Archive for September, 2013

EBF Council in Bratislava

Friday, September 27th, 2013

For the past few days five of us from IBTS have been attending the annual EBF Council meeting, held this year in Bratislava, the capital city of our neighbours, Slovakia. We have been warmly welcomed by our Slovak sisters and brothers from the Baptist Union of Slovakia, and by our EBF president Oti Bunaciu, and our General Secretary Tony Peck. This is only the second time I’ve been to an EBF Council meeting. As the previous one was in Budapest I guess I must be working my way through capital cities beginning with B!

Just over halfway through the meeting I already have lots of wonderful experiences to think about and give thanks for. I thought it might be good to share some of them. We began with a welcome and worship service in the Palisady Baptist Church. For me, the experience of Christians coming together from so many places across Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia, not to mention guests from North America, to give praise to our one God and Lord Jesus Christ was both very beautiful and inspiring. Tony Peck’s address was a powerful plea for celebrating unity in diversity, both within the European Baptist family and within the wider Christian community.

That call and the experience of unity in song and prayer have characterised the whole meeting. We have begun each day with worship and Bible meditations, using some of the Psalms. When we gather together as sisters and brothers to praise the Lord, we are in the fullest way the people of God, and to experience that across barriers of culture, language and history is a tremendous gift that can only raise the heart to give yet greater praise.

We have been privileged to welcome as a guest at the Council the General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, Dr Neville Callam. Dr Callam spoke of the importance of unity and diversity in the worldwide Baptist family. His talk was stimulating and a reminder of what we can do as one body, made up as the Apostle Paul reminds us, of many diverse parts. Only through diversity is unity possible.

A practical expression of this could be seen in the response to the powerful testimony of our brothers and sisters in the Middle East. Here both the diversity of the daily experiences of our life and the deep unity in Christ were strongly present. I am always amazed at the witness given by often numerically small Baptist communities in the Middle East. In a region where there is so much news of conflict, hate, death it is fantastic to hear stories of service and witness in deed and word, of Christians bringing peace, love and life.

Perhaps my overwhelming experience at the Council is one of joy, the joy of being together with fellow believers from so many countries, with so many differences, yet all united in their hunger to serve the Lord and to proclaim the gospel in their lives and words. It is something that we can never take for granted, but something to give thanks for and to rejoice in. For as the psalmist cries out and as we remembered in one of our meditations, “the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is within it”. I give thanks and praise for this, and that we at IBTS have been called to serve this family, united in its glorious and God-given unity.

 – Tim

Preparing for a New Home

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

This should have appeared on Friday, but our blog server had some hickups:

I’m writing this from Amsterdam, after a few days of good meetings with colleagues at VU University and generally a good experience of how our ‘new academic home’ will work. Those of you who have had some experience of this culture know the friendliness which generally characterises it, but you can imagine the difference this can make in the task of discussing various aspects of integration of IBTS into the work and life of VU’s Theology Faculty, common projects, shared aspirations, etc. Of course, because this is a big organisation, things take time as far as the logistics go; “getting into the system” needs a certain persistence and time, but once you’re in, things go smooth, and it’s exciting to see the possibilities available. So today Parush and I got our passes and library cards (I’m attaching the picture of the entrance to the theological section of the library on the 9th & 10th floor) – and I’ve played about exploring different sections of electronic resources available to those of you who are or will be VU students or guests. This, as you will appreciate, is a lovely, lovely thing to do given that most of my time exploring books and articles “just for fun” remains a nice intention to be postponed to the next day!

We also began working our ways in the corridors and staircases and places being renovated – quite fun for someone like me who has a rather peculiar sense of direction! (Here’s a picture of one of these staircases).

And lastly, I’m attaching a picture of our Rector by the entrance of the Faculty of Theology, which is beginning to feel like a home. (For him especially because the pass we got allows access to coffee machines!)

Good times are ahead, we hope.

– Lina

Reconciliation and Remembrance 500 years on

Monday, September 16th, 2013

On the 9th September 1513, a mighty Scottish army led by the then King James IV crossed the River Tweed at the town of Coldstream and entered England ruled by King Henry VIII. At that time Scotland was enjoying a period of growth, prosperity and educational advance with three universities already established (as opposed to two in the much larger England). James the IV was judged to be a good and wise King, the courts were working efficiently and life was peaceful enough between the highlands and the lowlands. There was a treaty of perpetual peace between the two nations.

Why James decided to invade England whilst King Henry VIII was in France besieging the French King is a subtle reflection. Ostensibly, the “auld alliance” between France and Scotland had demanded help for the besieged French King. No matter, in 1513 a superior Scottish army stood on the hillside of Flodden, just inside England, whilst the much smaller English Army of the North, under the Earl of Sussex, had hastened from Pontefract in  Yorkshire, to do battle.

