August 25, 2011

On Being Baptist

I could probably write a lot about my feelings on being Baptist.  It has a storied history, full of the baggage that comes from being raised in a religious tradition with a lot of stereotypes and assumptions.  As I always tell people, "I'm not your average Baptist."  But I do identify myself very strongly with this particular denomination.  I've attended several different Baptist churches throughout my life with theologies all over the spectrum.  I went to college on a Baptist scholarship and served one summer in an inner-city Baptist church in New York City that is as progressive and liberal as it gets.  I grew up attending a camp that is owned by Lifeway.  So, I've seen and done it all.  Regardless of the different theologies, one of the things that I particularly resonate with about being Baptist is the idea of a "priesthood of believers." 

Wikipedia defines the priesthood of all believers in part by saying it is, "[one's] doctrinal responsibility or right to preach and expound the Christian faith, and this is appointed to every member of the church."  I have always understood it to have two parts: 1) We all have the individual autonomy, right, and responsibility to interpret scripture for ourselves independent of any other person or organization and 2) Our church can decide how it wants to govern and worship apart from any higher authority or hierarchy.

That may not sound like what you thought Baptists were all about, but it truly is at the core of what it means to be Baptist.  That and a good old fashioned "believer's baptism," meaning that we do not  baptize infants, but wait until a person is old enough and mature enough to understand what it means to accept Christ as Savior and has made a personal decision to follow Him.  Then we do it the way John the Baptist did - immersion (none of this sprinkle stuff for us).

I say all of these not to proselytize or pass any judgment on different traditions or denominations.  I'm kind of one who is inclined to believe there may be many paths to the same end, but this is what works for me and makes sense for me.  The reason I share all of this is that it pertains particularly to the ritual and custom surrounding Clara's dedication on Sunday.  It was not a baptism; no water involved this time.  Instead, it was time for us as a family to commit to raising Clara in the church, pray for her, and try our best to teach her about God and Jesus.  It was also a time for our church to commit to continue praying for her and supporting her and us as she grows up.  Since Baptists aren't a part of a larger organized denominational group, there was no particular script to follow for this service.  And since our local congregation has autonomy, the ministers were gracious enough to allow me to write this portion of the service on Sunday.

When Robert and I got married three years ago, we wrote our own vows and spent a lot of time designing that worship service.  I was more interested in that than I was the flowers or cake.  In the end, it took on great meaning for us and I believe felt like a worship experience for everyone there.  I wanted the same for Clara's dedication and spent a lot of time in scripture (and some consulting with Reverend Google, as well) as I thought and prayed about how to sum up this journey that she's been on.  I was pleased with what we ended up with.

The next post will be Clara's Dedication: Words and Images.  I will include what we spoke with all of you who have loved her so well, with hopes that you will feel a part of the community who committed on Sunday to guide and encourage Clara.  It was truly a blessed day.  Clara stayed awake through the whole thing, just taking it all in.  I think she somehow knew it was something special.  Our "composer-in-residence," Susan Borwick composed a special anthem just for Clara and my mother sang the solo for it.  The congregation also sang the hymns Breathe On Me, Breath of God and Good Shepherd Take This Little Child.  The choir sang For The Fruit of All Creation as the introit and benediction and an organist played Simple Gifts during the offertory.  So, the whole service felt like it was celebrating the goodness of this sweet child. 

Clara, on her dedication day (Photo credit: Stephen Ball)

I belted out the doxology: Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below, Praise Him above ye heavenly host, Praise Father, Son, and Holy GhostAmen. 

Coming soon, Clara's Dedication: Words and Images

1 comment:

  1. Chrissy,

    I was delighted to read this post. As a Baptist minister, there are so many Baptists who are unaware of the depth and value of the Baptist Story.

    I grew up in Southern Baptist tradition, and didn't hear much about it at all. When I did learn about what it meant to be Baptist, it was such a welcomed tradition that I could embrace.

    Being Baptist, we can be filled with all different kinds of folks with all different kinds of viewpoints, respecting the "priesthood of the believer" as you mentioned. I'm not so sure that this post will garner much response from the masses, but just know that one reader really appreciated it, and valued it.

    Love the Dedication photo. We hope to dedicate our Hollis soon.

    Peace be with you and yours.



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