Reflections of the YBA Assembly 2018

"WHAT a wonderful inspiring day we had at the YBA Assembly at Wakefield Baptist Church," write Debbie and Joolz from the YBA Admin Team.
"It was lovely to see so many friends from churches the length and breadth of Yorkshire and we received an amazing welcome from Wakefield Baptist Church - the hospitality and the attention to detail was first class! Enough from us, it's time to hear from our four roving reporters who have shared their reflections on the day."

REFLECTION BY KENNY BROWN

Kenny Brown is a deacon at Guiseley Baptist Church and he has been accepted for ministerial training from September 2018.

Kenny BrownKenny writes: WOW! What a day! This was my first assembly in many years and how things have changed! Having read the agenda beforehand I arrived in a mood of anticipation. I already knew which seminars I wanted to go to but aware of the limited places in each seminar - the challenge was to get there early enough to get a place but not too early as to be seen as odd!

There was a real buzz of activity as I arrived at Wakefield Baptist Church and to be greeted by proper coffee and very good biscuits was a real welcome as well as connecting with fellow assemblers.
Sung worship started the day, led by the Wakefield Baptist Church band, reminding us of our need to fix our eyes upon Jesus. A very innovative version of ‘Lord I lift your name on high’ was a particular highlight.

The theme was ‘God at Work in Unexpected Places’ and times of sharing stories were interwoven throughout the day and I found this really inspiring and encouraging but also challenging.

Ruth RiceRuth Rice, founder of Renew Wellbeing, was the keynote speaker and God used her to speak to many of us who were there. Through humour and testimony Ruth challenged us in thinking how we can connect to and engage with our communities - 3 key points for me personally -1. How do we practise the presence of God? 2. Using ‘rhythms of prayer’ daily and 3. How churches can ‘co-produce’ with the community to meet real, not perceived needs.

In the afternoon, the seminar by Neil Hudson, of  the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, and Kez Robinson, encouraged us in thinking about how we can equip the people in our churches to live out the Gospel in their own contexts.

For me the assembly was such a positive day spurring each one of us on to live out the good news of Jesus in our communities. Stories of how churches have adapted and been open to change in order to more effectively reach their communities is a challenge to us all. I look forward to next year!

REFLECTION BY GILL KNOWLES

Gill is a deacon at Hunslet Baptist Church, Leeds, and serves as a Trustee on the Association Executive.

Gill KnowlesGill writes: WHAT an inspiring day the 2018 YBA Assembly proved to be with 120 + delegates travelling across the length and breadth of Yorkshire to be together in Wakefield. If we needed reminders of what God is doing, seen and unseen in our region it was to listen to those who found “God at Work in Unexpected Places”.
 
The keynote speaker, Ruth Rice, founder of Renew Wellbeing, started the day with her inspirational talk on this faith-filled project. Bringing the issues of mental health into the High Street, literally, with her vision following her own mental health experiences.
Now Ruth has invaluable experience of helping churches create welcoming, non-threatening spaces, by opening cafes or using space in existing cafes. These spaces are designed to welcome people and enable them to feel at home, through friendship, crafts, prayer and more. 
 
Ruth Rice 2Enthusing how God can use mental health issues for a platform to bring hope to those who may be despairing of hope and using John 6 (feeding the 5,000) as an example, she says: “We bring the gifts that God gives us and when we share these gifts with others, we share a feast”. So much positivity concerning a problem we face in all walks of life was uplifting.
 
The afternoon seminars on a similar theme of God at Work in Hospitality, God at Work in Conflict and God at Work on the Frontline gave much more to think about too.
 
It was encouraging to hear short stories of what is happening across our region -  Skipton Baptist and their “#doyouknowHim?” project and how they are taking this question to the streets of Skipton; South Craven Baptist, a small church in decline and at risk of closure, embracing change and reaching out to their community (usually involving food!) and now seeing God move in wonderful ways; South Ossett Speakers at AssemblyBaptist also looking at new ways to meet their community through Cafe Christos and partnering with Surestart as a baby-weighing centre, providing mums with a much-needed morning coffee and a chance to relax for a little while.
 
When we all have so much on our own agenda vying for our time, this was a much-blessed day. It refreshed the soul and encouraged us to be prepared to share this Gospel we hold dear, in so many unexpected ways. 
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching” . (Hebrews 10 v 25)

REFLECTION BY MICK DEWHIRST

Mick is a Nationally Recognised Pastor at Skipton Baptist Church and spoke during the AGM about #doyouknowHim? an exciting missional project involving all the churches in Skipton.

