Last night I remembered why I am a Baptist.
For quite a few years, I wrestled with the question of a denominational home. Beginning early in my undergraduate experience, I encountered God through the Free Methodist church, which - in turn - opened my eyes to Episcopalians, Lutherans, United Methodists, Presbyterians, Unitarians, and Catholics. On more than one occasion, I thought seriously about a transition to another denomination. The threat of the Southern Baptist Convention and their ever-tightening hold on Baptist polity left me with a bitter taste in my mouth that just would not dissipate over time. Occasionally, even the word "Baptist" left my stomach feeling sour and resentment rising in my throat. Over time, I came to realize that the redeeming factor in Baptist polity for me is "local church autonomy," which means that no matter what is happening in any other Baptist church, my local church has the authority to do as God leads.
But that's not why I am a Baptist.
That is why I stayed a Baptist.
Because I believed that somewhere in the world there were "good Baptists" trying to do good things for the Kingdom of God.
I am this kind of Baptist.
The Immanuel kind.
I am an Immanuel kind of Baptist because we take seriously the notion that we are all priests through Christ.
Last night, we had a communion service.
When I entered the sanctuary, there were 5 chairs positioned facing the communion table.
As we approached the point in the service where the bread is broken and the cup is served, Jamie explained that we would serve one another tonight. He invited 5 people to the table (they chose themselves; he did not choose them) and served each of them the bread and the cup. Then those 5 people stood, took Jamie's place at the table, and 5 more took their seats to be served. We continued this way until every one had been served.
But that wasn't what brought me to tears.
I wept silently when an 11 year old girl, said to a 75 year old male deacon, "Peace to you. My name is Hannah, a sinner saved by the grace of God. Take and eat this bread in remembrance that Christ died for you."
And when we had finished serving everyone, she came to the table again, selected a piece of bread and the cup, and took it up to the piano and offered it to our Minister of Music while he played.
I am that kind of Baptist.
I am honored, delighted, humbled, and overjoyed to be in a Baptist church that not only welcomes their women, but trains girls to be ministers. I know very few Baptist (or any other denomination for that matter) churches that would not only allow Hannah to serve in such a way, but EXPECT her to serve as she did.
I thought of Rachel.
I realized that growing up in this church is part of what has made her so comfortable with her passion for ministry.
I missed her last night, as she is away at Campbellsville, learning the tools she will need as she steps into vocational ministry.
And I was inspired to wrap my arms around as many young women as I can while I serve here.
Because I am that kind of Baptist.
The kind that lets an 11 year old girl offer communion to an ordained minister.