Tag Archives: Baptist

Moving from “B” to “b”

Today I ended my internship with St. Louis Mennonite Fellowship. I stood outside, looking into the faces of dear friends who were sitting on log benches that made a semi-circle around an empty fire pit. I read the Mennonite communion litany and spoke words of institution over ciabatta bread and grape juice while a dog begged at the base of the table. I then proceeded to speak “God bless you” over lots of children while offering them ranch crackers and grapes. Ciabatta and ranch crackers are not exactly the typical makings of communion in the Fellowship, but on church retreat communion supplies can be difficult to separate from the bread at dinner and crackers available for snacking. I felt a little like St. Francis as I offered the leftover communion crumbles to the birds and wildlife of the forest. “May God bless you, too.”

The night before, we had arrived to the camp grounds around 8:30 following class in Kansas City. I was promptly presented with a Snapple to toast the progress of my book. At lunch today, another friend handed me watermelon pickles which she brought for me to add another new food to my “30 before 30” list.

The summer has passed quickly, but with the sort of connection that takes years to build at many places. I’ve quizzed these new Mennonite friends, trying to figure out just who they are, and if this congregation is rare or part of a larger group that looks very similar. In the process, I’ve felt my grip on Baptist life opening.

Before this retreat, I spent time with my ministry mentor. I confessed to her that I had fallen in love with the Mennonites. As I described St. Louis Mennonite Fellowship, she begged me to tell her something bad. She confessed that I may have converted her, as well. We talked about what this might mean for me, for my heritage and life as a Baptist. I said that I feared affiliating with the Mennonites might mean an end–goodbyes that I do not want to make. She asked if I could imagine another way. I offered that my mental image is one of holding hands with both the Baptists and the Mennonites.

As I talked to Mary, a Mennonite missionary to Ukraine, she offered a similar story. She works with many Baptists in Ukraine, and we shared tales of our desire to live in a wider world.

The Baptists came from the Mennonites, after all. A group of separatists stumbled across the Mennonites, came to accept believer’s baptism and worshiped with the Mennonites for a while. Part of them simply joined the church, the others left as the first Baptists.

Today, I’m embracing a new life as a little “b” baptist, a term many have used to refer to a larger tradition that joins the Baptists with the anabaptists. In doing a web search for the term, I realized that my friend Leroy has written a very similiar blog post, called “Baptist with a Small ‘b.’” This summer I learned about another friend with a deep love for Baptists who has joined a Mennonite church.

Madeleine L’Engle and Anne Lamott both talk about being every age you have ever been. The idea that here at 29 I am every bit as much my 3-year-old self, my 17-year-old self, my 24-year-old self. I think the same applies. As I embrace the “small b” title, I don’t give up my Baptist tradition, I expand it. I am always my Baptist self, even as I am my baptist self.



Filed under 30 Before 30, book project, mennonite, ministry, reflection

Season of pain?

Allyn and I will be sharing a two-month preaching gig starting January 1. The church is a First Baptist — a historical place that is apparently very proud of their conservative values. I suppose this means that this church will have quite a few differences from us. I’ve been told there may be some folks with strong opinions about women in ministry (in the “um, that shouldn’t happen” category). I’m honored to be perhaps the first regularly appearing woman preacher there. And I am floored at the opportunity to serve these people for a short time. I have wondered again and again if I have anything to share with a group of people who perhaps aren’t sure what they think about someone of my gender in a ministry role — and who may approach the Bible completely differently than I do, sometimes in ways that I find incredibly harmful.

Muriel, the area minister, said something incredibly wise, though. “We don’t get to choose who we minister to, we are just called to minister.” That is perhaps not an exact quote, but I think the idea is there. A person doesn’t have to look like me or think like me in order for me to minister to him/her. This church has been without a pastor a long time and, like any church in that position, bears some scars. I know how to love — and isn’t that what every minister is really called to? To love God’s people, wherever they may be found?

I’m finding that thinking about ministry during this holiday season is rough. People all around are hurting. At church on Sunday, I heard story after story of people facing all kinds of deeply painful things. This morning, I heard that a friend lost her father. At the same time, I’ve been meeting the newborn children of other friends. We spent a weekend of class with my dear friends Chad and Becki and their two-month-old Evie. This weekend, we met the not yet week-old baby of friends and Allyn’s coworkers Randy and Hannah. Joy and pain co-mingled in this season.

Pastor Samuel preached about that on Sunday. How Mary’s story wasn’t a fairy tale — in the midst of excitement over the coming child — God’s child — was an awful lot of pain. A not-yet-married woman pregnant? Scandalous! She couldn’t have been treated well — perhaps even by those who had been close friends. God came in the midst of loss, in the midst of pain. I trust that God will still do that today. That God will be among us not just in our joy, but in our pain. I trust that God can use two youngish seminarians to remind a conservative historical church that God is with them. And I trust that God can use that same church to remind me that God is often found in the most unexpected places. This season, may God’s peace abound in our hopes, our joys and our pains.

(photo credit)


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