Posted tagged ‘First Baptist Church’

Christmas Off-Key

December 10, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      December 10, 2017

                                     

Our three children still remember the car ride on Christmas Day morning. We were coming over Rosemont Hill in Portsmouth, Ohio, heading towards my parents’ house upriver in Ironton. It was pre-satellite radio, pre-CD, pre iTunes days! We had to listen to…The Radio! AM no less!

Carol found a church choir trying to sing! The song was “What Child Is This?” and one man with a rather loud voice stood out as we listened in pain. He always came in about a half note too late. One important line in the song goes “This, this is Christ the King!” This man’s first “this” straddled the end of the same word everyone else was singing, and the beginning of its repeat right after. He used it as a conjunction where there was not suppose to be one.

To this day we bring up that song and choir, and…yes…we mock the moment as we relive it and impersonate it.

Christmas is known for all of its music, Handel’s Messiah, Christmas CD’s, Christmas carolers. In the midst of all the peace-filled music there will always be some shrieks, screeches, and voices that can’t quite get to those high notes.

We still have memories of our son, David, singing with the kids of First Baptist Church in Mason, Michigan, and David covering his left ear because Luke Wandell kept singing the same note over and over again loudly to his left. Luke was totally unaware of the pain he was inflicting. It goes down in the Wolfe family humorous memories section.

The church I grew up in, First Baptist Church of Ironton, always did a Christmas Cantata. The choir practiced in preparation for it numerous evenings, but no amount of practice could cure one lady whose voice could also have been used to frighten burglars away and keep mosquitoes from nesting. We all prayed for laryngitis to afflict her, but God did not answer our prayers. We hoped there would be male solos during the cantata to give our ears time to heal before the next onslaught!

Christmas, however, was about celebration and decorations, no matter how off-key the musicians were. Having someone sing “O Holy Night” while the congregation lit candles at the Christmas Eve service…that is a tradition that still resonates in my soul. Nate and Alyssa Price playing their string instruments as Jean Price accompanied them on the piano…Wow! Singing with my two daughters and one of my son-in-laws on Christmas Eve, I’ll always cherish that!

Christmas has its off-key moments that simply sound off in between long periods of sweet harmony. The times when we look for the ear plugs are simply like receiving one of those gifts that our young child wrapped, a jumbled mass of paper with a roll of tape to hold it together. We received it, cherished it, and filed the memory of it within our minds for the rest of our life.

Naming Churches

August 4, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          August 4, 2017

                                     

My family, growing up and current, has always been a part of Baptist congregations. The church I was first carried into as an infant was Central Baptist Church in Winchester, Kentucky. It was called Central Baptist because…it was centrally located in Winchester, just a couple of blocks off the main street that ran though the downtown area.

We moved from Winchester to Williamstown, West Virginia and began our association with a series of First Baptists.  Our home churches in Williamstown, Zanesville, Ohio, and Ironton, Ohio were all named First Baptist because they were the first Baptist churches established in those communities. In Ironton the First’s were all situated within about three blocks of one another…First Presbyterian and First United Methodist. The Catholics turned up their noses at being “First” and moved right on to one of the saints, Saint Lawrence. Not to be outdone the Lutherans went for St. Paul even though they were first across the street from First Presbyterian.

Church names became connected to either “First” or “Second”, indicating their timing in the community; or a saint to indicate their…saintliness!

There was usually reason to the naming of a church. The last church I pastored, Highland Park Baptist Church, was situated in an area of Colorado Springs known as Highland Park. Interestingly, as the city has grown and mushroomed very few people know that area is known as Highland Park, but, originally, location determined the name.

My cynicism is now going to splat all over the rest of these words. It seems that a new wave of churches are looking for a “catchy name!” It’s like the intriguing name of a new development of homes that is underway. Across the highway from our subdivision there is a development called “Wolf Ranch.” I’m somewhat drawn to the name. We could be the Wolfe’s of Wolf Ranch. To the north of Wolf Ranch there is Cordera. In their publicity they make it shown exotic and sexy as they say the name, like Gloria from Modern Family saying it. Houses are being built at a crazy pace there…for a couple hundred thousand dollars MORE than what homes in our subdivision are valued at.

