Over the weekend we celebrated the 209th anniversary of Providence Baptist Church. As has been our custom for the last few years, we had the same speaker for the Saturday afternoon meeting and the Sunday services. This time it was the turn of Gary Brady, who's been pastor of Child's Hill Baptist Church, London for over 30 years. Like me he trained for the Ministry at London Seminary.
It was good to have friends from other local churches join us on Saturday, where Gary preached on Psalm 133, offering a biblical vision of unity within and among gospel congregations. The meeting was followed by a buffet tea, where we continued to enjoy fellowship together.
On Sunday Gary preached on John 4:13-14 and 1 Corinthians 15:55-57. The messages were engagingly delivered, insightful and encouraging. I'm not one of those preachers who expects others to listen to him, but doesn't much like listening to others. It was refreshing to be under the ministry of the Word, taking in rather than giving out.
It was a pleasure to have Gary with us at ours for the day. We've know each other for years, often meeting up at conferences and things, so it was good to be able to catch up and talk about all kinds of stuff. We showed Gary the local sights. Westbury boasts several picturesque ponds and of course, the famous White Horse that overlooks the town. We took a detour past the school where I serve as a governor. We'll have been here for 16 years this December and feel very much part of Westbury.
Among the hymns Gary chose for the Saturday meeting was 'Blest be the tie that binds' by John Fawcett (1740-1817). I didn't realise until Gary mentioned it when he introduced the hymn, but the writer was a Baptist Minister. He was Pastor of Wainsgate Baptist Church, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire. Apparently he was converted at the age of 16 under the ministry of George Whitefield. Fawcett served for seven years at Heben Bridge, despite a small income and a growing family. In 1772 he received a call to the large and influential Carter's Lane Baptist Church in London. He planned to accept, but at the last minute changed his mind and stayed put. It was to commemorate his decision that in 1782 he wrote the hymn, 'Blest be the tie that binds'.
In modern day parlance, Fawcett was a 'somewhere' pastor, rather than an 'anywhere' pastor. Some ministers crave a wider ministry. They always seem to be off speaking at conferences in their home country or overseas and don't tend to stay for long in one pastorate. Others prefer to cultivate a deeper ministry in terms of rooting themselves in one place. They form a strong attachment to their congregation and community, a 'tie that binds'. I'm not saying pastoral 'somewheres' are better than 'anywheres'. There are 'varieties of service, but the same Lord'. George Whitefield for one was a pretty useful 'anywhere' preacher. But there is a lot to be said for going deep, rather than wide.