Glimpses of Kingdom Light
Where do we see glimpses of Kingdom light – shining like stars? And how do we go deeper? Each month, I intend to share thoughts from my travels.
Since Assembly at Blackpool, I have visited our International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) in Prague, a bright light in a Europe which is much in the news, fraught as it is with controversy in the EU and the UK. The seminary was founded in Switzerland in 1948 to train ministers to serve in a Europe ravaged by war. I was at IBTS to represent our Baptist Union in saying farewell to our friends Keith and Denise Jones, after Keith had given distinguished service as rector for 15 years. Many joined staff and students – present and former, including the British Ambassador to the Czech Republic - for a special meal in honour of Keith and Denise. Then there was graduation of students from 11 countries. Down the years, IBTS graduates have served all over the world, especially in eastern Europe.
I met up with two former graduates in Kosovo in April, working in an education project for young children, in an area that has known the devastation of war. Now they, with others supported by BMS World Mission and the European Baptist Federation (EBF), are helping to build up Kingdom harmony in a fragile community – real shining lights.
Two things strike me afresh:
On the Sunday morning in Prague, it was a privilege to preach in a rich act of worship, with prayers and readings in many languages and music drawn from across the world – a foretaste of heaven? This contrasted sharply for me with the restricted musical diet so often evident in our Baptist churches – perhaps limited to a dozen or so worship songs and half a dozen hymns. Now don’t misunderstand me, I do value songs and hymns. But, how often does music from the world church enrich our worship together? I long for more engaging incarnational music in our celebrations together.
My visit was also a reminder of the vital work of the European Baptist Federation, of which our friend, Tony Peck, is general secretary. This is a time of challenge for IBTS as it relocates from Prague to Amsterdam. They need our prayers. An EBF report includes a telling sentence: ‘Each church is wholly church but not the whole church’. May the Spirit help me, and us all, see beyond ‘my own church’ and indeed beyond our Baptist churches and rejoice in the shining light especially in unexpected places.
(Ernie has prepared a series of six Bible Studies ‘Like Stars in the Universe’ based on our Assembly 2013 theme: ‘Reclaiming Philippians for Today’s Church’. Copies of this are available from the online store – priced £3 + p&p.)