Baptist Catholicity: Creative Retrieval of Tradition

Mark 6: Retrieving the Tradition Creatively

“Our faith is 2,000 years old. Our thinking isn’t.”

… or so the slogan of a liberal mainline denomination goes. This particular mark is perhaps my favoriteidea in the Bapt-Catholic movement. As we reach back into the past, we are doing so with the hopes of creating something meaningful for the future. As this particular group of Baptists lost their spot in the most prominent protestant denomination in the nation and created something new, they looked to the Tradition of Christianities past to forge a future.

My theology professor put it this way in her closing charge toward us before the final: “Now that you have the slightest hint of the length and width, and depth of the Great Tradition of our faith, I charge you to carry this faith forward, testing what is good, and bringing what is helpful to the corners of the earth. May Christ be with you in this venture, and may the God that called you one day speak again, to say ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’ Amen”

You see, we have two millennia of success, failures, ideas, dreamers, heretics, saints, and thinkers to seek. The Lord has seen fit to charge us (yes, us) with using this tradition, searching the Scriptures, and hearing the Spirit to carry forward what is good from this tradition into the future, as we follow the radical Christ and build the Kingdom of God.


So what does that look like?

Well, every church has a different solution, and that’s a good thing. Every town and every neighborhood needs the same Christ, but different things from our Great Tradition. Some churches choose to preach from the lectionary, some don’t. Some use contemporary, or church written music, while some stick to a traditional music style. Some follow the liturgical calendar closely, some follow a more loose interpretation. Discovering tradition together is a group effort, and I’m glad it looks different in each setting. Here is a sample of four churches in Texas that are in a Bapto-Catholic pattern, but interpret the Tradition differently into their context.

Woodland Baptist Church

San Antonio, TX
Perhaps the most formal church on this list, Woodland has placed a high emphasis on well done choral music since their founding. A small-midsize church, probably one third of the congregation is in the choir loft on a Sunday morning. The clergy wear robes, and the liturgical calendar is followed. The preaching and sermon reading however, does not follow the Lectionary, but a more traditional Baptist “sermon series” concept.

Lake Shore Baptist Church

Waco, TX
This church is a bit less formal than Woodland (the choir exits the loft during the sermon, and only half the clergy is robed). The liturgical calendar is closely followed and most of the time the sermons are based on the Lectionary text, with exceptions for guest preachers and special events. The is generally traditional, but includes a weekly Taize song and occasional contemporary song. The church decorates in a theme often.


University Baptist Church

Waco, TX
In many ways this church created the concept of contemporary worship in small town Baptist churches. David Crowder himself served as the minister of music in this church for years. In any other setting, this church would have probably morphed into a conservative mega church, but being in a Baptist University Community, they’ve carved out a niche spot in the moderate world. They are best described as “liturgitemporary” in style, with litanies, creeds, and an interpretation of the liturgical calendar.

Ecclesia

Houston, TX
The pastor and music minister of this church are brothers who were raised the sons of a pretty typical Southern Baptist Pastor. The church they ended up planting serves as a modern revival of the Arts in uptown Houston. They follow several liturgical identifiers and generally follow many of the traditions of the church, while writing their own music, painting their own art, and sometimes even grouping together to get stations of the cross tattooed on one another.