Old Regular Baptists-Who We are. By Elwood Cornett, Moderator, Indian Bottom Association of Old Regular Baptists.
The thing about being an Old Regular Baptist is the unspeakable joy of everyday life! In a world where both spiritual and secular commentators are predicting doom and gloom, our conversation concerns the precious promises of the Lord Jesus Christ. To quote one of our members, "So many people complain and gripe about getting up and getting started every morning, but I can't wait to get up and get out to see what the Lord has in store for me each day."
We Old Regular Baptists are a peculiar people. We sing differently. Some say our worship has a sad and mournful sound. But I've never heard a more beautiful melody, and the sound of the worship causes my heart to feel complete.
Old Regular Baptists come from many walks of life. Some are highly educated--some are not. Some are well of financially--some are not. Some are old--some are young. We come together as equal children of God.
We do not say we are better than anyone else. We are totally unconcerned about the opinions of modern theologians. Each person has an individual relationship with God, and that spiritual relationship overshadows everything else.
We hold family and place in high regard. Children are taught by the light of Christian life much more than by written or oral words. Sincerity, humbleness, and reverence are marks of God's people.
Old Regular Baptists may travel far and wide, but they are anxious to return to the place where they grew up. They want to hear those special sounds and see familiar scenes. Those that move away return often and are likely to return for retirement.
It is my desire not to sound self-righteous, but I humbly proclaim that I have found home. It has been decades since I searched for a people to fellowship with. I have found just what I was looking for. These are my people. This is my home!
WorshipThe church to which I belong has designated the first Sunday in August as the annual communion or sacrament service.
On a typical Sunday morning we Old Regular Baptist worshipers are at church by 9:30 a.m. The churches, which are adorned in simplicity, are clean and neat. They are usually full well before church services begin.
Old Regular Baptists shake hands a lot. Most church members will shake hands with everyone else. Up one aisle and down the next we go to enjoy a precious handshake and a warm embrace as we experience the love of God flowing from breast to breast.
A custom that marks Old Regular Baptists is the once a month meetings. Some churches meet on the first weekend, some on the second, some on the third, and some on the fourth weekend of every month. This enables members from each church to visit other churches. If my home church meets only on the first weekend, then I can visit one of several nearby churches that meets on the second weekend, another on the third, and so on. A unique set of relationships has evolved. It is a special blessing to have members of other churches visit our church.
At about 9:30 most of the congregation is in place. A brother selects an appropriate song and starts singing. Others join in as the leader lines the words of the song. The songs on this website are some of those we would sing at an Old Regular Baptist meeting. Some members continue to shake hands and greet everyone as we sing. There is an atmosphere of orderliness, and yet individual freedom of expression is accepted and often encouraged. Humbleness is expected and reverence is demanded.
Several songs are sung in succession without a formal list or prepared order. Individuals select them by picking up a book and starting one as they feel moved. Silence endures only long enough for someone to find and start another song. At about 10 a.m. the moderator steps to the pulpit and welcomes everyone, often referring to those in need of prayer and emphasizing mankind's duty to honor God.
The moderator selects a brother that has been called to the ministry to "open" or "introduce" the church service. A good introduction or opening sets the atmosphere, provokes thought, and promotes spirituality. It is relatively short and not meant to be an articulated sermon.
After a few minutes the opening minister asks that a song be started. Everyone stands and sings, and again there is a lot of handshaking and spiritual embracing. After the song the minister leads in prayer. During prayer, many individuals will kneel on the floor. Whether individuals remain seated or get on their knees depend entirely on how they feel at the time.
The prayer is a powerful, extemporaneous pleas to the Lord. It may be rather loud and last several minutes. A good prayer is a genuine, sincere desire of the heart expressed aloud without shame or embarrassment.
After the prayer, perhaps three or four other brothers will each deliver an extemporaneous sermon. Each sermon has its own message and may or may not be related ot the other sermons. A good sermon may last twenty to thirty minutes. It is powerful, bound in love and well ordered. It is not read or taken from notes, but it is delivered by the minister as God moves upon him in demonstration of the Spirit and Its power. During a powerful and spiritual meeting, there will be shouting and tears of joy.
A few minutes before noon the church service comes to an end. When the last minister has finished with his sermon, he will extend an invitation for membership in the church my means of experience and baptism. ( A man or woman desiring to belong to the church will step forward and tell how conviction and repentance led to their being born again.) As the invitation is given, an appropriate song is lined and sung. The service is closed by prayer.
