The Right Hand of Fellowship

There’s lots of transitions and significant moments happening in life in general right now, but it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t take time to write a few lines on my experience of being welcomed, given the ‘right hand of fellowship’, and commissioned as a Fully Accredited Baptist minister this weekend at the Baptist Assembly in Bournemouth. My stay in the Baptist Union of Great Britain will be very short as I transfer to the Baptist Union of Scotland in the summer, but it was so good to mark this stage of my journey in ministry. In many ways, I always had a sense that going through the process of accreditation here in England was, at some point, always going to be a hopeful gateway back to ministry in Scotland – both unions have reciprocal arrangements for the transfer of ministers between the two organisations in the wider Baptist family – and its another one of things that has fallen into place in the most timely manner for this next season of life and ministry.

The process of accreditation was a reasonably simple one for me, having been in ministry for 22 years and transferring in from another denomination. Yet, a short module of study on Baptist History and Principles and a series of interviews led to being added to ‘the list’ back in October 2021 and the welcome on Saturday 14th May in the evening session of the Assembly. It’s a blessing when others can hear and affirm your journey, and humbling that they ‘let me in’ without any sort of probation or need for any ‘extra’ requirements to be filled.

It was great, too, that the new Baptist President, Rev Hayley Young, was one of the hand shakers! I’ve had the pleasure of being Hayley’s colleague when she was pastoring a church in the next town to us before moving to another role up North and taking on the presidency of Baptists Together. Totally wonderful to know there are women of my generation like Hayley offering bold leadership in these days.

The ‘handshake’ from the Rev Hayley Young, President of Baptists Together

If you’d have asked me back in 1998 when I was starting out training for ministry at the International Christian College in Glasgow if I’d ever thought I’d end up a baptist minister, I’d have laughed with incredulity. Not only because I was a committed Salvationists at the time and couldn’t imagine life outside the Salvation Army, but because I was always so impressed by the strong faith, commitment, theology and heart of my baptist friends. I always felt a little inferior, and still the ‘impostor syndrome’ kicks in! Bit, it is a privilege to serve and I’m looking forward to getting to know the Baptist family in Scotland having been away from there for some time.

Yet, here we are. After a long theological, practical, and ecclesiastical search and exploration since leaving the Army I’ve found a new spiritual home for the long haul. There’s something radical at the heart of the baptist charism that sings to me – the simple covenant commitment to the Lordship of Christ, being a believers church discerning God’s voice and direction together, and that deeply missional pulse at the heart of it all. Like other families of Christians it has its own unique challenges, but there is no group of Christians who doesn’t have that…just ask the apostle Paul!

I’m so thankful to all the folks who’ve encouraged me on the journey: the fellowship and leadership team of Hertford Baptist Church; Spurgeon’s College; Churches in Communities International, and especially the Rev Trevor Howard and the Rev Agnita Oyawale; the Central Baptist Association; the Revs Geoff Colmer, Stephen Copson, Simon Carver, Maureen Hider, Andrew Hemmens, Simon Cragg; the Rev Martin Hodson of the Baptist Union of Scotland; the fellowship of Arran Baptist Church…and countless other friends who speak into my life with encourgment and challenge. Here begins the next chapter.