It’s our Church Anniversary this weekend. We are celebrating the 324th Anniversary of the founding of Colchester Baptist Church. No founder members will be in attendance!
But as I prepare for Sunday I ask myself what the point is of having an Anniversary? Why celebrate 324 years of our church being in existence? Actually that’s one reason already – we celebrate God’s faithfulness and goodness to our predecessors and to us for 324 years, which encourages us to trust him now and in the future.
In 1689 the Act of Toleration was passed. Prior to this all churches other than state Church had been declared illegal and nonconformist Ministers were arrested, thrown into prison and worse (John Bunyan being one of the most well-known example of this). But the Act of Toleration said that if oaths of allegiance were sworn and church buildings registered the prohibitive laws would not be enforced against nonconformists, including Baptists. Very rapidly a church was formed in the same year.
This reminds me that we should not take for granted the freedom we have to be followers of Jesus. It reminds me that there are still many believers around the world who are oppressed, persecuted and martyred for their faith in Jesus. It drives me to my knees in prayer for them and encourages me to make the most of what God has given us as a church.
I am also reminded that we are the current trustees of the premises and mission of this church. We have several plaques on the wall of our church dedicated to the memory of some special people in the past. My favourite is of Mr Benjamin Nice who is described as ‘an ornamental member’ but who was active, generous and committed. In fact the central core of the premises we occupy today were built thanks Benjamin Nice’s generous donation. May God help us to be as faithful and as generous today so that generations to come may continue the task we have been given.
George Carey was quoted this week as saying that ‘the church is one generation from extinction’. Well, that’s always been the case. He was not saying anything new, even though he was portrayed as being a prophet of doom and gloom. So I am reminded at an Anniversary that the mission task to which we are called is vital – not so that Colchester Baptist Church will continue, but so that the story of Jesus can be passed on to as many people as possible and so that as many as possible may receive his good news for themselves. Back to being ‘free samples of Jesus’ I suppose!
It seems that there is something innate within us that likes to celebrate anniversaries. Some are ‘natural’ (birthdays, weddings…) and some seem to be more ‘forced’ (I am afraid I am struggling to generate enthusiasm to mark the anniversary of the start of WW1 next year when it was one of the most horrendous episodes in human history. Perhaps it should be marked by a collective shudder). And I wonder if that is part of being created by God. We live within time (unless we are a Time Lord (50th Anniversary of the first broadcast of Dr Who this weekend) and as such mark the passage of time as something significant and special. Anniversaries are a way of recognising that we live in a continuous present – moment after moment after moment. We cannot return to the past or move forward beyond the present. We only live in the present. And in itself it is a gift from God for which we can give thanks.
So, Happy 324th Anniversary CBC!
Be blessed, be a blessing (each moment God gives you)