Anabaptist Network of Communities: fifth annual gathering (2015)

Around 60 people, including six children, gathered on 7 March at St Mark’s Baptist Church in Bristol for the annual get-together of the Anabaptist Network of Communities. The day took as its theme the medieval Feast of Fools, a subversive festival that turns the established order upside-down for one day to prick the pretensions of the wealthy and powerful.

Upon arrival at the church, we were welcomed by a vast array of cakes, iced in bright colours which bore no relation to the flavour of the cake, to prepare us for a day of surprises and upside-down-ness. The focus of the day was ‘the foolish economics of Luke 19’. Spending the day reflecting on the entire chapter was helpful,as we noted, for instance, that Luke has placed the parable of the pounds straight after the story of Zacchaeus, and not long before Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a colt and turns over the tables of the money changers in the temple.

Activities included extended preparation for two dramas based on the story of Zacchaeus, one a pantomime and the other in the style of Monty Python's four Yorkshiremen. From there, the groups went on to make a collage of newspaper headlines, article, and adverts on the theme of challenging the icons of our society, drawing on the beatitudes for ideas. At lunch, we enjoyed a three- ourse meal creatively cooked from Fareshare ingredients (diverted from being thrown out by shops and supermarkets).

In the afternoon, we heard about the economically foolish journey of David and Fiona Hibbs, who joined the Bruderhof community, adding their money and possessions to the community's common purse. We also formed small groups to choose part of Luke 19 for discussion around some thoughtprovoking questions.

This was the fifth annual ANC day, with previous days held in Birmingham, Manchester, and twice in London. Each gathering has been hosted by a different local group. This day was hosted by the Bristol Anabaptist study group and drew people from across the southwest as far afield as Newquay as well as from Birmingham, Buckinghamshire, Cambridge, Sussex, London and the wider London/ Surrey area. We hope that moving the gathering around enables a different group of people each year to travel to the day relatively easily. It brought together people from groups which belong to the Anabaptist Network of Communities, members of the Anabaptist Network, and those exploring Anabaptism.

We're grateful to the team of Stuart Murray Williams, James Manning, Sian Manning and Helen Pears for their vision, hard work and ingenuity. Thanks also to the café team, co-ordinated super-efficiently by manager Lesley Wynne. The café team’s hard work made creative use of Fareshare food, which kept the cost of food very low. Additionally, St Mark’s generously allowed us to use the building in return for a donation. The day was free to participants, but donations were welcomed, allowing us to cover costs and make an appropriate donation to St Mark’s.