Sundays with the Southern Baptists on Capitol Hill
By: Tim Rosenberger
February 20, 2015
Waking up at 9:30 in the morning after being out until 5 a.m. can only be described as a drag. Despite the misery of this limited sleep schedule, I have found it worthwhile to rise early to attend services at Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) with a number of other Georgetown undergraduates. At 9:50 each Sunday, a van comes and whisks us away from campus for a morning of prayer, praise, and teaching.
Attending a Southern Baptist church is somewhat of an unusual choice for me. Raised as a Lutheran, I am customarily uninterested in services that use guitars rather than more traditional instruments. I prefer a more structured liturgy and a little bit more ritual than I find at this church. Even more significantly, my personal experience is one that would suggest that I would be uninterested in a conservative evangelical faith community. I have had at times an icy relationship with the Lutheran church over my sexuality, and there is no question that Southern Baptists are even less affirming of openly gay parishioners. I am still perplexed by the fact that the altar contains a structure I can only describe as a dunk tank. I am also unaccustomed to the length of the sermons that are offered at Capitol Hill Baptist. In my estimation, a good public speaker can hold an audience’s attention for about half an hour. A sermon should probably clock in well under fifteen minutes. Sermons at CHBC regularly stretch over an hour of time and, while they raise many good points, I believe they would benefit from truncation.
Despite these hang-ups, I find it worthwhile to have accepted my friend’s invitation to attend services with her. The church is crowded and vibrant, and many Georgetown students attend the services. I feel very much a part of a community. I also like the way in which the people at CHBC discuss and come to their faith. There is a strong emphasis on scripture and a desire to follow God completely. As I realized during the service, my experiences and understanding of scripture lead me to different conclusions than those reached by some members of CHBC. I certainly believe that my actions are in line with scripture and with a desire to follow God. Although some people at the church have arrived at very different conclusions they nonetheless have been gracious and welcoming, knowing full well that my background and beliefs are slightly different, and have been open to even-handed dialogue. I know that I do not have all the answers, and I am open to learning from this lovely community. Meanwhile, I hope that my presence can be a ministry to them and help reshape prejudicial beliefs.