Feast upon the Word Blog

A blog focused on LDS scriptures and teaching

Easter with Baptists

Posted by BrianJ on April 4, 2010

Every Easter, my family attends the services of another Christian denomination. Last year we visited Mars Hill Church; this year, a small Baptist congregation in our neighborhood.

First Glance

Wedgwood Community Church is an independent church affiliated with the American Baptists and The Evergreen Association of Baptist Churches. It’s a small congregation of about 60 or so, most of them middle-aged or older, with a few kids but no teenagers. I expected to see more people—not because it’s a large building (it isn’t), but because we’ve gone to a few block parties there and met members who I didn’t see today.

Everyone came dressed pretty much like we do for Mormon church and stood in wooden pews, about half of which had cushions on the seat. The sanctuary (I think that’s what one member called it) could probably hold 100-150 people max. Despite being a smallish, it felt roomy owing mostly to the vaulted ceiling held up by large, gorgeous wood arches. At the far end—behind the pastor and band—was a cross recessed into the wall, illuminated in a slightly blue light and wrapped with a silk scarf. Small stained glass windows lined either side of the room.

The Service

The service began with a call to worship (which I think was a responsorial song, but we got there just a little late so I’m just going off of the program) followed by a congregational hymn, Christ the Lord is Risen Today, accompanied by drums, acoustic guitar, organ, and saxophone.

(Side note: it struck me that if anyone wants to be a pastor, they might want to get some music training as well. I always thought of people going into the ministry as the studious type, but Pastor Curtis also lead music on the guitar. Just imagine getting called as a bishop and having guitar lessons included as part of your responsibilities!)

A prayer followed the song, and then we sang some more. This led to a most interesting event: the Prayer of Petition. The back of the program listed the names and medical, economic, or emotional concerns of church members. The pastor discussed a few of them, offering updates and highlighting especially grave situations, and some in attendance added a few bits of information. Then the congregation offered a brief prayer on behalf of all of those afflicted. It beautifully highlighted the concept of a being “church family.”

I noticed on the program that “Announcements and Greeting” would be next. I expected that to amount to a formal greeting to all from the pastor. Instead, continuing the theme of building unity, the pastor opened the time up for everyone to sort of “mix and mingle,” greeting one another—or, in our case, meeting one another. This lasted a few minutes, during which time we met those sitting around us and also Ellen, the children’s church teacher (more on that below). I remembered something like this from our visit to a Roman Catholic Easter mass three years ago and I still really like it; What’s wrong with going to church to socialize? Nothing, nothing at all.

The Wedgwood Youth—all 8 or 10 of them—sang a few verses of I Am a Child of God…but no, not that version. The pastor invited the children to sit in the front pews and he deliverd a brief children’s message. He asked, “What is the best thing you’ve ever found inside an Easter egg?” After listening to several answers, he told them the best thing he ever found: nothing. This, of course, representing the empty tomb on Easter morning. It was a short and sweet message—and one I’ll probably steal next year for a family home evening!

The children younger than 8 went downstairs for children’s church and I went with my two youngest. We listened to Ellen read a picture book depicting Jesus’ final week (or two?) on earth, from the triumphal entry into Jerusalem on through to the Ascension. Twice, Ellen carefully pointed out that the drawing was just an artist’s idea of what it was like and not necessarily accurate: first in regard to the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb and next in regard to how angels look. I don’t know if there was some history behind her reason for stressing this point, but I liked it all the same.

Next, we decorated foam butterflies with little foam crosses and flowers. It was the sort of activity Primary leaders do all the time: keep the kids’ attention while you really stretch the analogy to illustrate something else.  In this case the butterfly was meant to remind us of Jesus’ resurrection (I think you can see the stretch).

Meanwhile, my wife and two oldest children stayed upstairs for the Reception of the Offering, Offertory and Doxology, Scripture, Sermon, Song of Preparation, Celebration of the Lord’s Table, and closing song and prayer. I missed all that, of course, so I can only report on their report. My wife commented that Pastor Curtis was very informal throughout the sermon, and in some ways that bothered her. In his defense, however, the members I talked to all seemed quite taken by their pastor on a personal level, so perhaps he wins some leeway in his sermons by being personally accessible. His message focused on the empty tomb and viewing Easter as a true celebration. He also remarked on the coincidence of having Easter fall on April 4th, the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death, since Dr. King was killed “because people didn’t like his God-sized dreams; nevertheless, his work was not squashed.” (You can see the obvious parallel.)

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