In August, 1973, I surrendered my being unto the will of God. At that time I made peace with the Almighty God by understanding my condemnation for a sinful life. In belief and with a repentant heart I pleaded for the Lord's mercy. In a moment, I felt, I experienced the Lord's spiritual rebirth. Memories of that unspeakable joy still bring glad tears to my eyes.
In early January, 1974, I joined the nearest Old Regular Baptist church. During the closing of a service, when the invitation was given, I stepped forward and related my experience of condemnation, repentance, and spiritual rebirth with Jesus Christ the Lord. After a move and second to receive me into the full fellowship after baptism, I was given a glorious welcome.
In the middle of winter in mid-January I was immersed in the Kentucky River near my home by two ministers that I had chosen. The two ministers and I were wearing white pants and white shirts. Immediately before the baptism one of the deacons of the church tied a large cloth napkin around my head. I do not have the words to explain the warmth, joy, and peace I experienced as the brothers baptized me in obedience to the heavenly Father's command and in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
As a minister I have baptized adult believers in rivers, lakes, creeks, and ponds. I have baptized when the water was warm and when I had to cut through the ice with an ax. Summer or winter, rain or snow, day or night, we stand ready to baptize true believers that have been born again and want to be a member of an Old Regular Baptist church.
On the first Sunday in August, 1974, I arrived at church with the intention of taking communion for the first time. I had read in the Bible that to partake of the sacrament unworthily brings damnation. I took this very seriously. I had been advised as had all of the church members to examine my own relationship with God. The other members relationship with God was not my concern but theirs. I approached the situation much in fear and humbleness. The regular church service was warm and spiritual that day. It was over by noon.
At the end of the service the moderator invited members of other Old Regular Baptist churches to participate with our church in the communion service. He also announced that the deacons would make preparations after the congregation stepped outside; and when a song started we were to re-enter the church. Considering the seriousness of the impending event, I found myself quite nervous. However, I was warmly reassured by older members. I prayed constantly.
After several minutes I heard singing from inside. We re-entered the church house to find that some seats had been moved apart and that a table now stood where the pulpit had been. It obviously had several items on it and was covered with a beautiful white tablecloth. Beneath the table was a large container of water, a stack of old-fashioned porcelain wash pans, and a box of white towels.
I took a seat against the wall opposite the entrance. The brothers of the church sat on one side. The sisters, most dressed in white, sat on the other.
When all were seated, the song stopped and the moderator, with help from another brother, removed the cloth that covered the table. I could see bottles of grape juice--fruit of the vine. I could see a small plate holding unleavened bread, which had been prepared by deacons wives from plain flour and water, baked and perforated or scored for the occasion.
At the request of the moderator, one of the ordained elders spoke of the meaning of the unleavened bread in terms of the Passover and the body of Christ. Taking the bread in his hands, he knelt down on the floor and diligently prayed the Lord's blessing on the bread and on us.
I still remember how the deacon made his way up the row in which I sat. Finally he came to me, shook my right hand, offered me a morsel of the bread to eat, and gave me a warm embrace. I ate the bread representing the body of Christ.
The moderator asked another one of the ordained elders to speak of the meaning of the fruit of the vine in terms of the Passover and the blood of Christ. Holding the fruit of the vine, he knelt and asked God to bless it and the brothers and sisters.
The deacon started serving the row on which I sat. He shook my hand and invited me to take one of the glasses. As I closed my eyes, I could almost see the blood flowing from the wounds of my Savior. I drank the contents of my glass--all of it. I still remember how I felt the Holy Spirit all around me.
The moderator read from John 13:1-17. Then he picked up a towel and tied it around his waist using strings attached at one end. He poured water into a wash pan and knelt at the feet of one of the brothers nearby and began to wash them.
The deacons soon delivered a towel and a pan of water to the end of each pew. A brother next to me humbly and reverently girded himself with the towel and placed the pan of water at my feet. I removed my shoes and socks as he knelt. He gave me a warm and holy embrace, and tenderly washed my feet, and dried them with the towel. Then it was my glorious privilege to kneel at his feet and wash and dry them in the name of Jesus.
All around me were brothers washing each other's feet and sisters washing each other's feet. Throughout the church there was singing, shouting, tears of joy and heavenly peace. I had never experienced anything so moving. I felt my acceptance with the Lord in a way that I still remember.
Written by Elder Elwood Cornett, Moderator of the Indian Bottom Association of Old Regular Baptists.
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