Mick DewhirstMick writes: Annual General Meeting? You are going to an AGM? Wow big yawn - finances, constitution, business meeting, boring, boring, boring. Rather you than me mate, you’ll never get the time back that you’ve wasted on that. Good luck keeping awake!
I guess would have said that in the past and might have been tempted to say that about this year’s assembly.
I would have been wrong.

Good worship, fantastic teaching, friendship, fellowship and a shared experience with God’s people celebrating their Baptist heritage. These things were as present as was the real presence of the Holy Spirit. The venue was lovely and welcoming hosted by Kez and the team at Wakefield Baptist Church. The facilities were everything that you could wish for at such a gathering. I was, however, disappointed by the absence of the sauna, Jacuzzi and chill-out room.

Assembly 2018The assembly keynote speaker, Ruth Rice, the founder of Renew Wellbeing, spoke with passion and vulnerability about her own struggle with mental heath issues from which she has helped churches open spaces of welcome and inclusion in “Co-production” with mental health teams. Truly inspiring.

There has to be an element of formal business in any AGM but this was skilfully led by Liz Allen and was mercifully concise and to the point, and it began in positive mode with three good news stories from churches around the district. The speaker from Skipton was magnificent. Business done.

After lunch we were able to break into groups for seminars, I attended the one on pioneering with Roy Searle and thoroughly enjoyed it. The afternoon concluded with a time of worship and prayer.
Boring, boring, boring. NO, NO, NO.
Would I go again and recommend it to others? YES! YES! YES!

REFLECTION BY RICHARD SHERLOCK

Richard is minister at Cottingham Road Baptist Church, Hull.

Richard SherlockRichard writes: HAVING more of a feeling of a convention than an AGM, the YBA Assembly started with a welcome from the minister of Wakefield Baptist Church, the Revd Kez Robinson.

Then Regional Minister the Revd Mary Taylor opened the day in prayer, followed by Wakefield's worship group leading us in an act of sung worship that recognised the glory of Jesus in our midst. Within this, we rejoiced in seeing a glimpse of the life in God that is happening within the association.

In addition, testimonies were shared of where God is working in unexpected ways, bringing encouragement, joy and thanksgiving. This was followed by the song “Lord, you hear the cry of the widow (Lord have mercy)”.  It was a great way to bring us together into the presence of our loving, working God, and to prepare us for the challenge and encouragement that was to come.

Ruth Rice, drawing upon her experience of setting up and running Renew Wellbeing, helped us to explore what it means to join with a God who is creative and working within our communities - to discover ways in which we can co-create, co-produce Kingdom in our midst. 
For Ruth this was creating a place in which it is OK not to be OK; a place in which people can be honest before God; a ministry in which she seeks to work with others rather than to work for them. It was a challenge to hear the cry of our culture to us, and for us to seek to minister into it, however that might look.

Do you know him logoWithin the formal AGM section, stories of God working through his people were shared - in Skipton where they’re challenging the town with the question #doyouknowHim?;  in South Craven where a small church has been embracing radical change to reach out with the Gospel and becoming a place reawakened to the presence of God and seeing growth; the inspirational story of South Ossett Baptist Church, a small church of 14 members who are reaching out through Cafe Christos and making invaluable connections with their community.
Even the report of the Association accounts resounded with the way in which God is working in the midst of His church and the communities in which we live; with some ministries being concluded and others starting.

YBA Assembly lunchAfter a break for lunch (thank you for the constant supply of various teas, coffee, hot chocolate, water, fruit juice, biscuits, cakes and fruit!), we had the hard task of choosing which two of the superb 45-minute seminars to chose from.  All of them sought to help us see God at work bringing renewed hope and opportunities, whether through pioneering, the offering of hospitality, the everyday places and people in our lives, or from within the areas of conflict that can brew within our churches.  A time of learning, sharing and rejoicing through the myriad ways in which God is blessing, nurturing, growing and challenging His church and our communities.

Through the day it was great to hear both what’s happening within and through both large and small churches, learning from what others are being and doing, making new connections and finding inspiration.
The superb day was drawn to a conclusion by Regional Minister the Revd Graham Ensor and we rounded off with the hymn “In Christ Alone,” recognising that all we are and all we offer is only possible in and through our Lord Jesus Christ; it is a hope we seek to share.

WHAT NEXT?

Further information about any of the organisations featured in the seminars can be found using the links below:-

Renew Wellbeing
The Blackley Centre
London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC)
YBA and LICC Frontline Learning Partnership

If you have a story to share about how God is working in unexpected places in your community, or if you have been challenged to start something new - tell us!