Monday, April 20, 2009

Thoughts on a Baptist Service.

Yesterday evening, I attended - for the first time in my life - a Baptist church service. That I could live so long in the buckle of the Bible belt and not have gone to a Baptist service before may seem a miracle to some.

There's certainly no shortage of Baptist churches here. I'm pretty sure there's one every quarter mile or so.

The message given by the Catholic nuns fifty years ago (concerning Protestant churches) has stayed with me. Under no circumstances , we were told as children, were we to step foot into a Protestant church.
Looking back, I'm not sure how much of that message was an actual Catholic teaching of the day, or how much of it was just the prejudicial feelings of the nuns involved.

Things have lightened up somewhat over the years; I've visited a few Protestant churches....Methodist, Church Of God, Presbyterian......never with the intention of converting, but because someone close to me was having some sort of event at their particular church.

Last night, I saw my first baptism in a Baptist church.

I don't know how typical this particular Baptist church is. At the beginning of the service we were "entertained" by children singing. I put the word "entertained" in quotation marks because, honestly, I was not impressed by the singing. None of the children had the slightest idea how to carry a tune. Some of the children soloists sang in a monotone with no melody what-so-ever. Those that did attempt to sing a melody were, sadly, unable to stay in any musical key.

I don't say this to be mean or cruel, but the singing could only be appreciated by a parent or grandparent. We've all heard stories of professional singers who got their start in the church choir. That's not going to be the case with any I heard last night.

The photo shown here is taken from a webcast of an earlier service at that particular church. In the front of the church, you'll see an light blue area (with a dove painted on the wall). This is the place where the baptisms take place. You can't tell from this photo, but the lower section of the blue area contains a tub of sorts. The candidate for baptism sits in the tub of water while the preacher says a word or two. Then, holding his or her nose, the person is dunked under water.

After the baptisms, the preacher went back down to the podium to give his sermon.

The sermon du jour was based around the parable of the prodigal son. I didn't have any problem with the point of his sermon. In spite of the fact that he was certain his words would make some in the church angry, the preacher's words didn't appear to me to be controversial in any way.
If I had to say anything critical about the sermon, it would be the volume of the sermon.

This preacher loved to scream at the top of his lungs.

I'm not going to get into a theological dissertation on the validity of Baptist teachings versus the teachings of the Catholic church. The only point I wish to make is that I can't imagine Jesus screaming and yelling in this way as He spoke to the people of His day. I've always believed Christ to be a calming presence. Sure, there was anger when He drove the money changers from the temple, but overall, this "scream-preaching" doesn't come across as very Christ-like to me.

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