ronniemcbrayer300 cKENTUCKY (9/15/13) - When I first met Father Thad I was a Baptist minister and he was the priest at the neighborhood Catholic parish. A complete stranger to me, he popped into my office and stated that he must use our church baptistery. A brief reminder about baptism: Baptists practice baptism by immersion. They dunk converts completely under the water.

Typically, Catholics practice sprinkling or pouring. And that is just the beginning of the differences between these two faith traditions on the issue. The theological meaning reinforcing the practice of baptism puts the camps even farther apart.

So when a Catholic priest showed up wanting to dunk a convert in the Baptist church, I knew I was dealing with someone shattering my typecast. Refreshingly, this watery encounter led to a series of interdenominational gatherings (potluck dinners, actually) between his parish and my congregation. In the process, we learned a lot about each other, and I learned a great deal about Thad.

In addition to the priesthood Thad had been a military chaplain; and shockingly, Thad was married and had adult children. Thad had been an Anglican priest, but through an extraordinary dispensation from the Vatican, converted to Catholicism. This man was a depository of mind-warping experiences, not the least of which was a personal story I loved to hear.

A parish he once led desperately needed to expand its ministry. But one man in the parish absolutely resisted, always squelching prospective change by saying something like, “My grandfather gave the land for this church; my daddy cleared the trees for the building; and we’re not going to change a thing” (Catholics don’t have a monopoly on this sentiment).

Thad finally had enough. In his remarkable way, he secured a diocese blessing and obtained a piece of land on the other side of town. He called the local house builders, and had the church relocated! I have this charming picture in my mind of the church, steeple atop, rolling down the road on stilts led by a vestment-clad Father Thad, reading the gospel and splashing holy water along the way.

When I first heard that story I told Thad, “If you were a Protestant, you could have just started another church (And with a wink, I’d add, “A church with a real baptistery”). His response was priceless: “Why start another church, when you can take it with you?”

Truth told, that is pretty good ecclesiology. Ecclesiology is what seminarians call the “doctrine of the church.” It answers the question: “What is the nature of the church?” And after several hundred years of modernity and religious institutionalism, more and more people are recognizing that the church is not a building. Sure, we say, “I go to church at such-and-such place,” but the real church is a people, not a place. It is a body, not a building. It is a living movement, not a fixed mailing address.

When the last homilies, sermons, songs, testimonies, and prayers are offered at your congregation or parish on Sunday morning, you don’t leave the church. You will leave a specific gathering of the church, certainly, but you take the church with you – because the church is you. You take it on the road, across town, into your workplace or university, into your living room, classroom, and board room: You embody the presence of Christ in the world.

Yes, I learned a lot from Father Thad. I learned that holding to fixed stereotypes prevents us from embracing the extraordinary individuals we meet along the way. I learned that communication between faith groups is the best possible means of reducing misunderstanding and conflict. I learned that overcoming problems sometimes requires boldness and creativity.

And I was reminded that whether we are sprinkled, dipped, poured, dunked, barely damp or soaking wet, we will not be defined so much by “where we go to church,” but by whether or not we will be the church once we leave the building. As Father Thad put it so accurately: “Why start another church, when you can take it with you?”

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.


Disclaimer: The content supplied by columnists and letters to the Editor on this site does not in any way, shape or form, implied or otherwise, necessarily express or suggest endorsement or support of any of such content, statement, or opinions therein. SurfKY News does not necessarily adhere to or endorse content provided by outside non-staff sources.

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner

LIKE SurfKY on Facebook - Click here to LIKE us now.

© Copyright 2015 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without permission. SurfKY News encourages you to share this story on social media.

In Other News...

Principal Selection SBDM Meeting May 29

HOPKINS COUNTY. Ky. (5/28/15) — There will be principal selection meeting for the West Broadway Elementary SBDM Council… Read More

Niagara Elementary Announces New Members of the National Elementary Honor Society

HENDERSON, Ky. (5/27/15) — Thirteen students were selected to become the newest members of the Niagara Elementary… Read More
1 DOW 18,120.79
-42.20 (-0.23%)    
2 S&P 2,120.65
-2.83 (-0.13%)    
3 NASDAQ 5,095.93
-10.67 (-0.21%)    

Most Read This Week

May 22, 2015 7767

Madisonville Man Charged with First-Degree Rape

by SurfKY News
May 23, 2015 7674

Missing 5-Year-Old Boy Found

by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
May 27, 2015 5955

VIDEO: Sparks Fly Over Hanson Rezoning Issue

by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
May 25, 2015 3597

Can Sunscreen Save Your Life?

by Melissa Patrick
May 27, 2015 3046

Midnight Ride on Rabbit Ridge Ends in Jail

by SurfKY News

Most Read This Month

May 15, 2015 10915

New Madisonville Business In Full Operation Soon

by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
May 22, 2015 7767

Madisonville Man Charged with First-Degree Rape

by SurfKY News

Stories Trending Now

May 27, 2015 5955

VIDEO: Sparks Fly Over Hanson Rezoning Issue

by Tammy Holloway, SurfKY News
May 27, 2015 3046

Midnight Ride on Rabbit Ridge Ends in Jail

by SurfKY News
May 27, 2015 2060

Crime Stoppers Top Most Wanted - May 27, 2015

by Crime Stoppers
May 27, 2015 1059

Crime Stoppers Fugitive of the Week – May 27,…

by Hopkinsville – Christian County Crime Stoppers
May 27, 2015 804

Hopkins County Sheriff's Reports Released

by SurfKY News
May 27, 2015 531

Anonymous Tip Results in Drug Charges

by SurfKY News
May 27, 2015 375

Two Vehicle Collision Sends One to Hospital

by McCracken County Sheriff's Department