This paper is dedicated to my recent experience of attending a service of a Christian Baptist church, which is different from my own tradition. This experience allowed me to deeper understand the diversity of religions in the world and, in fact, allowed me to obtain a better understanding of the tradition, the name of which I have many times heard, but have never cared to find out more about their traditions, the essence of their religious practices. This paper aims to show, how important attendance of the religious services of other confessions and traditions is for the deeper understanding of religion and God. There are many churches and many confessions, but there is one God. And it is important to see what different traditions have got to say in order to closer approach the truth.
For my visit I chose a Baptist community, and at first wanted, in order to complete all the requirements of the paper, visit a service at church, but then I read more on the subject, and found out about the principle of invisible universal church, which Baptists follow. The point is that they strongly believe, that there is church everywhere the believer may wish to do his prayer. And thus I decided that for my diversity experience it would be particularly interesting to attend such an “improvised” church, and be present at a service, which would take place at a location, different from what we are traditionally used to seeing as a place for service.
I have made acquaintances with a few representatives of the Baptist church in town and explained my situation. I was amazed with the readiness and understanding, with which they replied to my requests. They discussed the situation and, lastly, we all have arrived at a conclusion that it would be interesting for me to attend a service, which was going to take place at a local hospital. There, at that hospital was cured one of the members of the church. She was a forty years old woman, who has experienced severe and very dangerous disease. For the sake of confidentiality I would prefer avoiding further details. However, I think this matters, the woman has already gone through the most critical phase of her illness and was now recovering. Yet, she was not yet allowed by her doctors to leave the hospital, thus, the invisible universal church was then represented by the leaders in the hospital. I do not think there is a need of describing the hospital we all visited, as this building was not intentionally built for religious practices. As for the attendees, their appearance was very casual, so to speak. They all wore their everyday dresses and one of the men, who was among the attendees replied to my concerned question, that God does not need any particular dress code for recognizing those, who believe in him. The group was very diverse and consisted of ten people, the majority of whom were younger than fifty years old. All successful and lively people, but none of them was wearing anything that would hint at their desire to attend a religious service.
The process of the service was of very informal nature. They all were there to support the woman, and, in fact, she once took the word and told, particularly addressing me, that God with their help saved her, and if it had not been for the members of the church, she may have failed to recover. She said, she strongly believed in it. The peculiarities of the service I would like to particularly underline are mainly related to the informalism of the service. I was surprised to have learnt, that Baptists do not have church authorities, and, basically, even confession can be executed between two average members of the church (Brackney, ND). This gave me much ground for thought. I was also pleasantly surprised to have learnt that the members of the church pray oftentimes informally, without repeating certain formulas of prayer, but in their own words. They do not have anybody explain the essence of Bible to them. Though Bible is, probably, the only authority for them, they depend on their own understanding the holy book. Another important thing I found out about their tradition is that they do not recognize baptizing children. They strongly believe that baptizing is a ritual, which needs to be performed with an adult, conscious individual, who needs to be aware of the responsibility they are taking through such actions (Gourley, ND). Thus, there is nothing much to say about the ritual, as the ritual are very flexible, which is their most important peculiarity.
The visit was still a shock for me, though it was a pleasant shock, even though what I have read in the textbook by Partridge (ND) and other information I learnt when preparing for my visit, pretty much prepared me for what I was going to see. However, it is hard to believe certain things, to which one is not used, prior to seeing them with one’s own eyes.
I find that my visit to the Baptist church was a very valuable experience, which significantly contributed into my diversity awareness and general outlook. It also provided me much “food” for my mind. I found many things, many traditions of the church very reasonable and logical, though I am not certain, that changing my religious tradition is what I would desire. One thing is for certain: I now much better understand these people and am more prepared for understanding other traditions as well.