Monday, February 27, 2012

Church at the End of the Road

We never tire of riding through the mountains, taking roads we have passed without knowing where they lead.  We don't use a GPS but we have never gotten hopelessly lost.

We always look for country churches on our drives and we always find some.  More often than not the church is called a "baptist" church.  I put the word in quotes because there is no true definition of a baptist church.  There is an organization called the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and many churches do belong to it.  In recent years, many churches have dropped out of the SBC because of its continued doctrine that homosexuality is sinful and the church leaders must be males.  Even within the SBC individual churches are pretty much autonomous.

Many, if not most of the country baptist churches in the mountains are truly autonomous and do not belong to any specific organization.  In fact, there is nothing to prohibit anyone from forming a church and calling it a baptist church.

Almost all of the different baptist churches do have certain beliefs in common:
  • There is no infant baptism.  Baptism is conducted only when the person has achieved an age of accountability and professes faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
  • The baptism is by total immersion.  Many churches have a baptistry pool but some still baptize in local streams and lakes.
  • Life begins at conception, thus abortion is the taking of a life.
  • God planned for marriage to be between one man and one woman with a life-long committment to that marriage.  Homosexuality is not an acceptable lifestyle.
  • Each person has a soul and is totally responsible for it and for accounting to God after death.
  • Alcohol should not be taken as a beverage.
  • The church governance is male.
  • Communion is not held at each service (in fact it may be only four or five times per year).  Communion is symbolic and not the true body and blood of Christ.
  • Prayer is directed solely to God the Trinity.  There is no intercession or communion of saints.
One of our drives led us through beautiful hills and farms.  And at the end of the road was a lovely white Baptist church.  It was Blue Ridge Baptist Church, established in 1836.  I grew up attending the baptist church and the services then were exactly as they are today:  Sunday School at 10:00, Sunday Worship Service (also known as "preaching") at 11:00, Sunday evening services at 6:30, and Wednesday evening services at 6:30.

Most baptist churches remain locked except when there are services.  One does not typically enter the church for private prayer and worship.

Writer John Grisham once wrote:  "I grew up in a very small, close-knit Southern Baptist family where everything was off-limits.  So I couldn't wait to get to college and have some fun.  And I did for the first two years.  And I regret it a lot, because my grades were in terrible shape."


Mary Lee said...

I've been reading in the paper that the Southern Baptists are thinking about changing their name by getting rid of the "southern" part. They're thinking maybe "Great Commission Baptists" or something like that.

Ms. A said...

I love beautiful, old, country churches!

LoieJ said...

So different from the culture of the church I attend in N MN. Our church is open most days of the week, except Saturday, unless there is a special event on that day. On the other days, you will find some of the church staff there, maybe the pastor some days, youth director. There's always something happening or people coming and going. There are Bible studies, grief support groups, and youth group meetings, for example. We actually feel that we serve our community through the use of our building.

Karin said...

Love those interesting church buildings - so picturesque! What's important though is not the building but the people! During hubby's studies in the eastern USA we learned so much about the love of God, His grace and mercy, and so much more, shown to us through His children - whatever their denominational affiliation. The many things we don't yet understand He will make clear to us in His timing!

I found it interesting that 'baptists' smoked where tobacco was grown but condemned drinking; they drank where vineyards were their livelihood, but smoking was sinful, etc. etc. and made all kinds of concessions to their faith depending on the 'culture' of their region and community. I always imagined God was sad and amused - but LOVED them if they would only believe it!

KGMom said...

I heard the same report Mary Lee refers to--the Great Commission Baptists. I figure it might lose something in translation to languages other than English.

I grew up in a church with similar theology--it was the Brethren in Christ church--no baptist in the name, but belief in adult baptism by immersion. In fact, I was baptized at age 9 in a stream--cold.

I resonated with some of the scenes in the wonderful movie "Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?"

LoieJ said...

I wanted to send you this link of a quilt of a picture on the BRP. I wasn't sure how to send it besides through a comment.

Cheryl said...

It is a very pretty little church.
I found it so interesting to read about the religious aspect of the baptist religion.

I am a christian.....our church was always open, until it was vandalised. I cannot tell you how this saddened me.
I have visited third world countries where people are starving. The churches are always open, and they are never touched. I will say no more......

Arkansas Patti said...

I live in a Baptist Bible Belt with every shade of Baptist there is. You are right, there are lots of variations with a common theme. I noticed when I explore country roads here, they almost all end up in a church yard.

Rudee said...

A couple of years ago we found the Episcopal church of my grandmother's youth in Pedlar Mills, VA. Sadly, all of the church records had been destroyed by fire and the church had been rebuilt. Still, it was tiny and very old. Much had been salvaged and still stands in the center of a Blue Ridge Mountain town that has clearly seen better days.

The Bug said...

As you no doubt know (because I mention it at every turn) I grew up Southern Baptist. Went to Zambia for 18 months as part of a mission program. Went to a Southern Baptist Seminary where I met Mike & got my M.R.S. degree (ha!).

And now I belong to the Episcopal church because I no longer believe most of the things you listed (although I do have a little bit of trouble with infant baptism).

But what a cute little church! I want to go there - even though I'd probably throw the hymnal at the preacher. :)

Taradharma said...

while visiting your lovely state last fall, I, too, meandered along country roads and found many small, old, sweet Baptist churches. Not a lot of Baptists where I grew up, so I'm pretty ignorant of their habits (thanks for the primer). I didn't belong to any church, and I discovered in NC, when being introduced to people, "What church do you belong to?" is one of the first things they want to know about you. Uh. Awkward. You are equally suspicious if you 1.) don't attend any church 2.) admit that you are a Buddhist.

George said...

We often come across little mountain churches on our drives as well. Unfortunately not many of them are as pretty as this one.

Busy Bee Suz said...

This is a lovely old church!!!
As much as I love this one and others, I have issues with the 'strict and dated' beliefs of some religions. {My personal opinion!}
I have a GPS, but never use it...not a fan of anyone 'telling' me where to go! :)

Anonymous said...

Interesting story and commentaries.

NCmountainwoman said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone.

Mary Lee - I have heard the same thing.

PS - It is wonderful when churches can have enough staff to remain open. Thanks for the link.

Karin - I do agree that some of the things we interpret make God smile a bit.

Donna - I can just imagine the little redhead in that cold water. Fortunately our church had a warm baptistry near the altar.

Cheryl - It does say something about our character when the church must be locked.

Bug - No hymnal throwing allowed.

Tara - Oh yes, that is always one of the first questions. We used to get the same look when we said we were Catholic.

Bill - Thanks for dropping by.

Anonymous said...