Kathy Baker --
I have always gone to church. That’s just what you do on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights (and when I was young, Sunday evenings, too!), isn’t it? I grew up in a very conservative Southern Baptist church. While in college I began to question some of the more conservative things I had been taught as a youth. Things like why can’t a woman be a minister? And, why does a good person like Mr. Paul have to give up being a deacon just because he’s getting divorced? I was essentially beginning to question the “restrictions” that had been placed on my faith.
It has been at Woodbrook that my adult faith has been formed. Imagine – a Baptist church in the 1980’s that had female deacons and approved of female ministers! I had always felt that God loved me just as much as any man, and couldn’t understand why I was taught that simply because I am female I am unacceptable as a minister or deacon. You cannot imagine what it felt like to find a place where my conviction that women could serve in the ministry was affirmed! Woodbrook is where the meaning of Galatians 3:26-28 became real for me: “You are all heirs of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
What I enjoy and appreciate about Woodbrook is its openness as a church family to ask the tough questions, to agree to disagree, and to feel God’s hand in and through it all. Upon my ordination as a deacon, my parents presented me with a study Bible. As I have grown in my faith, the “study” part of my Bible has become more and more important. No longer am I willing to passively accept whatever religious teaching is offered to me. Now, I want to delve deeper, to cross-reference, to use the wisdom of scholars and friends and other teachers to examine all aspects of this word that God has given to us, and to ponder what God is trying to teach us.
To me, that is what defines Woodbrook: It is a community where the willingness to question, to work hard, and to struggle through God’s word is not just accepted as part of the spiritual journey, but celebrated as part of the journey. Woodbrook is a church family where differences of opinion are discussed, not merely dismissed. It is a place where faith grows deeper and surer because of our questions and our spiritual struggle and our differences.
For you see, I believe God is pleased with our struggle to get to know Him better. I believe God is there for us to encourage us as we strive to become the people He wants us to be. I believe God is traveling this spiritual journey with us, beside us, gently guiding us, bringing us ever closer to Him. We just have to be willing to listen, walk with Him, and be willing to do the hard work of the daily Christian life. And who can be daunted by a little “spiritual hard work,” when you are surrounded and supported by an affirming church family, with Christ as your companion and guide!