Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thanks for the journey

This week I conclude my employment with Baptistcare after 12 amazing years of learning and growth.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those with whom I have worked, those who have read my blog posts, and those who have journeyed with me in helping the various teams at Baptistcare to engage with our vision and mission. We have been through highs and lows, but along the journey I have learned more about myself, my colleagues, and the potential that exists within us all to wallow in self-indulgent regret and hopelessness, or to rise above the day to day issues and discover hope, potential and the expectation that the best is yet to come.

Thankyou for contributing to my life in some way, and for allowing me the privilege to contribute something to your lives.

From Sunday, April 7 I will be the Team Leader/Senior Pastor at Maida Vale Baptist Church. If you are free on that day I would love to have you come and join me at a special induction service at the church which is situated at 24 Edney Road, High Wycombe, starting at 9.30am. I also intend to continue blogging at http://robdouglasblog.wordpress.com/ and would appreciate you dropping in there from time to time to see what I am writing about.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Champions of Freedom #3

This is the third in a series on Baptist Champions of Freedom. In the last two posts I talked about early Baptist leaders who stood against the governments of their day to achieve freedom of thought.

Thomas Helwys championed religious freedom for people of all religions, including no religion at all, in 17th century England when the government made the rules about what people could believe. Roger Williams took the same principles with him to America where he was the founder of the state of Rhode Island and championed the cause of separation of church and state, ultimately influencing the US Constitution.

Our third Baptist Champion of Freedom is Martin Luther King.

King was a Baptist preacher and co-pastored the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta with his father. His grandfather had served as pastor of that church from 1914 to 1931 and his great grandfather had also been a Baptist preacher. Martin Luther King’s commitment to social justice and freedom stemmed from his Baptist heritage and belief in religious liberty. He became a civil rights activist quite early in his life and in 1964 became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end racial segregation and racial discrimination. He led the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957, serving as its first president. King's efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

Why did I tell these three stories of Baptist Champions of Freedom? Simply to say that the roots of Baptistcare are intertwined with a long heritage of people who have championed freedom and have stood up for the rights of individuals. I hope that in some way we can maintain the courage of our forebears.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Champions of Freedom #2

This is the second in my three stories about Baptist Champions of Freedom

In my last blog I mentioned King James 1 who was persecuting Catholics and Puritans, including burning heretics at the stake. He was replaced in 1625 by King Charles 1 who began another campaign of persecution against the Puritans.

Roger Williams was a Church of England minister who left the Church of England to become a Puritan because he became convinced in his beliefs of separation of church and state, so after Charles began his campaign Williams and his wife Mary sailed to America. After challenging the government in Massachusetts Bay in 1635 about the way it tried to regulate religious matters and its appropriation of land from Native Americans, Roger and Mary Williams were banished from the colony.

They headed south from Massachusetts to Rhode Island where they purchased land from the local Naragansett Indians and founded Providence where Williams organised the first Baptist Church in North America. In 1652 Williams wrote a pamphlet entitled “The Bloudy Tenent yet More Bloudy” which discussed the separation of church and state. His work on this subject has been credited by US Presidents, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as providing the original influence for the first amendment of the US Constitution.

Just as Helwys, who I described in my last blog, was critical to English thinking about religious freedom and freedom of conscience, so Roger Williams, another Baptist, provided the impetus for fresh thinking about religious tolerance in North America and as a result influenced the decision-makers.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Champions of Freedom #1

Understanding our roots is always important to helping us identify where we come from and guiding us into the future. A couple of years ago I ran a series of posts looking at three people I call champions of freedom.  They were significant people in the Baptist movement and highlight one of the distinctives of the Baptist Church since it began in the 17th century, that of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. I am repeating these stories because I think they're worth repeating.

Born in England around 1550, Thomas Helwys joined an independent church at Gainsborough in England at a time when independence was not looked upon favourably by the church-controlled Government. In 1607 the High Court of Ecclesiastical Commission began putting intense pressure on independent churches and a group of people, including Thomas Helwys, made their way to Holland where the first Baptist Church was established by John Smyth.

