When someone says the word “practice,” my thoughts often rush back to when I was 12 years old and one of my duties was to practice the piano. This meant spending time alone behind the closed doors of our unheated living room, plunking out scales on Mom’s old upright piano between shivers. I hated piano practice, and skipped as often as I could get away with it.
But practice doesn’t have to include unpleasant activities done in cold and isolation. This Lent we will explore a different definition for the word. In her book, Practicing Our Faith, Dorothy C. Bass writes: “Practices are those shared activities that address fundamental needs of humanity and the rest of creation and that, woven together form a way of life.” Practicing our faith, then, is how we live out our beliefs. Bass continues:
“When we see some of our ordinary activities as Christian practices, we come to perceive how our daily lives are all tangled up with the things God is doing in the world. … One thing about practices is that they are very down-to-earth. When people engage in a practice they don’t just talk about it, though words often play an important part. People at practice do things. They make gestures and touch one another. They raise their voices in song and open their arms in welcome. They recruit the ordinary physical stuff of nature into the practice.”
Bass and her contributors go on to write about a dozen practices that for them are core to their Christian faith, concepts such as Hospitality, Keeping Sabbath and Forgiveness. They present these practices as unifying threads that run through the centuries of history, uniting us with our ancestors in faith.
We will explore connections such as these in Adult Learning during four Sundays in Lent in the series titled Reclaiming Christianity. Many of us at Seattle First Baptist have been sickened by words and actions delivered in the name of Christ over the centuries, and some today reject being called a Christian. But other people who walk with us on issues such as social justice and the power of love are reclaiming Christianity and redefining what it means to be a Christian. We will explore the words and work of Nadia Bolz-Weber, Rachel Held Evans and Marcus Borg, who have spoken at Seattle First Baptist in recent years. We also will study the work of theologian Emilie M. Townes and author Kathleen Norris, their collective passion for ancient words and traditions, and the practices that they see as core to being Christian. In so doing we will ask what their ideas might mean for us, both individually and collectively.
For many, Lent is a season of introspection and reflection, a time to ask ourselves how we can do life better. This year we are trying to observe Lent from a Baptist perspective. At times it can seem that our faith is defined more by what we do not believe in rather than what we do hold dear. But while we do not collectively subscribe to specific creeds or catechisms, we do ascribe to our Baptist Liberties, which illumine our path and are an inspired gift to other traditions. Each week in this blog and in worship we will examine a Baptist Liberty and what it means to Practice Our Faith in light of it. We seek to understand how to live out liberties such as Freedom and Responsibility, Soul Liberty and Priestly Liberty. Practicing these liberties can unite us in common efforts and help us more clearly see our place in the greater scope of Christianity, to understand how we are united by faith and practice to the saints who came before us, and to see our way forward more clearly.
Join us during Lent as we consider Practicing Our Faith, both individually and communally. To quote Bass once more: “Taking part in Christian practices can cultivate qualities we did not have before and open our eyes and hearts to the activity of God’s Spirit in the wider world. This may satisfy some of the yearning with which this book began, but it also introduces yearning of a deeper sort – a yearning for divine justice and peace for all.”