Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Publicity for My Church: Jeff Street Baptist Community @ Liberty

Friend and kindred spirit Dan Trabue has been profiling the church where we are both members over at his blog, A Paynehollow Visit. He has blogged a series of short posts on some of the more curious aspects of Jeff Street Baptist Community @ Liberty (Louisville, KY), complete with photos. (Can anyone spot me in the middle of the balloons & confetti & dancing that concludes our Easter services? After a very solemn Lenten season with a cruciform Holy Week, we tend to REALLY celebrate resurrection on Easter Sunday.)

Those who would know more about us can check out our church blog, Life at Jeff Street. And if any of you are ever in Louisville, drop on by at 800 E. Liberty Street (corner of Liberty & Shelby). (Yes, I know. We are one of several Louisville churches that kept one place name after moving to a different street. I’ve never seen the like anywhere else in the U.S.) Yes, the big green building that looks like a machine shop is the right place. Our building is converted (on the inside) from an abandoned tool and die factory and the outside still looks more like that than a typical church building.

We are a fairly small congregation (usually 80 or so adults most years, never more than 100, plus LOTS of kids, natural, adopted–all loved) but we have 5 ministers on staff because only our pastor, Rev. Cindy Weber (currently on sabbatical leave until October), is full time. Our minister of music, Paul Whitely, Jr. (one of many very musically gifted members–of which I am not one) is volunteer. He is a seminary graduate but makes his living as a labor union organizer. Previously, he worked for Jobs with Justice. Together with his wife, Kate Sanders, an extraordinarily talented muscian and songwriter, they form the folk/roots rock duo, Down to Earth. I hope they will cut a CD in the near future.

Our Youth Minister, Roger Thomas, seminary trained and ordained, works for Jeff Street part-time but is also a social studies teacher at the public Middle School my oldest daughter, Molly (11), attends.

Our Minister to Children, Peggy Foskett, is also part-time, and works full-time as a Spanish teacher at the public elementary school where my youngest daughter, Miriam (7), attends. (Her older sister used to go there, too.)

Our Minister to the Homeless (a position my wife, Rev. Kate Westmoreland-White, once held), Diane Moten, has worked with children, as a social worker, and as a GLBT advocate for the Louisville Fairness Campaign and Kentucky Fairness Coalition, –organizations working to extend and defend the civil rights of sexual minorities in this city and state.

Our membership consists of many working poor people, some homeless folk (they tend to come through the church more than stay), along with an assortment of public school teachers, social workers, community organizers, artists, musicians, post-secondary educators at various nearby universities, non-pastoral clergy (mostly chaplains in local hospitals, hospices, mental institutions, etc.), one medical student, two lawyers, a pharmacist, and a couple who run a socially-responsible investment firm! Our educational levels run from the “never finished high school” level to the Ph.D., but, until recently, we were short on the “middle range” of folks with just one college/university degree. I used to say that educational divisions were the ones we had the most difficulty bridging in our very diverse congregation (racially, linguistically, income level, denominational background, sexual orientation–all very diverse), but I am happy to report that in recent years we have had more success in crossing those barriers.

Because of the numbers of poor people, our attire on Sundays tends to be quite casual (shorts in the summer, T-shirts, etc.), but folk who come in coat & tie or fancy dresses are just as welcome.

For more info., be sure to check out Dan’s great posts.

September 8, 2006 Posted by | Baptists, church | 4 Comments

Fundamentalist and Other Baptists: Who’s Really Out of Touch with the Pew?

Baptist blogger and communications specialist Brian Kaylor has posted a fascinating article on Mainstream Baptists that shows that while the majority of Southern Baptist clergy consider themselves politically conservative, far more Southern Baptist laity consider themselves politically centrist or even liberal. SBC clergy have continued to claim that their politically rightwing views are representative of the average person in the pew. Although recent data show they do represent a significant plurality, politically centrist and progressive pastors may actually be more in touch with their congregations. Further, since centrist and progressive pastors are more respective of liberty of conscience and less likely to present their own political views as “the only true way” or somehow identical with the mind of God, congregations are also more likely to be comfortable in disagreeing with the pastor without rancor–gee, almost as if church folk are actually supposed to have loyalties beyond politics to unite them. Go figure.

September 8, 2006 Posted by | Baptists, blogs | 2 Comments