Winding down the narrow streets of Lviv, Ukraine, the bus could no longer navigate the tight corners near the center of the city.
The crowd was let out to make the rest of the journey on foot. After a short walk, the group turned the corner to discover the most beautiful Ukrainian structure.
The building was lit up with a warm light, but the glow came from the inside. This is how the 2018 European Baptist Federation (EBF) council began.
The beautiful building shining on our faces was an old Lutheran church built in 1529. However, the current residents were a bunch of Baptists.
Central Baptist Church has brought new life to this old structure. The music welcoming worshippers warmed our hearts and filled our souls, drawing us into the doors with a Christ-like embrace.
The theme for this year’s meeting is “Reconciliation in Christ.”
As EBF meets this week, President Jennie Entrican challenged members to “engage, listen and pray together.”
Expanding on her words, General Secretary Tony Peck urged participants to proclaim and practice reconciliation through peacemaking. He said, “Let there be peace in the world and let it begin with us.”
Baptist World Alliance (BWA) President Paul Msiza remarked on how important it was for him to receive an invitation to this year’s meeting.
He exclaimed, “This invitation was important because it puts global Baptists in the same room together, face to face.”
In a time when partisanship, tribalism and nationalism are running amuck, the Baptist family needs to collaborate and partner to bring reconciliation to the world.
BWA General Secretary Elijah Brown proclaimed in his sermon, “The world needs reconciliation.” Why? The world is still suffering from poverty, hunger, racism and persecution, and many are waiting for the next disaster to hit.
Brown went on to suggest that God has “commanded” us to be instruments of reconciliation, which means we must work together.
On this first night of the EBF council meeting, the Ukrainian choir led the way for the preachers, professors and Baptist union leaders gathered in Lviv.
The choir sang a myriad of beautiful and powerful hymns, but one stood out above the rest.
When they launched into the choral piece, “We Believe,” the room was mesmerized and struck with hope.
If Baptists can truly believe what they claim and act on that belief, the world can discover reconciliation and hope.
This week will be filled with challenges as European Baptists report on their incredible work and the difficult circumstances some are facing.
Immigration is no longer knocking on their door; the issue is a pressing reality, and Baptists are attempting to find a path forward.
In Ukraine, the government has persecuted Baptists, fining them and breaking up their worship services.
Europe has a variety of Baptists, but if they just “believe” and practice a spirit of reconciliation, the future will be as bright as the building we worshipped in tonight.
Editor’s note: Photos from the EBF 2018 council meeting are available here.