Baptists. What exactly are they for?
This was the question I pondered while my flatmate and I took the train over to Queen’s Park for this morning’s service. I’ve not been to many Baptist churches, and so don’t really know what defines them as a denomination, other than having health hazards for fonts.
QPBC is a beautiful, grand, old building right next to the Queen’s Park, a big public park near Hampden, the national football stadium, and is in a lovely part of town. At least, it looked lovely in the bright sunshine today. On the doorsteps we were greeted with handshakes and warm “welcome”s, and the intimation-sheet-hander-outer was very chatty too, asking us lots of questions and telling us a little about the church on discovering we were new.
Inside, I was struck by the atmosphere of hustle and bustle, people wandering around talking to each other, music playing in the background, and it was all very relaxed. The interior of the building was outstanding too – the austere grandeur of the architecture had been maintained but mixed with rich and bright colours in the paintwork, banners and lighting which gave it a clean, warm, modern feeling.
We sat down on the very comfy seats, and were soon being welcomed and chatted to by a bloke called Thomas who came and sat next to us. The large congregation of perhaps a couple of hundred seemed to be of all ages – with a particularly good showing from young families and elderly people. I suspected that due to the university holidays they had a few students less than normal.
The service kicked off with praise, led by a very talented band, with the words projected on to the big screen. The songs were singable, meaningful and lively, and the congregation sang heartily, really demonstrating something of the joy the songs are meant to exude.
The forty minute sermon, delivered by the minister, was excellent. It was about the gifts of the spirit and how to identify the ones you have, based mostly on 1 Corinthians 12. Using the screen for both the Bible reading and the clear and useful sermon notes, it was a powerful, useful and occasionally amusing message and one of those rare ones where you actually take something from it that you can apply in your life. “If those sick people that you are praying for start to get worse,” I remember the minister saying, “chances are that you don’t have the gift of healing!”
After the service, our new acquaintance Thomas took us through to the hall where the obligatory tea and coffee was served, introducing us to others on the way and telling us more about his experiences of the church in the three years he had been there. On our way out, there were more handshakes and greetings.
QPBC really had something going for it, and judging by the map of prayergroups on the hall wall, it has members all across the city and beyond. It was friendly, lively and unintimidating, but without being fluffy or lightweight; and was full of inspiring worship and practical teaching, but without being traditional or stuffy. There was a real feeling of joy, fellowship, zeal and prayerfulness about the place and it definitely makes it into round 2.
Although it reminded me in many ways of the Church of Scotland – the ornate old building, the substantial sermon, the earnest worship – it was like someone had cranked up the happiness gauge. Like a happy version of the Church of Scotland.
Perhaps that’s what Baptists are for…
…to be the Church of Scotland on acid.