Sam Harrelson

I’m 40 now and it took me all of my adult life to come to a deeper understanding of the Lord’s Supper because of my Baptist upbringing

Similar story to mine here… reflecting heavily as we prepare to enter Lent yet again:

Having been raised in a Southern Baptist church in Oklahoma, I never had learned to be sentimental about the Lord’s Supper; it was something we observed once a quarter on a Sunday night so that no one would confuse us with the Catholics and so that non-church members were less likely to be present. And thus, even as a pastor, I have been somewhat nonchalant about Communion. I often thought other people were a bit too mystical and misty about the whole thing.

Source: What if the church year began on Ash Wednesday? – Baptist News Global

Changing Conceptions of Marriage and Church Marketing

Fascinating stats here for same-sex and different-sex marriages. To think of marriage as a trophy or celebration of what two people have accomplished in life that come together into a new stage directly flies in the face of so much of what churches of all stripes and sizes (but especially my beloved Baptist tradition) have supported:

According to the Census Bureau, the median age at first marriage—the age at which half of all marriages occur—was 27.4 for women and 29.5 for men in 2017. That’s higher than at any time since the Census began keeping records in 1890. It is six years higher than when I got married in 1972 (at the typical age of 24). In my era, a young couple usually got married first, then moved in together, then started their adult roles as workers or homemakers, and then had children. (I scandalized my parents by living with my future wife before I married her.) Now marriage tends to come after most of these markers are attained.

Source: Andrew Cherlin: Marriage Has Become a Trophy – The Atlantic

In an era where church attendance is declining and church donations aren’t keeping up with expenses, it’s interesting to ponder what something like the institution of marriage might mean for the future health of congregations based on their marketing and messaging.

What is a High Church Baptist?


I’m a Baptist.

That’s not always an easy descriptor to assign to myself because I am…you might say…”high church.” A “high church baptist.” Weird, I know.

What does high church mean to me?

1. High church is an adjective that, to me, helps differentiate my preference and personal theology of worship from “low church.”

2. Neither high church nor low church is preferable to God or general polity of denominations or congregations. One is not better than the other.

3. To consider one’s self high church does not automatically mean one is Catholic or Episcopal (or Anglican) or Lutheran. To consider one’s self-low church does not automatically mean that one is B/baptist, Quaker, Pentecostal, Holiness or Primitive Methodist.

4. High church and low church are descriptors about worship preferences.

5. The distinction between high church and low church transcends a church’s carpet color and includes views on sacraments, liturgy, the lectionary and theology (and anthropology).

So, in this chain of thought, I’m a high church Baptist and there’s nothing contradictory there (at least that’s what I tell myself).

What does it mean to be a high church Baptist?

1. I consider the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper and the Word (Scriptures) to be the two fundamental aspects of worship. Worship, as Robert Webber points out in Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God’s Narrative, tells God’s story (it’s not something we do, but something in which we participate). I wish we participated in the Eucharist more often in Baptist worship services. Much more.

Oh, and I prefer wine to Welch’s Grape Juice. WWJD? Just saying…

2. I adhere to the mystical nature of the sacraments rather than viewing them as memorial events celebrating the life, death or resurrection of Jesus. Instead, our ordinances or sacraments are real and meaningful symbols that defy our post-Enlightenment cling to rationality.

3. As a high church Baptist, I hold that the place of the minister is to serve the congregation and creation in order to help a) tell God’s story daily and b) bring about the realized Kingdom of God. Preaching is a part of that, as is daily pastoral care and counseling… but being a minister is much more and includes recognizing the need for sacraments in the life of congregants (and the creation) on a daily basis.

4. High church Baptists recognize the need and responsibility for ecumenical discussions and inter-faith dialogue with Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Baha’i, and other forms/strands of faith communities. High church Baptists realize, through the Word and Table, the cosmic scale of our faith and are driven by the need to bring the creation into union with the Creator.

5. As a high church Baptist, I live my life in communion with God by participating in the Lectionary. It is an amazing experience to adhere one’s self to a daily and holy pattern like the Lectionary which helps us overcome the confines of a secular calendar and conception of time. Time itself is transformed and opens us to a move closer to the divine.

There you go. That’s my (always developing and always unfinished) conception of what it means to be high church and a Baptist.

Here’s a post that sums up things nicely in general (less specific and subjective) terms.

I’m sure I’ll post more on this as I reflect on these ideas over the coming months.