An alternative evening celebration
Running at the same time as the main evening celebration during this year’s Baptist Assembly, Thirst aimed to provide a more informal setting to connect with God
‘We wanted somewhere to just sit with God, to unwind together after a full and busy day,’ explained Tom Bowring, minister-in-training at Dawley Baptist Church in Telford, and one of Thirst’s organisers.
‘We wanted to create space for the Spirit to move. The main evening celebration is great, and we wanted to provide an alternative that was more intimate and less prescriptive. In that setting you’re almost more vulnerable, and open.’
The worship was pared back, led just by Simon Gudger, minister of Catshill Baptist Church, Bromsgrove, and Esther on vocals, with the duo using the I-Sing Worship programme in place of larger band. The first few rows of seating were removed, to enable space to people to respond in different ways, and the lighting kept low.
Thirst connected with the main Assembly programme in a number of ways. It took place at the same time as the induction of new President Ken Benjamin, and a video of Ken outlining his theme was shown. Joe, a youth leader at Ken’s church (Chichester Baptist Church), helped to introduce it.
‘We’re part of the same Assembly, and it’s a great theme,’ said Tom.
John Prockter, director of local youth organisation Catalyst Youth Trust, spoke on John 15. He shared a story about a youth group he had started. Someone had stolen from it: John’s response was one of forgiveness. Blindsided by this response, the young man would give his life to Christ. There was a complete contrast to how the world would have responded.
John (pictured above left, being prayed for by Tom ahead of his address), challenged those present: where do we grow as individuals?
Amy Wearing, minister for youth at St Peter’s Baptist Church, Worcester, led a time of personal reflection. People were invited to ask, ‘Lord, where do you want me to grow in my life?’
Chris Duffett, Baptist evangelist and artist, painted in response to the Spirit. His work was entitled 'Until the disaster passed'. Writing on Facebook, Chris said, 'I enjoyed painting this at the Baptist Assembly tonight. Based on Psalm 57: ... for in you I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed. I cry out to God Most High, to God, who vindicates me. He sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me God sends forth his love and his faithfulness.'
Alongside Chris was an art area for people to respond individually.
It meant there was time and space to focus on that personal relationship with the Lord, and go with the flow. It all resulted in ‘an amazing evening’ said Tom, adding, ‘It was great to see the Spirit moving in so many different ways.’
Tom was very keen to include local youth groups, so an invitation was sent to all the churches in Telford, and several responded. There was a wide range of ages, as other Assembly delegates opted to attend.
Thirst came about following conversations at the previous year’s Assembly among millennials. ‘We just felt there wasn’t something in the programme that reflected the way people want to connect with God. Could we do something slightly different?,’ said Tom, explaining it wasn’t a youth service – but a genuine alternative. In this way it was an outworking of our Union's proposed priorities over the next season; embrace adventure, develop leadership, children youth and families, emerging adults, and digital revolution.
As Assembly continues to look to the future, Tom hopes the space created for Thirst will continue. ‘It’s great to see our Union try to take this positive step, and we have to now build on it.
‘It would be great if someone different could take this on every year – see the celebration with fresh eyes.’