Neil Brighton recently complied a top ten list of people whose opinions he considers baptists need to listen to as we face major changes in the way we do things in BUGB – people he suggests could positively influence the future shape: people he would invite if he wanted to start a denominational conversation.
I am flattered that Neil included me on that list amongst people I respect so highly. Neil’s post has generated lots of responses and helped kick start a conversation in the blogosphere. It seems to me that the names on the list are not so important but the conversation is. It seems to me that it is the value of being heard that is key to so much and it’s not just a baptist thing.
The Guardian and the London School of Economics released their findings from their research into the reasons behind the riots last week. A short summary video was featured on Question Time and there is a link to it here. A friend who was taken on as one of the researchers said the film was very accurate.
There is a lot to ponder from the film but one key aspect is that of those on the margins feeling like they are not being heard. Whether they are unemployed young people with lack of aspirations and hope for the future, or members of particular ethnic communities who feel repeatedly mistreated by the police, or campers outside St Paul’s who feel they are paying for the bankers’ bonuses, all have something in common – they feel unheard. Martin Luther King is often attributed to have said that ‘riots are the voice of the unheard’.
But the key question is HOW can people’s voices be heard in a genuine way which can affect change (rather than a ‘let me talk with you but we’ve already decided what we’re going to do’ way)?
I am sure some of you have more constructive suggestions than me regarding the future shape of baptist witness in Britain, but one proposal I mentioned in a conversation at Baptist House in the summer was why not hold an event at Baptist House once or twice a year when anyone (lay or ordained, well-known or unheard of) who thinks they have a practical, visionary idea for how an aspect of the Union’s life can work even better can come and share their idea. Not so much a Dragon’s Den type of event where you have to impress and win over defensive stake-holders, but more like a TED conference where those known to have a specialism are invited with no agenda, simply to bring their constructive visions for what could make our little, passionate family even more effective at the task we are called to, in the hope that they may connect with others who can help mould the dream and potentially make it a reality. It seems to me that we are living in a age with many questions and uncertainties and in that era idea-sharing becomes a creative starting point (as modelled by the Bank of Ideas). Just an idea anyway!
And just for fun, one seasonal image crossed my screen this week which seemed relevant on the theme of influence: