Being Hillhead Baptist: An International, Glaswegian Baptist community

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1 Mar, 2022

By Rev Catriona Gorton

Being Hillhead Baptist Church … a Personal Reflection

It’s 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, I launch the Zoom meeting, and am joined by Tamara, in Germany, who will read scripture, Paul who will play in the hymns, Leo who is today’s ‘door steward’, E**** (name redacted for safety) who will pray in Farsi, and the family who will light a candle to mark the start of worship.

For the last two years, we have been an international, online community, centred in Glasgow’s West End, and connecting households across the UK and around the globe. What began as a stopgap to see us through lockdown soon blossomed into a vibrant, authentic community that we are keen to maintain for the long term. At the time of writing, we are reflecting carefully and prayerfully on what ‘hybrid worship’ will look like for us – how will we ensure that, whether onsite or online, we are able to engage fully and worship authentically?

This is more than getting the technology right, more than ensuring that the rotas include voices ‘onsite’ and ‘online’, it is about building a community that is centred on Christ, based in Glasgow, and global in expression. More than ever, we are very intentional in planning services in which we hear different voices, e.g. a series drawn from the Genesis creation stories included reflections from a veterinary student, an allotment holder, and an oceanographer.

From a joyful service of thanksgiving for our pets, to celebrating the places that inspire us, to a poignant act of remembrance for those who have died during the pandemic, we have used art, photos, short films, slide shows and simple crafts to enable participation. With a theology of ‘mystery’, sharing Communion together, online, has been really precious as sign and symbol of our unity-in-diversity and dispersion.

As a congregation with a strong social conscience, it has been essential for us to continue to support causes that are dear to our heart. Like many churches, we budget our giving for BUS, BMS and Scottish Baptist College, and hold special appeals for other charities. Making use of JustGiving has been transformative – and to our surprise and delight has doubled the sums donated! Simple to set up and administer, and more convenient for most givers, this will be a long-term practice as we go forward.

With COP26 on our doorstep, we chose craftivism as a way in which we could all participate. We made paper prayer boats which we posted to Christian Aid as part of their #RiseToTheMoment challenge. With COP26 on our doorstep, we chose craftivism as a way in which we could all participate. We made paperprayer boats which we posted to Christian Aid as part of their #RiseToTheMomentge, which were able to see when I, along with one of our young adults, was privileged to attend the ecumenical service at Glasgow Cathedral.

We also contributed a panel to the banners that were displayed on the towers of New College in Edinburgh. It was great fun to open envelopes posted from as far away as Aberdeen and Galloway to discover the sea-creatures that would form part of our panel, and later to see the end result.

Over the past two years, we have been so blessed, growing numerically, with people covenanting as Members and more recently asking for Baptism. We know the future will be challenging in every sense, and we also know that God has a role for us in the West End of Glasgow – and around the world – for a long time to come. I am excited to discover what ‘Hillhead Hybrid’ looks like, and excited to share with this amazing community as we serve Jesus, ‘across the nation and around the world.’

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