vigour for God’s ongoing mission.

“Land for the dispossessed, Rights for the weak, Voices to plead the cause, Of those who can’t speak,” sang legendary songwriter Graham Kendrick, along with the crowds in attendance at the BMS sessions during the Baptist Assembly in Telford. Kendrick’s classic worship anthem, equal parts prayer and song, brought a timely and important message, sung during a moment of reflection after footage from the South Sudan refugee crisis had been beamed onto huge on-stage screens. BMS launched South Sudan’s Conflict Survivors at the Assembly – a video fundraising appeal for 2019. As a kind of audiovisual invitation, the video appeal asks BMS supporters to step into refugee camps and stand with survivors of a brutal civil war which has torn apart the world’s newest and most fragile of states.

A crowd of people worshipping.
Kendrick’s songs set a tone of joy and Christ-centered unity at this year’s Baptist Assembly.

BMS speakers Steve Sanderson and Rachel Conway-Doel shared with those gathered the precarious and largely ignored situation in South Sudan, in conversation with Gareth Wilde of BMS partner organisation Hope Health Action. Kendrick called the crowds to prayer for the dispossessed of the South Sudan crisis and the world, but most of all, for God to move hearts. “Come, change our love from a spark to a flame,” was a prayer many saw answered at this year’s Baptist Assembly.

A man stands with a guitar and his arms outstretched.
Graham Kendrick leads BMS supporters in prayer for survivors of the conflict in South Sudan.
A woman's face on a screen.
The crowds prayed in response to powerful footage from BMS’ South Sudan’s Conflict Survivors resource

The sense of unity as voices joined in song set the theme for a day where the desire to see God’s kingdom come joins Baptists from churches, colleges and the Baptist Union of Great Britain in common cause. And it wasn’t long before those presenting from the front gladly stepped aside to invite other vital voices to take centre-stage.

The ‘BMS Café’ and later ‘Tell us what you think’ sessions were a chance for BMS to hear from our most valued contributors: our supporters. You fed back on issues from BMS’ past to our future: and in your collective opinion, it looks bright. Every answer will be carefully evaluated as BMS creates its new strategy for 2020 and beyond. Thank you so much for your contributions: you are the firm foundation on which BMS can build and grow.

A panel of people sit on a stage in front of large screens.
Interactive touchpads were handed out at the ‘Tell us what you think’ sessions, for live feedback from BMS supporters and a panel discussion on the key issues facing BMS.
A man and a woman stand and smile at another woman.
BMS representatives Jo and Kwame also valued conversations with many visitors to the BMS stand.

Combining humour, deft wordplay and irresistible silliness, kings of comedy Harry and Chris also took suggestions from the audience during their entertaining session. The resulting words (BMS, Brexit and cake among them) were instantly combined into a whip-smart song performed live. The performance was a way for BMS to show its supporters some love by booking this highly sought-after duo for an exclusive appearance. Harry and Chris’ stunt came straight after our ‘Tell us what you think’ session, where BMS responded live to views from the floor. So as well as being a huge dose of fun, their trick mirrored BMS’ supporter-focused, adaptable outlook.

Two men stand in front of microphones with a guitar.
Harry and Chris use humour to subtly weave Christian thinking into songs as eclectic and hilarious as an anthem on Brexit and a song about pandas.

But the Assembly wasn’t all about BMS. The two-day format was a hit with delegates, and with the space for networking and amazing programme of content also on offer from Baptists Together, the Assembly in Telford was a chance for the Baptist family to meet, worship and dream together. And to be inspired.

And inspiration came especially in the form of Abigail Francis. This 15-year-old gives Greta Thunberg a run for her money – being as eloquent, incisive and clever – and a whole year younger to boot. She delighted crowds with her five-minute tour-de-force on the Bible’s relevance for her generation. Looking towards BMS’ future, Abigail was perhaps the stand-out image lingering in the minds of many as they returned home after a jam-packed weekend. A young Indian girl in a bright red top, brimming with optimism, eyes shining as she spoke about God’s Word. BMS supporters agreed that our future looked bright. With members of the Global Church like Abigail rising up as our next generation of leaders, it’s easy to agree that it does.

Abigail Francis spoke on the theme of God’s word describing life as we know it, making it both irrefutable and searingly relevant.

What did you enjoy most about the Baptist Assembly 2019?
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Words by Hannah Watson, Editor of Engage.