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Welcome to the archive of Beyond 400 - an innovative collaborative project of BUGB Baptists re-imagining life after the first 400 years.  You can still read and comment on the first 40 Baptist Voices that were published in the early months of 2012 and other voices that were added afterwards at Go Fly a Kite. The book of the 40 voices is no longer for sale.

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Thanks to the many who submitted articles and joined in the ensuing online conversations which are archived here.
Peter Dominey, Juliet Kilpin, Neil Brighton, Andy Goodliff, Simon Jones, Chris Duffet.

40 Baptist Voices

From January to May 2012, forty Baptiists reimagine life after the first 400 years in Britain.

A one million pound black hole is projected for the Baptist Union of Great Britain end of year accounts, we can’t continue as we are and it has got people talking. The talk is of change and cuts.

The financial predicament is painful, it will hurt when posts are almost inevitably cut and people tragically lose their jobs. As well as being painful it is bad in other ways: are you worried that difficult discussions about allocation of finite resources may deflect us from more important questions? I am.

But these cuts can also be good news. Let's get real, it’s very difficult for an organisation that spans many centuries, churches, associations, and colleges to undergo deep change unless sufficient destabilising pressures are present. The finances are providing one such push-factor, numerical decline in most churches over many decades another, and there are others. I’m not shouting ‘tipping-point’ but ordeal loosens us up for change. This is painfully good!

The first baptist church in Britain met in Spitalfields, London, still known as a tolerant place which harbours dissenters, artists, anarchists and free-thinkers who want to challenge injustice and unfairness.

Words such as these were used frequently to describe early baptists, a group of Jesus-followers beginning to be joined together by a shared commitment to the priesthood of all believers, God’s Word, sharing God’s story with others, freedom of religion and absence of coercion, the pursuit of justice, social action and mutuality.  Whether regarded as heralding from the controversial Anabaptists or Puritans these early baptists faced persecution for their stance and even 50 years after their foundation were still being sentenced to death.

We who choose to draw our nutrients from the rich soil of this tradition have much to be thankful for and a great deal to inspire us as we work out what it means to be faithful Jesus-followers in a society where tolerance is still sometimes as hard to find as fairness and justice.  As someone who grew up in a family with few church roots I will forever be grateful for the baptist people who nurtured my faith, taught, envisioned, equipped and affirmed me.

Posted by on in 40 Baptist Voices

The fact is, at my tender age, I grew up on a different page
I don’t come from a position of tradition or division
Christianity is relatively new to me
But clearly something made me say “Hey, I like the Baptist Way”
Some people may not agree with me, my delivery or the way I see it
Cause I’m not inclined to grieve what is lost if all that is lost is how much it will cost
For this project or that – is that our way of giving back?
People feel like they’re the one nobody cares about
Maybe we could just be there to try and hear them out
Do we really listen to all the pain and the derision?
Do we then take the decision that a group will solve it all?
Is it mission or ambition that makes us count every baptism,
Every seat filled with another… Jesus lover or something other?
Maybe if we’re listening our witnessing won’t look like we’re trying hard at fitting in.
When we look at making changes are we doing it in stages?
When did minister become synonymous with leader?
Cause I thought our leadership came from the Teacher

Tagged in: motives Poetic

Posted by on in 40 Baptist Voices

I finished up my street performance in the middle of Norwich on a hot summers day and jumped around exuberantly and I must admit, slightly hot and sweaty, holding above my head the straight jacket that I had just escaped from. It was a good show and I looked around awaiting the cheers but on this occasion the small crowd gave polite applause more akin to a cricket match then a wild escape challenge with blearing music from Florence And The Machine. That was until two women and their dog staggered by and shouted and cheered their hearts out and sat down right in front of me. They looked somewhat wasted, I wondered what to do and then I just thought the best thing would be to ask them what they thought about my show. ‘What show?’ one of the women said. Great... They hadn’t seen any of it! They asked what I had been doing so I spoke about my hope to show something of my faith and what Jesus had done in my life. I mantioned something about how much God loved people which provoked a loud repsonse. ‘God!’ one of the woman cried. “There is no ******* God! How can you say that there is a God, you don’t know he exists”, she snarled.

Posted by on in 40 Baptist Voices

“Organisations, the Church included, are built to administer, maintain and protect from harm that which already exists; in contrast creative or dissenting people are designed to give birth to that which has never been in existence before. The dissenters threaten the well-oiled structures of an organisation's process.” (Gerald Arbuckle – Refounding the Church: Dissent for Leadership, p1)

Dissension will always be a risky endeavour because going against the flow is never easy.  But what if the direction of the flow has remained laregly unchallenged for years?  How do we redeem a robust theology of risk in an environment where radical change is perceived as unnecessary by some and unimaginable by most?

In an age of growing hype around risk assessment, we are continually taught how to measure, manage and most importantly, minimise risk in almost every area of our lives; the Church being no exception.  In my opinion, we have been greatly influenced by this aspect of our culture which has reinforced our ‘protection reflex’, contributing towards the position we, like many others, find ourselves in at this time.  In the words of Robert Capon, “What happened to radical Christianity, the un-nice brand of Christianity that turned the world upside down?  What happened to the smashing, life-threatening, anti-institutional gospel that spread through the first century like wildfire and was considered (by those in power) dangerous?” (Quoted by Simon Guillebaud in ‘For What it’s Worth’, pg 43)

Tagged in: change process Risk

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