I proposed this morning that we call it quits and re-title the book “A Month of Sundays” . . . but I was mostly just kidding. We’re taking Farmergirl off to camp this afternoon, and Michael insisted we find an evening service on the other side of the border (to facilitate not driving all around the countryside, and only leaving the mountain once). It would be wise of me not to joke in this way: I am the drive and the verve of this project, and any flagging of my energy might be taken (at least, by Farmergirl) as weakness, and a good time to go in for the kill. An inadvertent outcome of this project, I think, is going to be Farmergirl’s interest (at a time when many kids groan to go) in consistent attendance at a single church.
There weren’t a lot of churches in the Coeur d’Alene area that had websites with service times, and still fewer that had evening services on Sunday, so the list from which to choose was pretty small from the gate. We decided to try the Foundation Baptist Church after reading their rather extensive Statement of Faith and Bylaws.
My roommate in graduate school used to say, of inane rules posted in public places, “You know some one did that. They don’t just make them up. If there’s an inane/strange/or just really specific rule somewhere, it’s because someone did it already.” The first time she said this, it was in reference to a hand-written addition to a list of “dos and don’ts” posted at a temp agency that read, “Don’t show up to your assigned job wearing hair curlers and bunny slippers.” Which makes you wonder . . . what brings about statements like these?
2.01(U). We do believe, however, that a Christian may seek compensation for injuries from another Christian’s insurance company as long as the claim is pursued without malice or slander.
3.03(C). Although the general public is invited to all of the church’s worship services, the church property remains private property. The pastors have the authority to suspend or revoke the right of any person, including a member, to enter or remain on church property. If after being notified of such a suspension or revocation, the person enters or remains on church property, the person may, in the discretion of the pastors be treated as a trespasser.
6.02(D). If the moderator determines that compliance with his order of removal is unsatisfactory, the moderator may, in his sole discretion, revoke the disruptive person’s right to remain on the premises in accordance with Section 3.03(C) and treat the person as a trespasser.
7.06. Any assertion or belief which conflicts with or questions a Bible truth is a pagan deception and distortion of the truth which will be disclaimed as false.
13.06. We reserve the right to deny occupancy to anyone who does not fit the role of a traditional family as stated in the Word of God.
There is an assumption I’ve seen, on the part of doctrine-centric churches, that people who darken their doors both A) also hold doctrine in highest import and B) agree with their particular doctrine. As we were leaving last night, we were engaged in conversation by a pleasant man, who asked how we found the church. (By the website). He said he thought church websites were useful, and I agreed. Then I quipped that he’d be surprised how many didn’t list service times, which I think are important for people who’d like to visit, and said some even now had “what to expect” sections or FAQs that give details like service length, and level of formality or casualness of the congregation’s dress. He said, in response, that websites gave a place to detail the doctrine of a church, and how that was of paramount importance.
I guess if doctrine is of supreme importance in a particular church, a visitor may as well know that in advance, and plan accordingly. In this case, we managed to explain that we had no intentions of returning (we’re visiting different churches this year), and that Farmergirl was at camp (a church camp? yes, a church camp), and that we had been part of a church that we had intentions of returning to . . . all without saying the word “Episcopalian.” It’s probably just as well that gearing up to be “new people” each week leaves me with little energy beyond that, or I’d probably get into verbal fisticuffs with people over coffee every week, and Michael would have long since abandoned the project (but not me–arguing with me was his favourite college pastime).
The Foundation Baptist congregation is doing a study of their heritage, based on the series of lectures from J.M. Carroll’s Trail of Blood. (This is a much better (by which I mean legible) Trail of Blood chart than contained in the book file). It’s interesting to contrast it with the timeline we saw on the wall in the foyer of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox and the Orthodox claims about church history (including that of the Baptists).
One of the things that struck both of us, was the persecution theme. It wasn’t dominate in the sermon yesterday, but it did surface several times during the service, with allusions to the “evil world” and the person of the Devil working to tear down the congregation, and the need for spiritual warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil. (I never know if or not to capitalize the word devil . . . is it a pronoun, an honorific (“that’s Mr. The Devil to you”), or just a designation? I mean, technically, the devil’s name is Lucifer . . . so I don’t think “devil” is a personal pronoun, per se).
What role does a persecution theme play in a congregation? Does it knit them closer together as a community? (And does it drive the stakes in further when it divides them?) If you’re convinced the world is out to get you, then how do you engage the world? How are you salt and light in your community?
On a tangential note: We pulled up and realized –agh!– that, once again, we didn’t bring Bibles with us, and there wasn’t a chance we were going to “pass.” The front page description of the Foundation Baptist Church says that they’re “A church of Fundamental Christians that believe: “what the Bible says, it means!”.” It’s been interesting to note that the churches which place the most emphasis on scripture are the ones least likely to have Bibles available in the pews. This is, of course, because they presuppose everyone will bring them . . . but there is a question of hospitality and inclusion when you ask visitors to follow along (and last night, that meant turning to no fewer than 20 different readings), and then don’t provide copies of the particular Bible (KJV) you hope they’ll use.