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Today was a special treat, as my family and I got to attend my home church’s annual Homecoming service, celebrating that church’s 112th year.  That church has a new pastor, a guy who I’ve known from that church since I was a child; we’re both part of the fabric of this generation of Sorrell’s Grove.  I walked in to hugs – the first two being dear, dear former neighbors of ours, a lovely couple who lived two houses down from my parents and me until I was 23 and we moved to a new town.  In my hand was my favorite church Bible (I have Bibles for home reading, sentimental value, study…  You get the idea), a raggedy, teal Bible inscribed and gifted to me from that church when I graduated from high school.

As I prepared to return to my home church, I thought about how it’s the place where I received many of my spiritual roots.  I learned about Jesus there.  And love.  And discipleship.  And serving others.  My Acteen leaders, Becky and Carol, empowered me to serve through backyard Bible schools and volunteering in the community, activities that took hold and lasted long after I completed my Acteen studies.

It was in this church as a youth that I learned about “us versus they,” “they” being everyone who’s not Christian, and barely Baptist.  I learned about premillenial pretribulation dispensationalism.  To put that in lay language, the idea that the world will get worse and worse until Jesus comes in the Rapture, taking all those who believe to Heaven and leaving all the rest to terrible torments and tribulations.  This church taught me that only men are suitable to serve the Lord from the pulpit or in servant leadership positions.  I don’t agree with any of this any longer.  All of us – Christians of all sorts, Muslims, Pagans and Atheists – are human beings created in the image of God, and God loves us all.  Catholic doctrine is no more wrong than Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian or Lutheran doctrine is (despite what last year’s Homecoming speaker proclaimed in the name of God).  If Christ calls us to suffer for him, even being willing to die for him, what makes us think we should be spared that in the end times?  God can call anyone who God wishes to minister.  Even the early Church had female deacons, both the Church ecumenical in the first century and the Baptist church in the early seventeenth century.  The only restriction the Bible places on women leading is that we should not usurp the authority of the church doing so, and God is the only authority in the church.  This is a good lesson for ministers of both genders.

Despite the theological and doctrinal differences, this small, country, loving Southern Baptist church is where my spiritual roots were formed, and nothing can ever change that.  This church has seen recent growth, which is a blessing.  It has taken down its American and Christian flags, for which this Bonhoeffer-loving minister is grateful.  A carved wooden cross graces the front of the church where once hung a lovely picture of Jesus.  There have been some beautiful improvements to the sanctuary itself, but one thing remains constant, and that is the people who love God so whole-heartedly and love people so warmly.


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