A new thing!
From Rev'd Mark Fairweather-Tall, Regional Minister Team Leader
One of the Bible verses I have heard quoted a number of times during the times of the pandemic is Isaiah 43:19, as the Lord says, ‘See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and steams in the wasteland to give drink to my people, my chosen.’ The setting for this verse is at a time when the nation of Israel was in crisis, both physically and spiritually. The Babylonians have successfully invaded; people have been exiled from their homeland; oppression, separation and spiritual crises are the realities that they face. The belief at the time was that the strength of the god you worshipped was revealed through the military strength of your country. There were two conclusions that they could draw: 1) God was not as powerful as they thought and there were stronger gods 2) God had rejected them and abandoned them.
Into this situation God speaks and tells them that far from abandoning them, He is doing a new thing. God is telling them that He is at work in the world, even though things don’t look good right now. No wonder this verse has been quoted as encouragement for us today when we face the crisis of Covid-19 and the spiritual challenges of 21st Century Britain.
Since Pentecost we have been encouraging a wave of prayer throughout Baptist Churches in Wales under the banner of Momentum (organised by ourselves, BUW, South Wales Baptist College and the North Western Baptist Association). Together we have been praying for a change in atmosphere and for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. It has been inspiring to join with sisters and brothers throughout our land who are asking the Lord to do a ‘new thing’ in our day. To all who joined in, however you did that, we say a huge thank you’. And please keep praying for God to do a new thing in our day, for His kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. (The final celebration was recorded and you can watch it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qV85pCzjntc ).
When it comes to God doing something new, we see that regularly in the lives of those who follow Him. As an Association we are at a time of seeing God doing a new thing – and two clear examples of this are within our Regional Ministry team, specifically concerning Hayley and Emma.
This week is Hayley’s last week working for SWBA before leaving to take up her new role with the Northern Baptist Association in September. To those who have shared in the journey, it is clear that God is leading her on this road as He does a ‘new thing’. I am excited for Hayley and the NBA. I can see why God would call her to that role at this time, although, for us, this is tinged with sadness because she is leaving. Hayley has done an outstanding job here in South Wales. She has brought tremendous energy, innovation and the ability to think ‘outside of the box’. The impact she has had in a relatively short space of time has been enormous and the legacy that she leaves will be long lasting. On behalf of the rest of the team, we want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to Hayley. We have really enjoyed the time we have shared - praying together, thinking, dreaming and planning together. We can certainly add to that list, fun and laughter in abundance. God is calling Hayley to a ‘new thing’ at this time – both with NBA and next year to the role of President of Baptists Together. We pray God’s richest blessing on Hayley as she seeks to faithfully follow God’s leading into this new season.
Once Hayley announced her new role, Emma began to discern that God might be calling her to a new thing as well. At the time when Emma started as a Regional Minister for SWBA the question was raised about whether she would accept a full-time role. Emma felt God was saying she should stay at Richmond Road BC in a part-time capacity. As news about Hayley moving on became common knowledge, one or two people asked her whether she would now look at going full-time. Initially her answer was the same as before that she believed God was calling her to stay as part-time minister at Richmond Road BC. Yet as she said those words, she began to realise that there was a possibility that God was now saying something different and that she should explore the possibility of going full-time. The discernment process began in earnest about God doing a new thing in Emma’s life. Emma and I had a conversation about this. I took advice from our Human Resource advisors within Baptists Together about how we should handle this. We followed these procedures and therefore are delighted to announce that Emma’s hours will be increasing to full-time from 1stOctober.
In discussion with the Trustees the desire was expressed that we should ensure we continue to pursue our priorities of ‘Mission’ and ‘Children, Youth & Families’, highlighted by the initial appointments of Hayley and Emma. Our intention is to continue to do this and plan for what this looks like in the light of the new situation we face due to the Pandemic. Emma says, ‘Whilst it will be difficult to leave Richmond Road, I am excited about taking on the elements of Home Mission. I am excited about walking and talking with churches about how ministry and mission can grow and how they can be missional in all that they do. I have a passion to see churches thrive and not just survive.’
Emma is a brilliant colleague – dedicated, enthusiastic and full of wisdom. Her passion for mission and working in a trans-local context is evident. The challenge for us as an Association in the days ahead is to be in tune with what God is doing. The last 15 months have shaken our structures, bringing numerous challenges to us as we look ahead. With crisis comes questioning and change is inevitable. As we engage with this process, we have a sure and steadfast hope – God is at work. We believe God is doing a new thing. Can we perceive it? Can we see and drink from the streams that He is sending? Our ‘official’ wave of prayer with Momentum has finished… but please keep praying. Please pray for Hayley and Emma as they seek to faithfully follow God’s leading. Please pray for Rumney BC and Richmond Road BC where Hayley and Emma have served as ministers. Please pray for the Baptist family in South Wales as we seek to understand what God is doing at this time. May we continue to pray together for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. May we be amazed at the new thing that God is doing!