Annual Assembly 2021

Reengage | Reimagine | Realign
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Engaging with the “3R’s”

Tas Baptist Annual Assembly
22-23 October 2021, Longford

By Kate Barnett, Newstead Baptist

Reengage, Reimagine, Realign

On Friday night at the Annual Assembly 2021, we gathered with other Tasmanian Baptist church representatives. It was a time of sharing what has been happening in our different fellowship communities.

Prof. Patrick Parkinson with Mission Director Stephen Baxter. Annual Assembly 2021
Prof. Patrick Parkinson with Mission Director Stephen Baxter

The Mission Director, Stephen Baxter, reflected on the year past which demanded so many adjustments associated with the impact of the pandemic. But also, more broadly in the context of our changing society. He considered how this relates to being the body of Christ – His church – and how this looks very different from past years.

Our guest speaker, Professor Patrick Parkinson, explained many enlightening statistics. These included how changing family structures, and the decline of marriages over recent decades, has led to increasing challenges for children, parents, and our communities. This provides so many opportunities for Christians to reach out and care in relevant ways.

Morning Sessions

On Saturday we explored further the “Reengage, Reimagine, Realign” vision for Tasmanian Baptists. We also participated in a very short business session.

Denise Stephenson
Denise Stephenson

Denise Stephenson (LifeWay, Lymington) spoke of her experience of growing up deeply within the Tasmanian Baptist church community. Finding herself dis-engaging in her teens, she later returned to the Baptist church network in a new ministry capacity.

This has led to her reaching out to people in day-to-day interactions within her local neighbourhood. Now, she seeks God’s guidance for next steps with fellowship at the “long table” she and husband Mark have installed in their new home.

Maddy Svoboda
Rev. Maddy Svoboda

Maddy Svoboda shared about the journey Summerhill Baptist has been on as it seeks to value the transition period.

He spoke of the “liminal spaces” where we step across into the “not yet known” – where God is at work. And of trusting God with the unknowns which are known by our Sovereign God.

Annual Assembly 2021, attendees
Annual Assembly 2021 Attendees, 23 October 2021

After Lunch Electives

After lunch, we chose electives. I appreciated participating in Jenna Blackwell’s workshop, which provided personal reflection time on the 3-R’s. In addition, Michael Henderson led a group reflecting on how churches can reengage, reimagine and realign. And a third group looked at the future implications of Covid for our churches in light of new vaccination policies.

In the workshop, Jenna posed a series of questions prompting us to Reengage as we described in our own words God’s Big Story, the Good News. Then exploring our own response, considering our strengths and passion, significant life experiences.

Questions prompted us to Reengage as we described in our own words God’s Big Story, the Good News

We then moved to Reimagine what God might be saying to us in how our own lives are being lived. And then, to Realign by considering what may need to change in our lives to Reengage full circle with God in the now!

At home, I’ve been sorting and “culling” all manner of stuff to make room for our daughter and her family. They are moving from interstate and will be living with us. This exercise reminded me to “let go” and to “make space”, so God can do his transforming work of Renewal! 

That renewal is what God does in our lives. It is what we can see happening in many of our Tasmanian Baptist churches. I was so encouraged by our Annual Assembly 2021.

Kate Barnett, Annual Assembly 2021

Kate Barnett
Newstead Baptist Church


READ MORE IN THE NOV/DEC 2021 ADVANCE | STEP BY STEP

Bringing the Kingdom of God to Tasmania

Reengage | Reimagine | Realign
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mission-shaped:

It’s time to …

“Reengage Reimagine Realign”

What the newly adopted strategic plan might mean for us as Tasmanian Baptists

Seeing Tasmania infused with the salt and light

When Jesus taught about the kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven in Matthew) it was more immediate and grander than just securing a place in heaven for people after death. The kingdom of God is the rule of God here on earth. It exists in part now and will exist in fullness when Jesus returns.

Jesus taught of something new entering into our broken world. His presence among us, along with his miracles and healings, was evidence of God’s rule coming to this planet. After his resurrection he charged his disciples with the responsibility of keeping the project going. Ever since, when the Church has been at its best, it has been an agent of this kingdom.

What we hope for

We acknowledge it “is not the church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church” [1]. God has a job for his church in Tasmania. As Tasmanian Baptists, we are committed to becoming a union of churches who willingly “lay aside our personal preferences for the sake of the community being served” [2].

It “is not the church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church”

Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury.

This is the heart of the new vision that we adopted at our May 2021 Assembly. It is to see “Tasmania infused with the salt and light of the kingdom of God.” We believe this is God’s hope for the state of Tasmania; it is our hope too.

The Church needs to adapt

The vision goes on to note that our contribution to the realisation of this vision will be through “facilitating and developing innovative, diverse, and transformative member churches and faith communities living out the Gospel.”

By stating this, we acknowledge how many in our communities do not consider the Church a place to go to for assistance with the issues they face. Our inherited form of being and doing Church needs to adapt to the changing world. This is not a something new for God’s Church. At many points during the past 2000 years, the Church has undergone renewal and reformation as the Spirit has remoulded it for successive generations.

Three key strategies: Reengage | Reimagine | Realign

With that in mind, the newly adopted strategic plan outlines three key strategies: to assist our churches and members to reengage in God’s mission, to reimagine the church for our time and to realign our resources (time, finances, buildings, organisational structure) towards these ends.

This is no mean feat and will not happen overnight. As I’ve said a bit lately, it took God weeks to get Israel out of Egypt, but 40 years to get Egypt out of Israel. Like Israel, we can fall into mourning the loss of the past, rather than embracing the opportunities God has before us. Yet this is the call of the journey of faith, to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us [by] fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith”[3].

“run with perseverance the race marked out for us [by] fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith”.

Hebrews 12:1b-2a

We live in a profound moment in the history of the world. In declaring Jesus is Lord, and praying that God’s kingdom may come, and that God’s will may be done in Tasmania as in heaven, we are not only aligning ourselves with God’s purposes in our world, but asking God to use us.

I trust you can say “Amen” to that.

Stephen Baxter
Stephen Baxter

Stephen Baxter
Mission Director, Tasmanian Baptists
stephen@tasbaptists.org.au


[1] Former Archbishop Rowan Williams

[2] Church of England, charge for candidates for Pioneer Mission

[3] Hebrews 12:1b-2a