Okay, in most Baptist congregations, you have to go down front during the service and talk to the minister. If there are many respondents, you have to keep singing the last verse of the closing hymn over and over. It’s how come I know “Just as I am” by heart…
In the old Baptist church of my youth, after satisfying himself that you have indeed had a conversion experience of some sort, the minister would introduce you to the congregation and say something to the effect of, “All those in favor of accepting _____ by virtue of her statement of faith, please let it be known by the uplifted hand.” After this, he would say, “All those opposed? And of course, there are none.” Then he’d turn and shake your hand and tell you how glad we all were and ask you to stay at the front of the church so the congregation could welcome you.
You have to be awfully sure your slip isn’t showing or your fly partially open to join the Baptist church, I’ll tell you. There are people that postpone their joining for weeks based on the fact that they’re waiting for one more paycheck so they can buy a nicer suit…
The presbyterians (the frozen chosen, as we like to call ourselves) require that you meet the Elders in Session before church. After asking you if you believe the entire INSTITUTES OF CHRISTIAN RELIGION, the Bible, and most of what Barth wrote, you lie and say, “Sure,” although you’ve never heard of Barth and are awfully confused until you figure out that the H isn’t pronounced and the question had nothing to do with the Simpsons television show. The Session accepts new members, then recommends them to the congregation. No one votes, per se, but we agree to support them in their Christian walk by saying “I will” at the correct place. They want you to meet people after church, too, but most people leave so they can beat the Baptists to the Applebee’s.
At the PDI church (they have since changed their name, so now I call it The Church Formerly Known As) I attended briefly, you have to attend a doctine seminar of several week’s duration, during which you find out that we’re all predestined to hell or heaven and there isn’t much you can do about it (they’re hyper Calvinist). After this, you’re presented in a group to the church, and you have to give a reason for being so happy about joining and everything, and how much the Cell Group you’re in means to you. They changed the term, Cell Group, after September 11th, to “care group,” for obvious reasons. Most of the women who speak cry during it, and all the men get embarrassed and try not to look it.
At the Episopal church I attended briefly because my new wife visited my PDI church one time and said she wasn’t going to any “shake your patootie” church, what you do is go to introduction to the Episcopal faith classes during Sunday school hour, where you find out that you really don’t mean any of it, but we say the Creed, etc., because that is what Episcopalians do. Then you end up in the rector’s office after you ask, somewhat incredulously, “Where do you stop, then? Can I not believe in giving money?” Then you start attending a Presbyterian church.
Happy Easter, one and all.