Monday, April 26, 2010


The Truth about Seventh and James Baptist Church in Waco

Let's be honest: My work has its critics. There are people who think that I am wrong in my conclusions, that my advocacy work detracts from my teaching, or that what I write is not sufficiently theoretical. At times, they may have been right. To keep going, though, I have always counted on the people at Seventh and James to be there for me. I have never been a part of an institution so loving, supportive, and kind.

For those of you not familiar with it, Seventh is a church full of characters. There are a thousand opinions on any subject, lively debate, serious engagement with scripture, and constant attention to one another's needs. It is this church (and my students) which I will miss most about Waco.

I have often thought that you can tell a lot about a church by the children within it. The children at Seventh are bold. They think and play with every setting at "11." The picture above is from Easter-- Jessica Best insisted that I wear her Easter hat, and you don't turn down a little girl in full Easter garb. It's that kind of place.

Yesterday was Youth Sunday, and the sermons by Talj Tatum and Lincoln Crowder were stunning-- clear, thoughtful, accessible, and compelling. We are not a clapping church, but we should have been that day. I'm thankful for them, I'm thankful for the ministers at that church, but more than anything I am thankful for the animating spirit of Seventh which comes through in the members, through all the changes time brings, and which lets a soul like mine thrive despite my flaws.

The folks at 7th have been family to me since the 1970s. The church once had an unofficial motto: "To believe greatly is to have doubted greatly." Going there was one of the best decisions I could have made as a young man. God bless 'em, all!
Seventh and James is probably the only Baptist church in Texas that a Northerner like myself doesn't have to be embarrassed to be a member of.
As one who has lived in a different place every 2 years...there is no place like 7th!
Once you have experienced 7th, nothing measures up.
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