Monday, September 27, 2004
First Parish, Southern Baptist?
Here's a front-page Boston Globe article for my Unitarian Universalist friends in northern New England: Southern Baptists have been sending ministers and volunteers to help revive some of the old clapboard Yankee churches in rural Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Sarah Schweitzer writes that Southern Baptist ministers have "assumed the helm" of at least a dozen mainline Protestant churches:
The Southern pastors come with missionary zeal, a willingness to work for a pittance, and a conservative philosophy notably different from the more liberal New England religious tradition. Their arrival marks the melding of cultures that have been separate since the time of the Civil War, when Southern Baptists broke with their northern brethren.
And yet Vermonters — to the surprise of the Southerners and themselves — have embraced Pittman and others, warming to their manner and message.
"It's hard for Vermonters to accept people from outside the area, much less the South," said Lucille Nelson, a parishioner at Sheffield Federated. "And he does have a very different style. But he is just awesome. He talks to us at our level. Not like he is higher than us.
"And the people in the back row," she said, "they can hear him." . . .
No one knew quite what to make of the new preacher, with his Southern sayings and casual — almost whimsical — preaching style. Pittman has since won the loyalty of the Methodist congregation, which numbers about 40. Many note the levity he brings to services and the disarmingly clear path to salvation he presents.
"Folks, I am on a program," Pittman preached on a recent Sunday. "I will read the Bible about seven times this year. I've already been through it once. It don't take but 180 minutes a day."
Pittman says he goes easy on the theme of sin in his sermons. New Englanders do not abide that as well as Southerners. Nor do they embrace the idea of missionizing, an idea contrary to New Englanders' traditional resistance to outward shows of religious belief. But Pittman says evangelism is a core tenet, and he seeks to impress its need upon his congregation.
I wonder if any of the newly Southern Baptist churches have a bit of Universalist history? I know that a few of the federated churches in rural New England incorporated Universalist congregations. Adam, what do you make of this story?
("N.E. churches take a southern direction," Sarah Schweitzer, Boston Globe 9.27.04)
Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 27 September 2004 at 9:46 PM