I was born a poor Southern Baptist child.
Life was never easy for me.
Just kidding. I had a great childhood, fantastic parents and a smooth religious upbringing in a church that was conservative in a traditional sort of way, but never in that more eerie, fundamentalist manner. Our family was at church at least three times a week and often more frequently than that.
I have wonderful memories of playing around that large church building. Of summer camps and youth retreats. Of adults who truly cared about me and my welfare. They were, in many ways, everything good that church can be.
(Let me pause to give a “shout out” to the good folk at Victory Memorial – the living and those gone on.)
Perhaps what I treasure most was that my teachers and mentors at Victory taught me to take the Bible seriously. And I did. And I do.
The only problem was, that as I grew up to take the Bible seriously, I came to a different theology than theirs. It was similar to Southern Baptist, but not very. I explored and read and visited. My belief system had some commonalities with Nazarenes, but not quite. Some of the Church of God communities seemed pretty cool. The Methodists had their Wesley brothers, whom I admired.
But none were quite right.
Then, one day while visiting a used book store, as I'm wont to do, I came across a title that intrigued me: Living in Christian Community, by Art Gish. As my Bible studies had introduced me to the concept of communal living (as in the early church), the title caught me eye.
I bought the book and read it with much joy and relief. Here, at last, were people who believed as I did. Gish writes in his book about the Mennonites, the Hutterites, the Bruderhofs, the Quakers...in other words, what I now know as anabaptist (and related) theologies. Folk with a belief in a simple lifestyle and peacemaking.
It has been almost 20 years since my happy epiphany. In the time since, I've had the great good fortune to leave the Southern Baptist church and begin attending the strange medley of faith traditions that is Jeff Street Baptist Community here in Louisville. What transcendent joy there has been in this journey!
Perhaps another time, I'll write more on this. For now, I'll just leave a link to a source on anabaptists, for those who are curious.
On Art and Peggy Gish - great folk right over in Ohio:
[sidenote: Art Gish also wrote Beyond the Rat Race as well as other material. Look for his stuff, which is often out of print.]