Last updated: August 15. 2014 11:17AM - 834 Views
Flo Johnston Faith in Focus

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“If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all,” is not something you can say about a Baptist Church.

You need to know the difference between the Southern Baptist Convention and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, if you want to be literate about Baptists in North Carolina.

Painting with broad strokes, you might say the SBC is “conservative” and the CBF is “moderate.” For example, in a local church that flies the CBF flag, you may see women deacons and preachers, but never in a SBC church.

In both, you will find Christians who believe each congregation has freedom to govern itself without any intervention from a bishop, a superintendent or a presbyter.

The bottom line is that a Baptist church is autonomous, an entity unto itself; thus, you can have a lot of variations on the same theme.

Not surprising that First Baptist, a CBF congregation here in Laurinburg, has women deacons, one of whom read the Scripture and led a prayer during worship last Sunday. Two women were among the deacons who helped receive the tithes and offerings.

First Baptist, located at 302 E. Church St., organized in 1889, is 125 years old and is the mother church for other area congregations, notably Stewartsville.

Senior pastor, the Rev. Dr. Wayne Wike, said in a phone interview this week that the church has been led over the years by some of the most progressive and dedicated Baptist preachers in North Carolina, accounting for its moderate stance on issues like the ordination of women. This stands in contrast to the position championed by the SBC that continues to have policy against their ordination.

Another difference, noted in the worship service Sunday, was the use of Lectionary scripture readings, not usually done in SBC churches.

The Lectionary, used by most mainline churches, is a pre-selected collection of scriptural readings from the Bible for worship, study or other theological uses. The Revised Common Lectionary follows the liturgical year in a three-year cycle and provides recommendations that compliment the current season of the liturgical year, like Epiphany, Lent, Advent, Easter and Christmas.

Dr. Wike’s sermon was based on the passage from Matthew 14:22-23 in which Jesus comes to his disciples walking on the water. The pastor said when life brings troubles our way, we might find ourselves wondering if there really is anybody up there seeing to our best interests. And, like Peter, Christians often doubt.

“Don’t allow such moments to paralyze you,” he said. “But recognize they are a chance to grow in faith. God is with us in dark moments.”

Music at First Baptist is always special under the direction of Sylvia Stewart whose credentials are impressive. She’s a graduate of Westminster Choir College.

On this Sunday, the choir of about 20 singers sang a Faith Medley including the familiar hymns “The Solid Rock,” “My Faith Has Found a Resting Place” and “I Know Whom I have Believed.”

My first reaction: They sounded like a smaller version of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, with beautiful harmony and a perfect blending of voices.

One interesting note: “We have a woman singing with the men,” said a friendly church member sitting near me. She was correct. Choir member Effie Sills sings tenor with the best of them. And those tenors — what church choir wouldn’t fight for them, a rare commodity.

During the singing of the hymn of invitation, “Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus,” a young boy, accompanied by his father, came forward as the son made his profession of faith and readiness for Christian baptism and church membership.

The whole family then gathered at the front and church members lined the aisles going forward to welcome the young boy who was making an important life decision.

On the friendliness scale, this church certainly gets high marks. Several people stopped to talk and to extend a warm welcome.

Thanks, it was fun.

St. David’s to hold hymn

singing in lieu of sermon

For the first time since I began writing a Faith column, a local church has sent me a news announcement. It’s from St. David’s Episcopal. Not a long one or even a really big event, but the kind of thing that lets readers know what’s going on.

I guess I really like small churches, because I find myself putting them on my Pay Attention list.

That’s where I put St. David’s Episcopal last fall after attending a Blessing of the Animals service in the churchyard. And then when I heard that Bishop Michael Curry of the North Carolina Diocese of the Episcopal Church was visiting this congregation, I made sure I was there on Sunday morning. I stayed for the luncheon served after the service, meeting some of the members and sharing a really fine repast.

Right now, the church, which does not have a resident priest, often has a supply, someone from the Diocese who is available. Here’s the historic announcement:

The congregation at St. David’s Episcopal will not have a supply priest on Sunday, but will hold Morning Prayer in lieu of the sermon and Communion, and instead will have a hymn sing of mostly praise music.

Anybody who wants to sing with the Episcopalians is welcome. The church is located at the corner of Azure Court and Covington Street.

Send your news announcements to flo.johnston314@gmail.com or call 910-361-4135.

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