Being at this Conference Centre reminds me of another previous occasion when I was here. It was a meeting of the Baptist Union of Great Britain’s Younger Leaders’ Forum (snappy title!). There was another gathering here at the same time – a gathering of members of a Christian singles’ network. They had a bewildering range of activities organised for the weekend that enabled people to get to know one another.
The meal tables were set out with cards showing where the BU group should sit and where members of this singles’ network should sit. At one meal three of the female members of the YLF were sat at a table waiting for others to arrive. One of the men from the singles’ network sauntered over to the table and started to sit down, announcing his arrival with the immortal chat-up line: “I don’t think I have inflicted myself on you yet.” The three young women were rather flustered by this and panicked. The only defence they could muster was to point to the card on the table and say, “We’re Baptists!”
The man left.
A number of thoughts occur to me from this encounter. One was to ask what the thinking was behind “I don’t think I have inflicted myself on you yet.” Was it intended to come across as casual and self-deprecating? Was his self-esteem that low, or was he simply very self-aware?
The second thought was to ask what sort of defence against unwanted advances “We’re Baptists!” is. Is being a Baptist the dating equivalent of Kryptonite to the prospective superman lothario, causing him to lose all allure unless he flees immediately. Do Baptists not participate in dating rituals thus rendering the approach unnecessary? Is declaring oneself to be a Baptist a way of pouring cold water on a suitor’s ardour?
And thirdly, why did the man give up so meekly? Was it the fluster and panic in their voices as the young women declared their Baptist allegiance? Did he realise he was sitting down at the wrong table? Or was he allergic to copious amounts of water?
Since Baptists owe their denominational origins to John the Baptist* I thought I would leave you with one more question:
Q. What do Winnie the Pooh and John the Baptist have in common?
A. They both have the same middle name
**Irony doesn’t work in written text