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Connect December 2016

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treach and u o f o s e ri o st e th friends. Hearing st ti p a B g n ti e e m .. ‘. vulnerability.’

‘It was good to see w hat the bigger pictur e is across BUS, see th of young adults ther e number e, hear stories of wha t God is doing elsew issues that other chur here and the ches are wrestling w ith.’

‘Great to hear what God’s doing throughout Scotland. Great speakers.’

‘Communion was beautifully handled and Friday evening sermon by Alan very challenging/encouraging. Hearing stories from other churches very encourgaing - both positive and lessons learned from challenges.’

‘The evident signs that decisions taken by Council were having a practical effect on the ground. Reports and testimonies of local mission and ministry training and accreditation encouraging.’


Are we winning? Are we winning is a question I am regularly asked, it comes in many forms. Are you encouraged as you travel around? Are Baptist churches growing? How would you describe the health of the Baptist Union of Scotland? Following the national church census earlier this year we are likely to see challenging headlines in the next few months that describe a further significant decline in national Church attendance in Scotland. Compared to 2002 there has been a further loss of around 1/3rd. The overall picture of the church in Scotland is not a good one if we are simply measuring attendance on a Sunday. Many people have found ways to describe what the church is going through. There are even biblical narratives where we might ask if what we are experiencing today is similar to what has happened in Biblical times? Is this a pruning of the vine so that new fruit can come forth? Are these like the days of Moses – waiting for a disobedient generation to die off, a time of developing a new identity of those who are free rather than in bondage to the past? Is it like the days of Jeremiah, where we enter exile to rediscover God and our relationship with Him? Are we seeking the peace and prosperity of the nation and waiting for the year where things begin to change and we get to go back to a time of former glory? Statistically, it can be argued that it is almost 60 years now since church attendance last grew numerically in Scotland. A lifetime of decline, surely a cause for prayer and seeking the heart of our Father. However, other measures paint a different picture. This year reported Baptisms in our churches were more than double the figure of last year at 322, what is that telling us? There are many Baptist churches that are investing in future infrastructure. This year over 3 million pounds was invested in new church builds or major redevelopments. Next year I estimate that contracts for £6 million pounds are likely to be signed by our churches as they prepare and respond to growth. New Baptist congregations have begun this year in all 4 major Scottish cities. We continue to see a steady flow of ministerial candidates coming to the board of ministry. Where the engagement in continual ministerial development of these younger ministers has been exemplary and we now look to our longer serving ministers, like myself, to share in these high standards. There continues to be growth in our churches of seeking the peace and prosperity of the nation particularly the peace and prosperity of the poorest in our land. Cinnamon Network estimate that the church invests £93 million a year in time and resources caring for others in Scotland. Are we winning? It depends what you measure and value. Many of our churches are facing serious challenges. Financial challenges of underfunded maintenance programs in their church buildings and manses and the increasing pain of the pension deficit contributions looms large.


In order to help churches facing maintenance issues we have changed the terms of our loan fund, to allow churches to borrow with lower admin cost and no interest, to encourage investment in the future. We are also working with partners south of the border to seek alternative resolutions to pension deficit faced by many churches. There is however, a bigger issue just around the corner of a significant hole in the under 40’s age group in many of our churches. I recently made a comment about churches closing through lack of leadership rather than lack of money. The culture of local church leaders being out at church meetings every night of the week is long gone and a new generation of leaders will not accept invitations to lead in the local church on such terms. We are hoping to help one another address these issues? This coming year we are looking to appoint a next generation development coordinator. Who will explore with a younger generation, discipleship and leadership development across our Union. We are also creating the opportunity for local church leaders to join learning communities where they can grow plans and skills related to local church leadership. Finally, whilst I see some innovative projects going on, there continues to be the need to experiment in new forms of church in order that we can all learn lessons for the future. Our intention is to continue funding innovative projects through the Mission Initiative fund in the hope of offering a broader spectrum of missional engagement in Scotland. Another Old Testament text says “Give me also springs of Rev Alan Donaldson water” for many years I have prayed this for our Union. Please join me in praying not only for your local church but General Director for the nation’s churches that we would see the life of the Spirit of God bubbling up across the nation, bringing life to Baptist Union of His church and the people of Scotland. Scotland

