Baptized to Ask Questions

19th Century Baptism. Willisville, Illinois

Raised in the American Baptist denomination, it was up to me to declare that I felt led by God’s spirit to be ready for baptism.

“Who wants to give their life over to Christ?” The pastor asked at the end of worship. He seemed to study each member of the congregation.

Me!

I do!

Actually, it was a version of, “We do!” My older sister and I, probably after a few minutes of intense discussion (before scurrying outside to play) had decided to get holy and wet.

Which meant standing up in church when the pastor asked who would follow Jesus.

Which meant taking a class to prepare for the big day.

Which meant we’d eventually find ourselves on the other side of the expansive red velvet curtain hiding the baptismal pool from the pew view. Full immersion, baby! Continue reading →

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Me & #metoo

She looked sad. Vulnerable. While others departed worship, after the post-sermon handshakes and “Good message, Pastor” comments, she lingered. After a few moments, we were alone near the entry to the sanctuary.

Like others, she offered nice, neutral words about my sermon, and then she asked—

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This was my second or third Sunday at a new church. What I already suspected, and what was confirmed as my beard grayed and my accumulated sermons eventually numbered in the thousands, is that everyone in a new congregation appears similar during the initial Sunday encounters. As a new pastor, you can’t tell who will be supportive or critical. You don’t yet know the quiet person who shares healing responses when a committee fights over a divisive mission project. You don’t yet know why a woman often cries in the back pew, why a family is always late to worship, or why a man sneaks a single rose in a vase on the table in the narthex. You don’t know the gossips, peacemakers, hotheads, or dreamers. Continue reading →

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May Your Faith be Quick

A friend called and requested a letter of reference.

No, not for a job. My friend was asked to be a godparent for a niece’s baptism. And the clergyperson performing the baptism wanted “proof” that my out-of-town, unknown-to-the-minister friend was a Christian.

Here, of course, I might relish highlighting which Christian church this professional servant of God works for. Wouldn’t it be devilishly easy to make snarky comments about that denomination’s insecurity or lambaste the individual pastor’s arrogance? How tempting to ridicule a situation where my friend must find “references” to help demonstrate the sincerity of faith.

But I choose restraint. Continue reading →

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