Communion cups and individualism

Picking up from one or two comments in different places on my previous post: does the use of individual communion cups imply, or support, or strengthen, individualism? My short answer would be: not in British Baptist practice; I simply do not know elsewhere. This answer is based on a couple of convictions. One is that practices are not meaningfully narratable without properly thick description; the other is that I want to interrogate hard what ‘individualism’ means. I will deal with the first here; I might return to the second at some point. On the first: ‘thick description’ (for those who do not know) is a term coined by the anthropologist Clifford Geertz. He argued (roughly) that symbols are only intelligible specifically. That is, to take the case in point,...

Read More

On opening church buildings for private prayer

We should open our buildings for private prayer as soon as we can. Not for the members, but as a mission opportunity. This week it seems likely that the First Minister will announce that Scotland is moving to Phase 2 of our lifting of lockdown, which includes the opening of places of worship for private prayer—a move made this past weekend in the rather less orderly English system. I suspect that for most Baptists, the instinctive response will be to shrug; our spirituality does not have that sense of sacred space, or at least not of ecclesially-authorised sacred space. We might have our own ‘thin places’, where for us ‘prayer has been valid’, but they are probably not significantly connected to local church buildings. I think this response would be a mistake....

Read More

Prosopal presence: our current conundrum

When we meet online, are we meeting ‘face to face’? My colleague Elizabeth Shively gave us an excellent sermon this morning in our series on 1Thess.; I won’t repeat what she said (its on our church FB page, and well worth the watch), but before she began my attention was caught by a word in the reading. Throughout the letter Paul expresses his regrets that he is absent from the Thessalonian believers, his longing to see them, and his eagerness for news of them. In 3:10 he prays ‘Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you face to face’ (NRSV) ‘May see you face to face’ translates τὸ ἰδεῖν ὑμῶν τὸ πρόσωπον; it was the word πρόσωπον that caught my eye (I was following the reading in the original, as I usually do); it’s a word I’ve thought about a lot....

Read More

On not having closed our churches

Language matters. It matters more in how it is heard than in how it is meant. If we want to communicate certain things, then disciplined use of language can help us, because it will improve the chances of what we want to say being heard, rather than being misunderstood. There was a time when we British Baptists would not have thought of calling the building we met in for worship a ‘church’. We knew that the church was the congregation, gathered together by God, covenanted to each other before God. If the church habitually met in a particular building, we called that a ‘chapel’. ‘Church,’ we once understood, meant people, saved by grace, making expansive vows to each other because God has called us together. ‘Chapel,’ we used to know, meant a building, where the...

Read More

On ‘Kitchen Table Eucharists’: a plea to my Anglican friends

It is, to my regret, nearly ten years since I last joined in worship with the small fellowship at Hawkshead Hill Baptist Church in Cumbria. My memories of the fellowship are warm; my memories of the building in which they meet, and of the garden behind it, are vivid. The building is an ancient cottage, registered for worship in 1709. There is no historical record of what changes were made as it was registered for worship, but very probably the kitchen table was the only table, and so became the place where the Eucharist was celebrated for those people. The Baptists had begun in Hawkshead in 1678, at a time when the Church of England was aggressively devoted to persecuting anyone who would not worship according to its formularies (even though then, as now, it...

Read More
get facebook like button