Monday, August 28, 2006

Report from the Front Lines

I guess I am attempting this first blog mostly to earn the right to have my name in the prestigious list to the right (contributors). I've enjoyed reading the stuff I've found here, and I truly appreciate Brannon's efforts to make this a place where ideas can be exchanged about an area which is a passion of mine. I am a pastor in a Nazarene Church in the South. This is my 3rd church and I truly love the Church of the Nazarene. I have pastored in three different regions, with three very distinct groups of people inhabiting each Church. The Church I am in right now is largely white-collar, and we have an ever-increasing contingent of students and grad students from Baylor University attending. I have truly loved sharing with this Church my passion for worship, the Sacraments and the Christian calendar. I’ll share two interesting accounts very briefly, then try to sum up my rambling and get out as painlessly as possible.

First, I spent the majority of my first year here (Waco, Texas) teaching on the Articles of Faith to my core people in Wednesday nights. It was really cool and I think it was highly useful, but as we were going through it, I was a little apprehensive about my time on the Sacraments, knowing that my passion (a TRULY Wesleyan view of the Eucharist and Baptism, especially Infant Baptism) might not mesh well (it hasn’t in the past) with a conservative Nazarene congregation. Interestingly, my teaching on the Eucharist passed without incident, many people thanking me for helping them understand it as a means of grace rather than a barrier to God for those who were unworthy, and also for helping them realize that the Eucharist has always been intended to be a resource for aiding reconciliation. But I just knew that when we got to Infant Baptism (the next week) that’s when I’d wake up the next morning with a “for sale” sign posted in my front yard!

Interestingly, the next week, I taught my lesson, said my peace and then held my breath, and one of my most conservative ladies filled her lungs with breath to prepare to speak. I knew this was the moment, the beginning of the end. She said to me in her usual no-nonsense way “Preacher, I can’t believe no one has ever taught us this before. It makes a lot of sense and I wish I could have had a few of my grandkids baptized here.” OH YEAH!! I was relieved. A couple of months later, I did a very brief intro to Infant Baptism on a Sunday morning before we baptized my Youth Pastors daughter (I have baptized 5 infants in waco, without incident so far) and afterwards, I braced for impact. It just so happened that the daughter on of 3 ordained elders in our Church was visiting that morning and she came, along with her parents, and thanked me and asked if she could get a copy of my comments from that morning so she could go back and talk with her husband about them, because they were thinking about having kids and she wanted them to consider infant baptism. OH YEAH! Now we’re getting somewhere!

Finally, to the Eucharist, we serve the Lord’s Supper here about every other week. Sometimes we do it several weeks in a row, sometimes we may go two weeks without, just depends on the circumstances. Well, I happened to be gone 2 weeks in January (for school) and the third week we weren’t able to do it, can’t remember why now, but we’d gone almost a month without doing the Eucharist. That week, not one but TWO of my Baylor students caught me and both of them said, “When are we going to have Communion again!! Its been Three WEEKS!” One of them actually said to me “I need my Spiritual Medicine!” OH YEAH! We are MOST DEFINITELY getting somewhere, now!

We aren’t perfect. We’ve got a long way to go, both here locally and denominationally. But, I think we’re moving in the right direction. By the way, in closing, let me say that I recently went to the Denomination web site and bumped into the schedule for M-7, the conference done on the off years of General Assembly, scheduled for next summer in Kansas City. As usual, most of the scheduled seminars are stuff that makes me want to gag, but I did see that there was a place to make suggestion about what kinds of seminars might be done that aren’t already on the schedule. I wrote them and told them of the growing concern of web-blogs just like this one about the neglect of the sacraments and of their importance to many younger people in our denomination. No response yet from anyone about including a seminar on how churches could actually implement the Sacraments in a more meaningful way, but the more people who write in and request such a thing, the more likely it is to happen (hint, hint, hint). Thanks so much to all who participate here, and again to Brannon for getting us going and keeping us going! Peace.

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