by Rev. Laura Barclay
Baptimergent: Baptist Stories from the Emergent Frontier is a compilation of essays published by Smyth and Helwys and edited by Zach Roberts. The 13 authors are a mix of new and established Baptist leaders who identify themselves as Emergent Baptists. These Baptists value a new way of practicing faith which has the following characteristics: reconciliation over ideological fighting; reclaiming ancient spiritual practices; a strong desire to follow Jesus in newer and deeper ways; a commitment to Baptist principles; and an open mind in following Jesus and encountering others.
The diversity of writing styles and perspectives among the essayists is refreshing. For those who want to delve into a more theological approach, Tripp Fuller encourages us to rethink our concept of power within Christianity in the opening essay, The Time Is Now, The Place Is Near. His piece reads like a deep theological work, mulled and mused over many a long night of discussions with friends, and ends with a call for the church to renew its commitment to the gospel and the hope found in God, identified as Abba by Christ.
For a great piece on the difference between Generation Y and The Greatest Generation, read Wanda Kidd’s Give Us Ears to Hear. The essay challenges us to “create opportunities for conversation across generational experiences for storytelling and name recognition.” She notes, “Community is a bankrupt concept if the exchanging of ideas, dreams, hopes, and promise is held only within one segment of the people” (62).
Those who want to learn more about ancient spiritual practices like lectio divina and walking the labyrinth will want to read Cathy Payne Anderson’s 21st Century Ancient Practices to discover how she integrates those elements into her life.
The piece that resonated most with me was Christina Whitehouse-Suggs’ Making Space at the Table. Her piece courageously recounts her navigation of complicated ministry situations outside the church and in diverse settings—which is familiar territory for many Generation X and Y ministers. Her triumphs and failures, which exude a conversational honesty, read like a guidebook for a new minister or Christian. She concludes that we must always err on the side of Christ-like grace and continue to make “space at the table” for all (87).
All the essays included in the book are well chosen and address some of the major problems or issues I see facing the church, our culture, and our faith in the coming century. A familiar theme for many of the authors seems to be growing up in a conservative Southern Baptist church and realizing at some point that the God of exclusion preached from the pulpit was at odds with the God of love they knew in their hearts or saw exhibited in the actions of another.
Based on my own similar experience and that of many others in my generation, I believe this book will resonate with many who are devoted to the Baptist principles of the priesthood of all believers, church autonomy, religious freedom, and the centrality of Scripture. As Tim Conder notes in the closing, these same Baptists are seeking new ways to practice their faith relationally against the individualism, consumerism, and nationalism that can plague our culture. And for those who are firmly rooted in the traditional Baptist liturgy and practices of the last century, this book would be a great resource to begin dialogue with other generations and encourage the true listening community. As Wanda Kidd states, “We are called to hear and respond to those who surround us, and it is a mighty calling” (67). Amen.
Baptimergent: Baptist Stories from the Emergent Frontier is available from Smyth and Helwys Press. For more information, visit their website: http://www.helwys.com/books/baptimergent.html