Monday, November 24, 2014

Stewardship at First Baptist Church of Ogden

First of all, I want to apologize for not blogging the past couple weeks. I have had some issues with my apartment and finances that have caused me to be temporarily at a couple friends' apartment. Hopefully all of this is sorted out soon. At any rate, I'm back for the blog.

The Sunday before last, I went to First Baptist Church, part of the American Baptist Churches USA. The American Baptist Churches USA traces its roots back to the 1600's in Massachusetts. The church is considered a mainline church and historically a progressive church in regards to race relations.

Beliefs of the American Baptist Churches USA:

  • Belief in the Trinity.
  • Belief that Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Christ's death and resurrection saved mankind from sin.
  • The Bible is the Word of God and final authority on matters of faith.
  • Belief in the priesthood of all believers.
  • Avoid the use of creeds and allow members to be guided by the Spirit with interpretation of the scriptures.
  • Believe in the autonomy of the local church.
  • Practice a believer's baptism by immersion for those old enough to understand the sacrament.
  • Practice open communion using bread and grape juice as symbols of the body and blood of Jesus.
  • Ordain women to the ministry.
In addition, this congregation is united with the local Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), another mainline Protestant church which currently doesn't have a church building they meet in. This church doesn't meet separately with the Baptists in Ogden, but instead has merged it's congregation with the Baptist congregation. As such, I'm not going to include the additional information of this congregation as the service looked exclusively Baptist, and that is the main identity of this church.

So how was it?


First Baptist Church of Ogden is a stunning example of Federal architecture. The building is large, the only religious structures that dwarf it in Ogden are the Ogden LDS Temple and St. Joseph's Catholic Church. It's a red brick building that looks like it fell out of New England onto Utah's soil.

The interior was large and very traditional looking with white washed walls, pilasters, crown molding, dark wood pews, a simplistic sanctuary with room for a small choir and a pulpit. The sanctuary had a screen down to project the lyrics for the hymns.

Overall, the atmosphere was stunning. I would definitely go back just for that.

The People:

We got there right before the service started, so there wasn't much chance for people to mingle with us. The usher was nice, a few people introduced themselves and were nice to us. The congregation was mostly made up of middle aged to elderly people and children and were mostly white. They seemed really nice for the most part.

I wish that we could have interacted with them more, but given the lack of interaction, I still felt welcomed.

The Service/The Message:

The structure of the service wasn't the typical structure I'm used to in Baptist services. The pastor himself said that it was a unique service for that Sunday to highlight that it was Stewardship Sunday.

Because of the unusual structure of the service, I merged these two sections together as there wasn't a distinction between the two.

First they talked about how we show stewardship for creation. The pastor read from Genesis where God gave man dominion over all the earth. He then talked about how we have a responsibility to the earth and must care for and conserve it. This was followed by a hymn praising the Lord's world.

After this, they talked about how we must steward our talents. To demonstrate this, the pastor showed a quilt that was going to be given to the homeless. They sang a hymn about giving all your service and future to God, then the pastor dedicated the quilt. During the prayer, he said we didn't know who it would go to, whether they were believers, or of a different faith, or even an atheist. He didn't seem as comfortable saying the atheist statement, but nonetheless included it in the prayer.

After this, they talked about stewarding children. The youth pastor brought the kids of the congregation up and gave each of them a piggy bank with ten pennies. He told them that it was their choice what they did with it, they could take the stopper out and take the money out or put money in it. He said if they brought the bank back unbroken, there would be a reward later. After this, they sang another hymn about blessings.

Next, they sang a song about offerings and talked about stewarding finances. The pastor talked about how silly it is that people don't have an issue giving money to a movie theater, sporting event, concert, etc. But they're not happy to give money to the church and see it as a burden. He then said that investing in the local church was the  best investment you could ever do in this life or the next. He said it was a privilege to pay tithing. I hate this argument. They make it seem like there's nothing more important than giving money to the church and that giving money to this organization is the same as giving to God. Of course, what better time to take up a collection than after this message? And that's exactly what they did.

They then sang the Protestant Doxology, they took up another collection for the needy for Christmas, then the pastor asked for various concerns and celebrations from the people in the congregation. After he'd collected all their concerns, he gave an impromptu prayer talking about the needs of the community.

After this, there was another hymn and served communion. Communion was done using matzo crackers and grape juice. The pastor said the words of Jesus at the Last Supper and the deacons passed around the crackers, then everyone ate it together. Afterward, the pastor said the words over a chalice of grape juice. The deacons then passed small, plastic cups of grape juice to the congregation and then everyone drank it together.

After this was another hymn and then a benediction over the congregation.

Overall, it was an interesting structure for a service. I enjoyed seeing it, and the communion portion was like a hybrid of Catholic and Baptist traditions which was interesting.

Overall Experience:

Of the Baptist services I've been to, it was the nicest one and the most uplifting. The people were friendly, and the messages, for the most part, were lovely. However, I've grown very weary of Baptist and Evangelical services in general and am not planning to return to one for a very long time.

Additional Notes:

Only 3 religions left! Stay tuned for some awesome announcements!

Until next time, peace be with you.

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