Saturday, May 27, 2006

On being Baptist

I'm a self-proclaimed Christian-Deist (the Deist thing is a recent refinement from just "Christian" and I'm still grappling with what this means.). This being the case, it's been tough finding a church home that some part of didn't seem disconnected or awkward or just wrong. The music at this one would be great, but there'd be no freedom to think differently from the "right way"; this one had more freedom, but the people were aloof and there was no music program and, well the list goes on. I'd kind of accepted that I should find the best compromise of what I wanted and make the best of it. That said, it is with great surprise that I tell you that Susie and I just recently joined a Baptist church. After being ticked at the Southern Baptists (with their too-conservative ways and Jerry Fallwell and ) for so many years, I had written them off.

I was raised in a begnign, middle-class Baptist church, and generally, because of my parent's low level of involvement in the church, I never saw the operational side of Baptism. I went primarily to Sunday school, and did youth group stuff, but seldom went to actual Sunday services and had no clue about how the church was run. It was only in the last 10 years did I really start to get a handle on how Baptists differ from Methodists, Presbyterian and Catholics. Baptists seem unique in that they have a bottom-up governance system. That is, each church is entitled to establish their own beliefs. There are lots of conservative Baptist churches out there that adhere closely to the Southern Baptist guidelines. But not every Baptist church does. Thanks to Kris (my lovely ex-wife) and Jim, we found one that very happily doesn't.

Watts Street Baptist Church is that place. They've got a great community of folks who are very accepting, and open to discussions about (literally!) everything, even when your views don't necessarily match those of the majority. The music program rocks, with everything from great sacred music to spirituals to more contemporary pieces. The outreach opportunities range from intra-church to neighborhood, city, national and international. Ways to get involved are too numerous to list. Kids opportunity abound. The congregation is warm and accepting and made us feel instantly at home. It's gay and lesbian friendly in a way that I didn't think was possible for a Baptist church. Wednesday-night suppers are a great chance to eat and socialize with folks on a more casual basis that you typically see them on Sundays, with some great program times afterwards. Lifting a quote from their home page:
Watts Street Baptist Church is an inclusive ecumenical congregation uniting prayer, learning, and social justice in the context of a vibrant community.
That sums them up perfectly. It's great to be home.

(Coming soon, I'll cover the passionate, democratic process that was our first congrational meeting.)


Tags: ,


Lori Carter said...

Yes, darlin, welcome home. In the great tradition of our denomination, each congregation works through challenges autonomously, having each member have equal voice. I suspect it's that equal voice part you've alluded to in your last comment. Thanks for being willing to be on this spiritual journey, for engaging in the process, and appreciating what it takes for several hundred people to make decisions and operate in tandem. I, for one, think it is incredibly beautiful and inspiring. Yummy, yummy, yummy stuff. AND, I just love your willingness to discover all of this anew, going past anything you thought about church/Baptist/etc. from being a kid or a disenchanted adult. There is nothing I know like being at home in a spiritual community, and I couldn't be more pleased that you guys have found a place that works for both of you.

Way to go, can't wait for church swap 2006!


lordbmoose said...

I go to wats sreet baptist church to