Baptists hope 400th anniversary will inspire vision for movement's future

Preparations are already underway for celebrations in 2009 to mark 400 years of the world Baptist movement, which organisers are stressing will not only look at the achievements of the past, but also set out the vision that will ensure the movement's successful stride into the future.

Four hundred years have passed since the movement's founding fathers - refugees from England - gathered in the backroom of an Amsterdam bakery in 1609 to read the Bible together. That small gathering became the first Baptist-minded congregation and the European Baptist Federation (EBF) anticipates that 1,700 Baptists from across Europe alone will turn out from 24 to 26 July 2009 to celebrate the occasion, slated "Amsterdam 400".

With an expected cost of 300,000 euros, the EBF is urging all 52 member unions to participate in a large-scale fundraising drive that will allow Baptists from less wealthy countries to attend.

EBF General-Secretary Tony Peck and Financial Chairman Jan Saethre (Siljan/Norway) have already addressed a financial appeal to the member unions reminding them of the commitment they made at the EBF-Council sessions in Budapest last September to contribute one euro per member towards the cost of the conference.

Peck and Saethre are also requesting that union leaders press home the fundraising drive to their congregations.

"We are of course aware that one euro per member is too much for some unions," they said.

Each union that cannot manage the 'one-euro-per-member' donation is being encouraged to consider a one-off contribution of their own choosing in order to help keep costs down and cover the travel expenses of some participants.

There are more than 100 million Baptists worldwide, around 800,000 of which are in Europe and the Middle East, making them the world's largest Protestant denomination. The Dutch Union has some 11,500 members worshipping in 85 congregations.