The Scots, though superior, used all the wrong tactics, got bogged down and were massacred. In a little over four hours 14,000 young Scots lay dead on the Floddenhillside.

On 9 and 10 September 2013 people gathered at Flodden again to remember, to be reconciled, to reflect on the futility of war, then – and, indeed now, with prayers about Syria and other places of conflict. I was present, with many members of the Northumbria Community, to keep that solemn remembrance and seek reconciliation. Wit my Scottish mother and English father, such moments are always poignant for me.

A Roman Catholic Requiem Mass was held in an Anglican Church almost straddling the border, in which the Moderator of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian) led the prayers and Baptist, Anglican, Presbyterian and Catholic clergy from both countries processed together. One lesson was read by the Duke of Norfolk, Earl Marshal and premier Duke of England, whose ancestor, the Earl of Sussex, had won the victory and been rewarded by a delighted Henry VIII with the Dukedom. Another by Angus Hay, leader of the clan Hay, whose clan had joined the battle and been slaughtered. At the end of the moving Mass a lone piper played the lament “Fleurs of the Forest”, composed a long time ago in memory of the tragedy.

In the afternoon on the Battlefield itself, I had a small part to play. Dressed as a monk I carried a facsimile of the famous illustrated Lindisfarne Gospels into the ceremony and read the beatitudes, pausing before reading the words “blessed are the peacemakers”.

It was moving to see the descendants of those from both sides who had led the armies into battle present on one platform. The Duke of Norfolk (English) sat next to the Earl of Home (Scottish). The Dean of Durham next to the Moderator of the Church of Scotland. (A poignant fact was that the blessed standard of St Cuthbert had been taken into battle from its usual resting place in Durham Cathedral to help ensure an English victory).

The Solemn Remembrance focused on the terrible death and destruction of the day five hundred years ago, but in the symbolic acts, in the address by Lady Steele, in the intercessions led by the Northumbria Community another note was sounded of the Gospel message of Peace and Reconciliation, not only recalling the past, but urgently needed in the present in our world of conflict and violence in which far too many people still die in unnecessary wars.

– Keith

That’s how we look…

Monday, September 9th, 2013

…this academic year – of course, as a dispersed community we are never all together in the same place, but these photos will give you some idea about who’s been around for the start of the new academic year.

Preparing for the community photo... being taken...


...and waving to Viljar the Photographer!

What sort of heaven do you imagine?

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

“That would be my idea of heaven.” I have often heard people make some remark like that after enjoying a particular event, experience or place. One of my own contenders to be considered in the “quarter finals” is an annual event on a Sunday afternoon at the beginning of September in the valley where theIBTS campus is currently situated.

Thanks to the benevolence of Prague 6, the local authority of this part of Prague, the Czech National Opera and orchestra perform a classic Czech opera in our ŠárkaValley. This year saw thousands of people sat in the sunshine on the 100th anniversary year of the first such performance. This year it was the classic Bedřich Smetana opera, “The Bartered Bride”, with libretto by the Czech nationalist poet, Karel Sabrina. First performed in 1866, it’s a story of young love finally triumphing over an attempt by the parents of the heroine to organise an arranged marriage. It includes mistaken identity, a background of happy, simple, village life and the visit of a travelling circus.

It has some excellent and memorable tunes, reflecting Smetana’s interest in Bohemian folk music and the three act opera has some fun moments, typically reflecting Czech culture, with Act 2 opening to the men of the village singing a song “to beer”. The third act features the fun and antics of a travelling circus and cries of alarm when there is a story of an escaped bear from the circus, though the bear turns out to be the potential bridegroom of the arranged marriage in costume, thus demonstrating to everyone he is not yet ready to marry anyone.

So, the music, the acting, the setting are excellent and to keep you sustained during the free afternoon performance there are numerous food and drink stalls serving grilled sausage, fried cheese, potatoes in various forms, including freshly-cooked bramborove spiralky [fried potato spirals].

A party from IBTS, students and lecturers, thoroughly enjoyed the event, something we have been doing for most of the past 15 years. Where else could you enjoy top quality opera for free, in a silvine open air setting and with a range of very acceptable refreshments on hand at very modest prices?

It’s the totality of the experience, addressing the eye, the ear, the nose and the mouth and the sense of community engagement and enjoyment, the participation with BTS riends and colleagues which causes me to suggest this as a candidate for a possible image of  heaven.

– Keith

New year, new opportunities!

Monday, September 2nd, 2013