Attitude of Gratitude Although celebrating advent is a fairly new thing in Baptist church circles in Scotland and is not yet celebrated in all churches, it is celebrated in most homes. For the last few years I have received an Advent Calendar from the Scottish based charity Mary’s Meals. It is not the usual calendar with its chocolate filled boxes hidden behind bright coloured doors, but a poster with a reflection for every day. Centred on the themes of hope, peace, joy and love, the poster challenges my consumerist influenced heart, by drawing me into Scripture, stories of life-giving food, opportunities to give financially, and time and guidance for my prayers. Of all the wonderful suggestions, one strikes me as being a real help to combat the constant struggle I feel at this time of year to get more “stuff”. It comes on Monday 28th November: “Start an Advent Blessings Jar: Write down something you are thankful for each day and place in jar. Read out all your blessings on Christmas Day and thank the Lord.” What could me more fitting on the day we choose to celebrate the incarnation than to spend time remembering, alongside Jesus, the many other gifts that flow from the Father heart of God. I am already imagining on Christmas day opening up the jar filled with pieces of paper placed there by my wife and I, our lodger, people who have visited us during the advent season, neighbours who


will descend on Christmas Eve morning, finding our Christmas day filled with potentially a hundred or more reasons for giving thanks. Among these reasons will be our Baptist family. As I reflected back on the Assembly, the highlight for me was simply being with that gathered congregation from all over Scotland, catching up with friends I have made as I travel and hearing from people I was meeting for the first time. This advent I invite you to join me in cultivating an “attitude of gratitude.� You may even consider it to be a counter cultural act of witness. Let’s put off the stereotypical view of dour, penny pinching, complaining Scottish people and witness to the generosity and thankfulness placed in our hearts by the transforming presence of the Spirit of God.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7 NIV

Dennistoun Baptist Church We are deeply thankful to God for all that He is doing within the life of the church here in Dennistoun. In October last year Pauline and I began a new chapter in our lives as we obeyed the call to serve and minister at Dennistoun Baptist Church (DBC). God has been at work over the past year and we are greatly encouraged at all that is taking place. The church is growing - we have seen Sunday attendance pick up from around 11 when we first started with our small replant team last October, to an increase of around 15 during the Spring period to around 18-20 on an average on a Sunday in September. We are greatly encouraged by these small beginnings! The mix of people who have been added have been a real blessing to the life of the church, all at different stages in their walk with the Lord, all with different giftings, some living locally, others coming from beyond Dennistoun. Additionally the opportunities to reach our community continue to arise - we have established a community lunch and ESOL class on a Tuesday afternoon for refugees and asylum seekers who reside in and around the Dennistoun area. We are working closely with Teen Challenge as they minister to those struggling with addiction on a Friday night in Bellgrove, an area not far from Dennistoun. We look forward with excitement at the potential for establishing a community garden using the land we have at the side and the back of our church building. This is all taking place as we move forward with a common vision as to who it is that God has called us to be. We are an ordinary group of people who worship an extraordinary God! Mark Morris

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Young Baptist “Times” winner Selected from more than 150 entries, Rachel Groves’ carol “Joy” was the joint prize winner in “The Times” annual carol competition this year. Rachel is a member of our Hillview Community Church in Aberdeen and is currently serving Abbeyhill Baptist Church in her gap year. Initially composed as a Christmas gift for her Dad and performed for him by the family, her carol was reworked over the summer following a composition course at the Purcell School of Music. Rachel said “I intended it to be happy, lilting and full of life, expressing joy in the meaning of Christmas.” Rachel will play pedal harp for the professional premier of the carol in Cadogan Hall, London, alongside the Bach Choir. Other performances will be held in her home town of Aberdeen. Copies of the carol music can be purchased direct from Rachel at £2 per printed copy or a PDF with permission to print at £1 per copy. Rachel.groves@tesco.net or www.facebook.com/rachelgrovesmusic

December Prayer Link Sunday 4th Stonehaven Baptist Church Stranraer Baptist Church Strathendrick Baptist Church We praise God for a good number of young families worshipping each Sunday. With 17 children we have to work hard to include them in our church family, so we pray for adults ready to give of themselves in this. Stromness Baptist Church

Sunday 11th Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church Thurso Baptist Church Tillicoultry Baptist Church It has been an interesting few months for Tillicoultry Baptist Church. Before the summer we started to sense God speaking to us about subject of Growth. Then at the start of October a piece of the church ceiling fell down, meaning we are currently unable to use our church building. We are now meeting in a local community hall and turning to God to discern what the future of our church and building may look like. Many in the congregation see this as an new, if unexpected, opportunity and know we need God’s guidance in that. Please do pray for us as we seek the way forward. Tiree Baptist Church

Sunday 18th Uddingston Baptist Church Viewfield Baptist Church Give thanks for strengthened fellowship, new people attending services, growth in ministries, and a sense of anticipation since moving into our newly extended and refurbished premises in the spring. Please pray as we move into a time a vacancy soon, that God will lead us in our search for a new pastor, and also give us unity and wisdom as we seek to grow existing ministries and develop new ministries in the coming year. Westray Baptist Church Praise God for the start of new kids meeting organised by the mothers of the church here in Westray, also a monthly men’s group meeting in the manse both doing well. Remember us in prayer as we plan an Alpha course in January 2017. Westwood Baptist Church

Sunday 25th Whytes Causeway Baptist Church Wick and Keiss Baptist Church Wigtown Baptist Church Wishaw Baptist Church

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