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Iranian First for Kensington

By John Beveridge

Maybe we’ll gather round over tea, coffee, whatever in years to come and ask each other this question: “Were you there that evening: did you celebrate God’s goodness with your brothers and sisters that special evening?”

For this was something else, something amazing.The date: March 23rd 2014. The place: Kensington Baptist Church, Bristol. So what was so special about it? Well, 11 people from Iran were baptized to publicly demonstrate their decision to follow Christ. And the majority of the service was conducted in Farsi – a first for the Church!

With translation from Iranian back into English for the other folk, this was an important example of Kensington’s goal to become more multi-cultural in its everyday practice, to better reflect its diverse congregation.

For Kensington has members from something like 50 different countries. These include the Caribbean, Africa, Russia, Poland, USA and many other countries right across the world – a ‘rainbow people’ who get together to worship the Living God, study the Bible, care and support each other.

The service was uploaded live onto the internet, with password-protection, for members not able to be there. This included older folk and Kensington associated missionaries in countries like Kenya, Asia, the Philippines – even working for desperately poor people in remote countries like Tibet.

Although the Brits at Kensington do know how to sing out and express themselves, the Iranians took this to a new level. And their enthusiasm in singing and making great music was plainly infectious.

Afterwards a massive celebration cake (never seen one so big), was gradually eaten away as everyone mingled together, enjoying the moment, reflecting on everything they’d experienced together.

Behind the memorable service lay months of preparation, particularly for the baptismal candidates. They studied hard and learned more about their new Christian faith, including completing a course called Alpha, before making this public stand.

The Iranian group also meet mid-week at the Church on Thursday evenings. There’s a warm welcome for Iranians and others to join them for a lively service, Bible study, and (depending on who’s around) good Iranian food afterwards.

This type of support is vital for the Iranians: many have loved-ones left behind and have known great personal anxiety and uncertainty while new to the UK.

Although the political situation in Iran may have eased slightly in recent times, the reality for many has meant living under a hard-line repressive regime and virtual economic melt-down following international sanctions. Just imagine the jaw-dropping impact of 40% annual inflation in the UK and you’ll get the picture!

Weird or what?

Maybe there’s someone reading this Blog and wondering what on earth this baptism stuff is all about – doesn’t it all sound a bit weird? Have Christians really got anything valid to say in our modern, complex world?

Well, judge for yourself: come along and talk to us; you’ll get a warm welcome. We’ve got people of all ages here and – guess what – they’re quite normal! So you should always find someone to talk to, to get beyond a polite English ‘hello’.

Kensington Baptist Church is near the junction of Stapleton Rd and Seymour Rd, Easton, Bristol. Although loads of other things are going on, Sunday services are 10.30am and 6pm. Someone from our Welcome Team could link up with you as you arrive. Many people are nervous about just walking into a strange place: we understand that.

The single most important question we all have to ask ourselves is simply this: “Why are we here, what is the real meaning and purpose of life – if any?” 

Come along, ask those difficult questions if you want. Or maybe you’re feeling flat, wondering is this really all there is to life? Many other people are going through the same thing, or maybe struggling with bad stuff, sad things.

So come and talk to us: we’d love to meet up with you!

Jonny Herring

Jonny is serving as Assistant Minister at The Village congregation. He is married to Charlotte and they have a daughter called Amelia. As well as spending time with his family, Jonny enjoys playing squash and dabbling in photography.