Posted tagged ‘American Baptist’

Between Brews and Baptists

August 22, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          August 22, 2017

                                

Carol and I joined a group of American Baptist pastors and spouses at a Colorado Rockies baseball game last Friday night. They were playing the Milwaukee Brewers, and brew was a prominent part of the evening.

Not for the Baptists, but rather for the group of young guys who were sitting in front of Carol and me. Since we didn’t get there until the second inning we were on the fringe of our group, so we were between the Brews and the Baptists.

It was interesting, and somewhat amusing, to see the different ways the two groups enjoyed watching the game. The Baptists would exit and come back with nachos, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and hot dogs. The Brews would exit and come back with…brew! No food, just brew! Or they would summon the beer guy walking up and down the steps and buy it from him. “Give me three!”

The Baptists were polite in their cheering, like religious high society folk. The Brews were raucous and amusing. One of their group wore his Brewers shirt, which meant any Rockies success (They won 8-4!) resulted in the rest of his group mocking him, while they gave high fives to one another. A Milwaukee home run resulted in the Brewers fan finding another Brewers fan ten seats and four rows away and giving him a high five. Success was followed by celebrated fandom, while failure was accompanied by “F” bombs.

The Baptist pastors talked about church work, the approaching Sunday sermon, how summer church camp and VBS had gone. The Brews talked about where the baseball was going to end up at the end of the inning…because they made bets about its placement. Someone would take the location of the pitcher’s mound, someone else that a player would carry it into the dugout, someone else that it would be tossed by a player to a fan in the crowd, and someone else that it would be given to one of the umpires. Dollar bets were made each time, followed by discovery and disappointment. There were also bets on whether a home run would be hit by the Rockies in an inning, and any other unusual way that bets could be made. Would a pitcher take off his cap and wipe his head? Would a batter spit on the ground? Would there be a double play? Would someone with a last name that starts with a letter between A and M hit a single? Would there be more batters with beards than batters who had shaved, or more batters with beards than batters who had shaved heads? Anything that prompted a bet, but also bleacher victory dances was fair game!

I enjoyed both groups! It was Friday night fun, or, for the Baptists, fellowship! Both groups were accepting. Carol asked one of the Brews to explain their betting games, and he went into great detail with her even though she was drinking Sprite. I talked to Mary Beth about their new pastor and the exciting things happening in her church. We enjoyed our conversation, although the cheering around us made it difficult to hear from time to time.

In essence, Carol and I were part of the Baptists touching the Brew Crew. There’s something in there for followers of Jesus to learn! We follow Jesus and we converse with the world. Some church folk believe in Jesus and turn their back on the world, but the more I think about it I believe if Jesus happened to show up for the baseball game that night he would have been sitting in, or close to, our seats. If he changed water into wine he may have even turned lemonade into beer!

Caroling With the Methodists

December 19, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          December 19, 2016

     Cautiously they came up the seven steps into the sanctuary. There were nine of them, four adults and five bouncing kids. They hadn’t gotten two steps into the sanctuary before two of the Baptist women descended upon them with greetings and smiles. Today the Methodists were joining us! More specifically, the Methodist children’s bell choir was going to play for our service. First Baptist Church and First United Methodist Church were situated just a block apart from one another in the hamlet of Simla, but worlds apart from ever joining together in some kind of activity. Today would change that.

The cold and snow kept a few of the faithful away. Henry and Mildred, our two ninety year olds, wisely stayed away. John was down in his back. A different John was on snow plow duty with the County. So nine United Methodists joined thirteen American Baptists for a time of worship, celebration, and laughter. The five-child bell choir, all related to one another, delighted us. After they finished their two songs they passed out candy canes to everyone…and then I passed out the candy canes I had brought for them!

Two small churches figuring out each other! At the end of worship the crock pots with chili were plugged in and most of us trudged down the snow-packed street two blocks to the full-care senior facility to sing for the elderly residents and, once again, to have the bell choir play. The two churches had collected pairs of socks that the children passed out to the residents, socks with brightly colored stripes and designs to bring a bit of color to the lives of some folks whose days were mostly gray and hopeless.

Two small churches walking together, becoming familiar with one another in a community we were all familiar with. Two small churches figuring out how we could join together to make a difference.

Back to the Baptist church we walked to enjoy chili and cinnamon rolls together. We gathered at the front of the sanctuary, joined hands in a circle of prayer, and asked God’s blessing on the meal and thanked him for the day we had enjoyed. Guests went first, savoring the aromas as they passed by the pots. One of the girls gave the ultimate compliment. She said, “This place smells just like Taco Bell!”

We sat together and enjoyed conversation about school, life, and farming. A story I had shared in my morning message resonated with one of the Methodists. He had been the high school basketball coach for 35 years and my story had focused on a basketball official that we both knew. Connecting points brought us closer together in our conversation.

