Monday, January 7, 2013

Morning after the Day Before: Baptist Epiphany

Every once in a while I need to have a different worship experience and yesterday I took the day off from our parish to attend a Baptist Church in Dallas.  If you grow up in Texas, you have a bit of Baptist in you.  It comes in the water, I think.  Baptist and southern Church of Christ are so ubiquitous that the pollen gets into your system even if you rebel against it.

For many years I categorically  opposed all things Baptist as a way to declare my faith different and therefore 'better' than the majority culture.  Even during my one year at Colgate-Rochester Theological School which also housed Bexley Hall Episcopal Seminary did not help my adversity to the Baptists.  (The northern Baptists are quite different from the Southern Baptists but they are still Baptists!).  I thought their congregational polity exclusive and their dependence solely on Scripture naive.  It would be years before I really learned how naive my catholic dependence on tradition was too.

My worship experience yesterday was a wonderful one.  All the elements of our Episcopal service were found in the Baptist communion service.  Even if the confession was missing, it was implied.  They actually celebrated the Epiphany and the readings followed the Lectionary.  There was even a self-proclaiming Democrat's car parked in the parking lot--how amazing!  The community was welcoming and delighted that I was there in my clerics.  I had corresponded with the pastor on line for some time after hearing his sermons on the local radio on Sunday mornings.  He is an excellent preacher and often challenges me to think again on the readings of the day.  What is more is that he is clear about his own roots--not only personally, but denominationally.

Most of one's professional ministry the leader in a specific denomination must be willing to speak on how his/her denomination is preferable to others.  In some denominations, there is a prohibition to attend, commune, or participate in the worship of other denominations.  And while I understand some of the fear that those leaders have, I have never found that fear of the other makes for a good spiritual underpinning.  When new Christian came to my church I always wanted to know what brought them to my parish.  It was often the reaction to another church simply because of how they practiced their faith. I had to search to find where I would be able to worship the God that I knew.

I truly believe in denominationalism.  Each denomination has a particular point of view of the Christ Event.  They have theologies that emphasize certain aspects of the life of Christ.  None of us contain all truth, but they convey a particular way to live out the Christian life.  I love my Episcopal/Anglican understanding of the Incarnation through the Sacraments and mission.  But I also know that there are many who do not understand the worship of my denomination and know that they would not feel as comfortable within that tradition as I.  That does not mean that occasionally I can't worship with them to live out the solidarity that I have with all who call Christ the center of their lives.  It is a part of the reality of ecumenism that IS the center of the Triune God.

After a taste of Baptist, I am ready to return to my home church, the people, the traditions, the Incarnational living out of Christ's message that it holds.  But I know profoundly of the solidarity with my sisterhood with those Baptists of Dallas.  We have spent too much of God's time playing 'us-them'; it is time to reach out hands to claim our commonality, our sameness, our joy in the relationship with the God who loved us more than life.  In retirement I can do that, and it feels right.

1 comment:

Crimson Rambler said...

sounds like you encountered HIGH CHURCH BAPTISTS ;-) -- I really do like what you've written here, Muthah+ -- having a bit of a tussle with the visualizations of "ecumenism" that we mandate by the words we use in discussion (darn zombie metaphors, you know, they're dead but they won't lay down)...and what you've said here helps a lot. thank you -- and blessings to you and yours.