Going over to the enemy camp

By MICHAEL J. BROOKS / Guest columnist

Note: This is an opinion column.

I remember an interesting confrontation one Sunday morning.

We Baptists have always been creative with our fifth Sundays. Sometimes we do Communion, sometimes we have hymn singing rather than preaching and sometimes we have fellowship meals—or at least we did pre-COVID. On this particular fifth Sunday night we planned a joint worship with the Methodist church.

I joked about this during the morning announcement time and said, “We’re going over to the enemy camp!”

Of course I was being frivolous before worship began, but the young man accosted me when worship was done.

“They’re not our enemies; they’re our brothers and sisters in Christ!” he declared.

I explained if I really thought they were our enemies, I, as pastor, wouldn’t have suggested we worship with them. I still don’t know if I convinced him or not. Popular columnist Dave Barry insists some people are “humor deprived,” and this man certainly was. But I know, too, that sarcasm is often misunderstood. I’ve really tried to work on being more declarative and less sarcastic in my public speaking and conversations since not everyone understands the art of the quip.

I do miss the community worship services we had years ago. In several places we’ve lived the churches had interdenominational Thanksgiving services. In one of them the offerings we received were given to the local food bank, so this gathering was important. In another place, churches sponsored joint Maundy Thursday services. This is a Communion service on the day before Good Friday, commemorating the inauguration of the supper when Jesus instituted it. I remember one night the guest music minister was unschooled in what he should do (ministers shared responsibilities). He had us singing resurrection hymns, not realizing that the church treats Maundy Thursday and Good Friday with somberness. Joy comes on Easter.

I think denominations can learn from one another. The Episcopalians and Presbyterians teach us reverence in worship. Congregants honor God’s Word, and the pulpit is a place for serious reflection. The Pentecostals teach us exuberance in the Holy Spirit.

My mother’s only sister was Nazarene. I’ll always remember attending her church as a boy and seeing her raising her hands in the air and praising God.

Jesus prayed that his followers “be one” (John 17:21). Some argue that having many denominations falls short of his vision. True enough, but I don’t see this changing. Nevertheless, we should rejoice in what God is doing in the ministries of other churches and respect and love our brothers and sisters in other camps.

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster. The church’s website is Siluriabaptist.com.