After some time Helwys became concerned at the persecution of both Catholics and Puritans that was occurring in England under King James (the guy who authorised the translation of the Bible we now call the King James Version) and in 1612 he decided to return to England shortly after Edward Wightman, a Baptist, became the last person in England to be burned at the stake for heresy. Helwys found a publisher for his book, “A Short Declaration on the Mystery of Iniquity” and dedicated a copy of it in his own handwriting, to King James. The Mystery of Iniquity was the first exposition in the English language to fully express the concept of liberty of conscience and religious liberty for all people, including those who claim to have no religious attachment. Helwys was imprisoned for his efforts and probably died in prison.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Happy Birthday Rosa

If she were still alive, Rosa Parks would be 100 today.

Rosa Parks has been described as the "first lady of civil rights" and the "mother of the freedom movement".

On December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Parks refused to obey a bus driver's order to give up her seat in the colored section to a white passenger, after the white section was filled. Her act of defiance and the subsequent boycott of buses in Montgomery became important symbols of the modern Civil Rights Movement.

While history will tell us that Rosa, who was the secretary of the Montgomery branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, did not act independently, there is no doubt that her courage to defy widely accepted practices of discrimination was a personal strength and she suffered personally because of what she did.

The great significance of the civil rights movement was that Rosa Parks' actions and others who championed the cause, like Martin Luther King, maintained that non-violence was critical to their cause. Courage and justice not only involved standing up against discrimination, but doing it in a way that was filled with grace.

On Rosa Parks' 100th birthday it is appropriate that we spend a moment to reflect on courage and justice, which are values held by Baptistcare, and what these values mean for us in Western Australia in 2013.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Beauty and Abandonment

I'm back on deck (woops, I'm using maritime terminology) after two weeks cruising around New Zealand. Although I was out of contact by phone, email or any other form of technology for two weeks, I have to say I did not miss it at all.

While the cruise provided us with some great experiences and some wonderful scenery there was one aspect of the trip that caused us to wonder.

One day the woman who cleaned our rooms on board the luxury cruise liner told me about her son who she hadn't seen for 10 months and her six month old daughter who she had never met. I was curious that she had not met her daughter.

It turned out that her sister in the Philippines was looking after her son and one day a baby girl was dropped at her doorstep in a box. "God gave me this little girl so I will look after it," she told me.

Such situations are not uncommon the Philippines, and someone who has been able to get work on a cruise ship is seen as being more financially secure than most.

Living for two weeks in the luxury of a cruise ship there was something incompatible about the story of child abandonment I was hearing from a woman who maintained her livelihood in "sail-in sail-out" employment.

According to the Abandoned Children's Fund there are more than 20 million homeless or abandoned children in the world today, many of them orphans.

Over the last two weeks I have had the opportunity to appreciate the wonder of God's creation, from the awesome thermal wonderland of Rotorua to the rugged glacier-formed fiords of Milford Sound. But I am thankful that in the midst of this I have been reminded of the vulnerability of human life and the precious gift of love that enables a young mother to take an abandoned child into her family.

This is the world in which we live, and for that I give thanks. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Being Stewards of our Resources

The year 2013 has been declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Water Cooperation.

The reason for making the declaration according to the resolution of the UN General Assembly is to "emphasise that water is critical for sustainable development, including environmental integrity and the eradication of poverty and hunger, and is indispensable for human health and well-being and central to achieving the Millennium Development Goals."

It also reaffirms "the internationally agreed development goals on water and sanitation, including those contained in the United Nations Millennium Declaration" and determines "to achieve the goal to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people who are unable to reach or afford safe drinking water, and the goals set out in the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation to halve the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation and to develop integrated water resources management and water efficiency plans by 2005, with support to developing countries."

It's a big call but if the developed nations work alongside the developing nations there is a greater chance that these goals can be attained.   We also have our own issues here in WA and the Water Corporation has embarked on a 10 year plan to drought-proof Perth. It's worthwhile reading this document and consider how we can work towards higher levels of sustainability. 

 I may not post about this subject again this year, but if I have helped in some way to make readers aware of the International Year of Water Cooperation, and through that to raise our awareness of an important environmental issue I think it is worthwhile.  

One of Baptistcare's values is Stewardship of the responsibilities in our care, and sustainability at all levels, including water cooperation, is part of that stewardship. Take a look at this website for some tips about how we can be better stewards of this valuable resource.