Tasmanian Baptists’ Theme for 2022
It takes courage to take hold of Reengaging, Reimagining and Realigning
By Mission Director, Stephen Baxter
2022 is upon us, but it in Tasmania, it hasn’t been the easiest of beginnings.
Jenny and I were blessed to attend our daughter’s wedding in Spain in late December. While we were away, Tasmania’s borders opened for the first time in 18 months, paving the way for the COVID virus to re-enter our state.
By the time we returned home in the first week of January, so much had changed. Mandatory mask-wearing had become the norm, and a careful hesitancy by people meant our streets and shops felt somewhat empty.
Tasmanian churches changed over that time too. Facemasks are now mandatory for church services, although it has been the norm for many around the world for quite a while. Not surprisingly, attendance numbers are down as many, for various rational reasons, have chosen to stay home preferring online services instead.
God’s promise to us
It is no understatement to say we live in trying times — for both our communities and our churches. Yet, it is in such a time like this, that God promises not to leave us but to be with us. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul says God is the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles”. We are all thankful for that.
May God comfort you amid all the disruption and uncertainty you are experiencing at the moment.
This is a prayer we can pray for ourselves and each other. It is certainly my prayer for you. May God comfort you amid all the disruption and uncertainty you are experiencing at the moment.
I also pray God will use this time to continue the transformation process for all of our churches. The Bible is full of times when God has used difficulties, struggle, and even suffering, to renew the people of God.
Whether it was the wilderness experience of the Israelites fleeing Egypt for the Promised Land, or their exile experience in Babylon, or the persecution of the church in the early days by the Roman Empire, God is always at work in times such as these. Indeed, for Jews and Christians at all times, God never wastes hard times. Comfort and renewal are at work side-by-side. I trust that is true for us too.
Three critical words
In 2021 at our May Assembly, we endorsed our new strategic plan which included three key strategies: to Reengage, Reimagine and Realign.
These words are designed to help us understand and commit to what we sense God is doing among us –
- To reengage with the mission of God in our communities,
- To reimagine what church might look like as we take seriously that we are to be salt and light in our communities, and
- To realign the resources of our churches and union to enable us to be the church God calls us to be.
It seems to me that God is using this “COVID-moment” to help move us along the transformation path as expressed in our 3 Rs (Reengage, Reimagine and Realign). If that is correct, we can be comforted God is at work amid the challenges. And our response should be a resounding “Yes” to cooperate with God in this transformational work.
I’m not suggesting this is easy. It takes courage to say “Yes” to God.
It takes courage to trust, and courage to keep going. It takes courage to accept God’s compassion and God’s comfort. It takes courage to live with and open heart. It takes courage to love, accept and forgive. And it can take courage to comfort others. As Paul goes on to say, God comforts us, “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (1 Corinthians 1:4).
(en)Courage one another
Our theme for 2022 is (en)Courage.
It is an encouragement to take courage, to embrace what God is doing amongst us, and to receive God’s comfort at this time. All with a view to not just receiving courage, it but passing it on into our communities.
We’ll share more about this in the months ahead. But in the meantime, this is my prayer for you, and I trust we may pray it for each other:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ
(1 Corinthians 1:3-5).
Mission Director, Tasmanian Baptists