It seems that the new wave of churches is looking for that name, that name that sounds like a destination, a vacation spot, or at least a weekend service spot. People aren’t drawn to the new church in town that decided on the name…First Baptist! It needs to have essence, depth, be sweet-sounding and peaceful, relevant but sophisticated! I was traveling along an Ohio Highway yesterday and passed a church that is called “The Point.” The Point is probably a happenin’ place to be, and when people say they are going to “The Point” it doesn’t even sound preachy! It sounds hip and cool and whatever other words that are being used today to indicate relevant.

It seems that there are more of The Points that are getting the point. A church doesn’t need to name itself the First Holy Apostolic Freewill United  Church of Temporary Insanity. According Thom Ranier new churches are keeping it simple and short, like a church outside of Greeley, Colorado I’m familiar with called “Grace River Church.” I kind of like that. Another one in Colorado Springs is called Hope Chapel. Short and easy to remember.

A couple of new churches that have begun recently are focused on verbs. One close to us is called “Thrive Church.” Sounds energetic! There’s another one named “Venture Fellowship!” Sounds like an entrepreneurial deal!

Here’s the thing! No matter how sophisticated or mission-focused, doctrinally-connected, or hip-sounding the church is named people won’t land there unless what happens in and through the congregation speaks to the spiritual yearning of the visitor. Sometimes the true environment of a church gives it a different name than the outside sign reads. There’s been a couple of Grace Churches that could better be named “Judgmental Fellowship.” A couple of places with peace in their name that get known more as the Church of Sunday Morning Fights. First Baptist might better be described as Bitter Baptist and First Presbyterian could be renamed “Peeved Presbyterian.”

Names are nice! They are even nicer if they are also the reality!

My Road To Simla

September 25, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      September 25, 2016

                                     

Sunday mornings have become a favorite time of mine, not because I’m able to sleep in or make flapjacks in the iron skillet, but because I get to travel down the road to Simla.

Traveling to Simla is synonymous with finding rest and being at peace. I go to Jackie Landers for a body massage. I travel to Simla for a massaging of my spirit.

Quite frankly, when I retired from the pastoral ministry last December after 36 plus years I was fried crispy. I did not do self-care well. Not many pastors do! I came to dread Tuesdays because it signaled the beginning of another six day week filled with meetings, crises, obligations, and church drama. Doing pastoral ministry is like taking a daily vitamin, but at some point the bottle becomes depleted and you can sense the gradual loss of vitality and purpose.

After stepping away at the end of 2015, Carol saw the difference in me within the first couple of weeks. She saw what I could not see…the slumped shoulders perking up again, the laughter and joy, the lessening of the hurrying.

And then in February I took my first drive to Simla, a forty-five minute ride into the eastern plains of Colorado on a two-lane road…passing by Peyton, slowing down for the 35 mile an hour speed limit through Calhan, and skirting the edge of the spot by the side of the road called Ramah, and then arriving at the village of Simla.

On the drive I ponder, pray, listen to Garth Brooks, think about the Sunday message, hum to myself, and sip on my third cup of Starbucks coffee. As I get closer to Simla and First Baptist Church my “happy meter” keeps moving to the right. The twenty people or so that will be there each Sunday morning are like pastors to me. They minister to my wounds, soothe my doubts. Thelma and Kathleen brought me a dozen ears of corn from their farm a couple of weeks ago. Ray and Laura open the building and talk me up upon my arrival. John and Angie and their two kids, Lou and Lena, bring me chuckles. Henry and Mildred, 89 and 90, are the senior components of wisdom and church history. Elizabeth, and her young son Eric, offer kindness and care. John and Sherri always remind us to pray for our country. Each person brings something to offer and is offered the ministry and community of the Body in return.

And as I pass by Ramah I anticipate the blessing of what is about to happen.

At this point the Simla church can’t afford a pastor. My friend Steve Wamberg and I fill the pulpit each week. It has become a dance that we thoroughly enjoy. The coffee after worship is exceptionally weak, but the fellowship amongst the saints is strong. No one seems in a hurry to beat the Methodists to the restaurants, since there are very few Methodists in Simla and the only restaurant in town, the Hen House, never seems to have much of a crowd.

When I drive home from Simla I always feel emotionally uplifted, spiritually nurtured, and ready for the week ahead. In some ways I’ve rediscovered the value of church for my life. It may have taken my being at a different life point for that to happen, but I’m thankful for where I am.

Sometimes it simply takes a 45 minute step away from what has been to rediscover what still is.