At the end of the day everyone knew that what had happened that morning and afternoon had been a good thing.

Two small churches a block away, but no longer worlds apart.

Sitting In The Back Row

January 4, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            January 3, 2016

                                        

     Today I was a guest at the church that my head basketball coach and her husband are a part of…first Sunday as a visitor…first Sunday not as a pastor. It was the first Sunday that I’ve sat in the back row of a sanctuary…watching.

My head coach, Kasey, and her husband, Vance, are of the Church of Christ (non-instrumental) persuasion. It was interesting to worship in a different setting. The Church of Christ is a little different than American Baptist. Or…the Church of Christ would say that American Baptists are a little different than the Church of Christ. Let’s face it! We’re all different!

Greg, the preacher, (Kasey and I will have to have a conversation about why the term “pastor” isn’t to be used!) shared his heart for the community his congregation is located in. He sounded like me, except with a deeper voice and beard. The emphasis in my ministry was very much about the community, constantly irritating the congregation with the question “Why are we located here in this community?” and the even more irritating question “If we weren’t here would people notice?”

That emphasis dates back to when I was the Associate Pastor at First Baptist Church of Lansing, Michigan, located a block from the state capital. Chuck Landon, Senior Pastor, was an exceptional leader who saw the need to do ministry in the center city area. He was the only caucasian pastor invited to be a part of the gathering of African-American pastors. That didn’t come because he won a lottery drawing, but rather as a result of years of developing relationships with the pastors of that group. A young woman in the congregation had a vision for a neighborhood summer outreach program and Chuck encouraged her and supported her in the launching of S.O.A.R. (Summer Outdoor Activities and Recreation).

Bottom line! He modeled a church ministry aimed at the community. Preacher Greg spoke of that this morning, and it was good to hear of that desire to lead a church into being the helping hands of the community.

Today may have been the first Sunday in years that I was a receiver of communion as opposed to the presider of communion. Church of Christ grape juice tastes the same as Baptist grape juice. The bread, however, was a little different, but still qualified.

Church of Christ children make just as much noise as Baptist kids…and nobody seemed to mind! The smell of coffee, to be served after the service, drifted by my nostrils and through the sanctuary.

Being a guest makes you see things, appreciate what you’re experiencing, and drawn you towards the One you’ll urged others to worship all these years.

The first Sunday of a new journey…that is a little scary, and yet good…I think!

Hints of Being a Mennonite American Baptist Pastor

August 3, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 August 3, 2015

                            

     One of my seminary professors was Dr. David Augsburger, a great teacher and a Mennonite in the midst of our American Baptist seminary. That was 36 years ago and was my first brush with Mennonites. Dr. Augsburger dressed like us and was rumored to even drink wine, a reality that I was beginning to see was normal. In my growing up years I had only encountered wine on neon signs that said either “Wine and Liquor Store” or “Fine Dining and Wine.” My family didn’t go out to restaurants much, but when we did it was Big Boy and, without a doubt, there was no fine wine in the premises.

Over the years I’ve come to know a number of other people who are Mennonites and the men put their pants on the same way I do. I’ve even preached in the Mennonite church here in town three times when we do our pulpit exchange Sunday.

In recent times I’ve noticed hints of Mennonite beliefs in my belief system. The main one that seems to be getting stronger is pacifism. I’m not so pacifistic that I want our military downsized, but this week has made me think a lot about violence. In the newspaper today there were articles on a policeman killed in Memphis, a physician in Pennsylvania accused of killing another lion in Africa, a man charged with the beheading of his wife and pet dogs, an update on the Minnesota dentist who had killed a lion and the people who want him killed. There was also an article and action shot of two professional baseball teams in a brawl, and a listing of the various policies that the Ferguson, Missouri violence has caused.

In other words, how thin would my newspaper be if the articles on violence weren’t there?

I’m not putting a peace sign on my Civic, but it seems that the human condition and tendency is to push the violent key pretty quickly. Here in Colorado Springs a fourteen year old boy was gunned down by the 31 year old uncle whose nephew had accused the fourteen year old of taking his cell phone. Gunned down!

In Denver the James Holmes trial is winding down, the young man who killed twelve and wounded seventy at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater. Yesterday bombs exploded within thirty minutes of one another outside two separate Las Cruces, New Mexico churches. Las Cruces!

About six weeks ago nine people were killed in a Charleston, South Carolina church in the midst of a prayer service.

There just seems to be an unhealthy trend going on here! So I’m leaning towards the Mennonites. American Baptists have a strong history of non-violence also, but we’re not quite as committed across the denomination like our Mennonite friends.

Bottom line! There needs to be an immediate increase in the production of “chill pills.”

Peace out!