So the European Baptist Federation meetings in Nazareth have started. We had a warm opening service yesterday night in Nazareth Baptist church. Apart from ‘O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder,’ all other songs were of Arabic origin (including the one we sometimes sing at Šarka Valley Community Church – ‘Salam’ – which we sing with translation into English: ‘help us your peace to understand’…) – so a lovely flavour of the local church, which also included a sermon by one of our graduates, Azar Ajaj (Dean of Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary).
The Baptist church is located in the Arabic part of the city, whereas our hotel is in Nazareth Illit – the Jewish quarter, with the mezuzahs on the doors, the Sabbath elevator (i.e., during Sabath it stops automatically on each floor so that an observant Jew would not have to push a button), and such. Being here, the news on Israel – such as on the Palestinian independence issue dominating the news this week – feel and sound even more acute…
Today we had a good session on the report from IBTS and its future this morning, led by Ruth and Jan of our Board of Trustees. Even though the future is still not clear and the report was on the options placed before us, lots of support was expressed from various people who have encountered IBTS in one way or another. Every time in the EBF meetings, I’m amazed by how many lives have been touched by IBTS. As Tony, our General Secretary, remarked this morning, it is indeed a crossing point and part of the glue which holds the EBF together.
The Council voted for the decision that each of the Unions contribute annually towards the work of the seminary. The amount for the minimum of the contribution was deliberately set at a small figure – this is so that even the smallest member bodies can feel they can offer their ‘widdow’s mite’, but several union representatives immediatelly commented that the minimum should be understood as an invitation to give significantly above.