We attended Blackhorse Road Baptist Church on the weekend, not intending to join, but rather to touch base with the homies and check out life in a typical English Baptist Church. Its amazing how identical Baptist churches can be around the world. The order of service, the tone, the speed, the pastor running down the back at the end to shake hands, standing up for choruses . . we know it all. We know it well enough to never get embarrassed during a Baptist service.
Unfortunately, our kids were not as astute as we were, and almost blew our cover by sitting up near the front. And then Hannah started dancing in the aisle during the singing, and i suddenly wished we were in a black Pentecostal church, and her dancing would go unnoticed.
Anyway, it was a good experience and the people are lovely, as always.
Hints for attending a Baptist Church without getting embarrassed:
– Go for the back seats.
-Never stage dive – there is no body sitting in the front 2 rows to catch you. (more following . . . )
– Don't raise your hands, or you might be volunteering for something
– Don't drink the coffee, it comes from a large steel device from the early 20th Century called an "Urn". Go for the tea instead.
– Do accept the altar call – you will receive special attention, lots of prayer, maybe even a free Bible.
– Bring your Bible. Leave the prayer book at home.
– If there is a pot-luck or special dinner, be there – the food at Baptist events is generally very good.
– Children's programs are usually excellent. Your kids will want to return. This may or may not be good news for you.
– Be happy when you arrive and somber when you pray. (the opposite applies for emerging church/alt. worship). Not Anglican/Catholic hard-core somber. More like a semi-somber, a soft-somber, with no facial contortion, lest you look too spiritual. So if they ask you to pray, dont go King James or Shakespeare on them (novice giveaway) but stay smart casual (like the clothing). And dont go too far on the other side either . . dont start telling God your latest joke . . and don't go asking Him for His.
Chances are, if you are a visitor they wont ask you to do anything, most don't ask you to stand up anymore. but they will mention you all the way through the first half of the service – so go ahead and enjoy all the attention!
– Don't yell out encouragements during the sermon, unless you hear others do it first.
– Don't freak out people with body movements or swaying during worship, unless others are also doing it. Again, sitting in the back will give you the big picture.
– If you dress badly or use Eastern fabrics, or wear a Marilyn Manson T-shirt, you will get special attention and extra cakes with your tea. If you dress up for the occasion, you will also get the same good treatment. But if you wear smart casual, like everyone else, they will assume you are a church goer and you will not get any special treatment. So put your piercings back in and dont be shy about your tats. BTW, my wife was the only women with dreadlocks on Sunday and we got lots of attention.
– Singing along with the songs is easy – the words are projected on the wall and the music sounds the same for every song – no one will notice that you are not familiar with the songs and mouthing the words in time is a cinch. You may have to stand up but, if you followed my instructions and are sitting towards the back, you will see people stand up right before you – just follow their lead.
– If someone sings a solo, don't be the first to clap and cheer and wolf-whistle – usually, there is no applause at the end, just a small appreciative smile or nod – again – watch other people and stay 2-3 seconds behind them . . . and i guarantee . . . you will never embarrass yourself in a Baptist church.
That's about it. Not much else to worry about. The people are incredibly friendly. Nothing like what you hear about in the newpapers. So if you have never attended a Baptist Church, then I dare you to do it at least once in your life.
Let me know if you do.