Main news item this time is the Anabaptist Network Communities Day at Didsbury. Since then we’ve also had the February Manchester Anabaptist Study Group meeting at which we discussed a recent article from America which challenged some British perceptions about Christians now living ‘After Christendom’. As ever the discussion went all over the place; but I think we mostly thought this was a misunderstanding by the American writers because of the different legal situation of churches in the USA, where there has never been the kind of ‘established church’ seen in various forms in most European countries.
Next meeting for the Group will be March 18, again 7.30pm at Quaker Meeting House, Cheadle Hulme, STOCKPORT. We expect to be continuing our studies in the First Epistle of Peter, which we are about halfway through.
Anabaptist Network of Communities Day, Sat 9 Feb 2013
At Didsbury Baptist Church, near Manchester.
Around 50 turned up for this event, from as far afield as Coventry, Birmingham, the Lakes, Glasgow and London – anyone I’ve missed please forgive me! After tea, coffee and chat we had a more formal session introducing people, then brief worship with an Anabaptist hymn unfamiliar to many of us. After that we split up for the first of two ‘market place’ sessions. Some went off to hear John Hoad relating his experiences when he and other parents got together to ‘home educate’ their children. I stayed in the main room where Andrew and Kath Dodd talked about ‘Retreats and Spirituality’ based on their experiences at Hawkshead Hill Baptist Church in the Lakes near Coniston. Back together for another ‘moment of praise’ with ‘I sing with exultation’ a hymn originally written by the Anabaptist martyr Felix Manz, put to death for his faith by being drowned in the River Limmat.
Lunch also involved a lot of discussion and getting to know one another. Then more ‘market place’ sessions. Angie Tunstall led a session about ‘Forming a peace zone in school’ while Tara Gingerich Hiebert, a Canadian Mennonite over here while husband Kyle studies, led ‘Mentoring young people’ based on her time as a youth pastor. I opted for the third choice, ‘Preaching After Christendom’ led by Glen Marshall of what used to be called Northern Baptist College, who confessed that he is being rather slow in writing the book of that title for the Paternoster series ‘After Christendom’.
This discussion was very lively and wide-ranging; and inspiring. I don’t think I can really convey how lively it was with almost everything about preaching ‘up for grabs’, purpose, style and content. We felt that old-style ‘monologic’ preaching still has a place; indeed Glen suggested that when done it should be done really well, with flourish and a good use of rhetoric. But we also clearly recognised a need for other styles of teaching and learning within the church, while preaching to outsiders today is a whole new ball game and we certainly didn’t come up with any final answers!
Then followed a news session about current happenings in the Anabaptist Network. While all this had been going on, the children present had been off doing activities of their own, and they now joined us and led part of the final prayer and praise session and handed out bookmarks they had made. All the children were at the young end and I think we were disappointed there weren’t more young teenagers who could have taken part in the adult sessions. A final hymn, ‘We are people of God’s peace’ by Menno Simons himself, and then a final round of tea coffee and chat before setting off home. Overall, a great day of sharing and fellowship. Oh yes, the Mennonite Centre’s Metanoia book service was present, though on a small scale; I saw quite a few buying, and I myself bought the Hospitality and Community book in the After Christendom series, and I’ve finally got a copy of John Howard Yoder’s Politics of Jesus which I started reading while waiting for my train at Burnage.