Autonomy is both the great blessing and curse of Baptist churches. The various Baptist organizations, associations and conventions are not denominations in the pure sense. Ultimate power rests at the church level, not with the body. The organization cannot tell a church what to believe or how to practice.
Baptists generally are non-liturgical and do not observe the traditional church calendar. We’ve sort of thrown the baby out with the bathwater I think (but that’s another post for another time.) Growing up in Baptists churches, the liturgical year was unknown to me when I graduated from high school. We had no candles at advent, no Lenten or Maundy Thursday services, and Pentecost was a dirty word as it might lead people to Pentecostalism. During my time with Covenant Players I discovered a bit about the liturgical calendar as I served in various churches with people from various backgrounds. During college I learned much more as I sought my own faith expression (and this led me down some very strange roads, but again, a post for another time).
While I said that Baptist churches are generally non-liturgical, there are always exceptions. It’s part of that autonomy thing. Baptist churches vary widely from each other. The Baptist church where I now serve as Associate Pastor is perhaps a bit odd in that we have elements of liturgicalism (is that a word?) in our observance. We change the colors in the sanctuary to coincide with the seasons of the church year. Advent, with its candles and meanings is a rathe big deal here. This year we held a Lent service and last night was the first Maundy Thursday service I’ve ever experienced in a Baptist church. I dare say it wasn’t a traditional (or liturgical) Maundy Thursday service. In fine Baptist tradition we took it, tweaked it, and made it our own.
The service began the service with the blowing of the shofar. Pastor Darren presented the message in the form of a dramatic monologue, playing the part of one of the apostles. He taught about the passover meal, washing of feet, and Jesus institution of what we Baptists call the “Lord’s Supper” (AKA: Communion). We ended our service by taking communion.
It was a great service helping us, again, pause and focus on the awesome grace of God in the work of His Son, Jesus Christ.