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Liturgical Baptists: We're a thing.

My daddy was an outlier in the early days of his ministry. He did things others would never have even considered. For example, in the 60’s he invited a Nigerian student to preach in his church—a church which had a large percentage of members who were known to don white hoods and burn crosses. For the remainder of Daddy’s time there, he received multiple and frequent threats from the local chapter of the KKK. Before that, he started an AA meeting in the church basement. Daddy wanted to understand AA’s 12 steps so that he could minister more effectively to congregants suffering from addiction. When told by the organizers he could not attend, Daddy explained that he most certainly would and if he had to become an alcoholic to become a member, that he would do just that. (They made an exception.)

Perhaps my Dad’s most brazen undertaking, though, was his effort to introduce his Southern Baptist churches to the liturgical year. See, back in the 70’s, Baptists pushed back hard against anything Catholic. (Wasn’t it enough that the Catholic Kennedys were taking over the government, for goodness sake?) And anything called “liturgical” would HAVE to be Catholic. So, it was pretty bold of Daddy to hold a Maundy Thursday service in his suburban church in the mid 70’s. And by the 80’s, maybe earlier, he introduced Advent to his congregations.

These days, many Baptist churches still ignore the liturgical calendar, using the secular one for worship planning. Cultural icons mark church events: the Easter Bunny hops from the mall to the fellowship hall; Santa leaves his photo booth for the church Christmas party; Mother’s Day and Father’s Day sermons are available by the dozens for download; and American Flags mark the scripture text for Memorial Day, Flag Day, July 4th, and Veteran’s Day . . . at least.

Like my daddy, I prefer the Christian calendar. That calendar begins at Advent with the expectation of the Christ child; proceeds through our Lord’s ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension; continues to Pentecost and the growth of the church; and culminates in Reign of Christ Sunday the week before Advent. The church, therefore, celebrates the life of Christ with at least the same enthusiasm that the world celebrates Valentine’s Day and Columbus Day.

There’s another reason, though, that I’m not big on focusing worship on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. See, I’ve known too many people who didn’t have parents worthy of celebration. All week month long, those people have seen the ads and displays proclaiming the merits of moms or dads. Its inescapable. Over and over they are reminded of their experience of parental abuse, neglect, or abandonment. Shouldn’t church offer a place of refuge for those suffering souls?

Likewise, there are those who would love to be parents, but are not. Maybe they haven’t found the right partner; maybe infertility plagues them; maybe they’d love to adopt, but do not have the financial stability to start the process. They hope against the odds that one day they will be mothers and fathers; but like every other year, they will not be receiving a handcrafted gift or a homemade card. Shouldn’t they be able to go to church and not face a service designed to celebrate what their heart longs for so desperately?

So, that’s why I stick with the church calendar. It’s hard enough to be “in the world and not of it” with the lines blurred as they are. Why make it worse by secularizing worship?

This Sunday is Father's Day. It's also Trinity Sunday. I'll celebrate both!

About the Author Aileen Lawrimore

Aileen Mitchell Lawrimore is a mother x 3, wife x 28 (years not men), minister, speaker, writer, retreat leader, and lover of beagles and books. She has a lot to say.

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2 comments
Rev. Matthew Best says June 15, 2019

Great post. I come from a liturgical tradition (Roman Catholic) and am in one now (ELCA Lutheran). The church calendar is a blessing. It releases us from having to keep up with society that desires to focus on Hallmark holidays. For Mother's Day and for Father's Day, the only mention that is made of these days is during the prayers of the church. This year I added a special prayer on each of these days - one that addresses all the variations of motherhood and fatherhood - the good, the bad, and the ugly. These prayers are well received by the congregation.

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    Aileen Lawrimore says June 15, 2019

    Thanks for reading Matthew! I do something similar and it does really resonate with my folks. Happy Trinity Sunday!

    Reply
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