We’ve been studying the Hebrew Scriptures in the kick-off series of Forum@First on Sunday mornings. A part of our exploration has included the identification of four sources/voices/perspectives that contributed to this body of Hebrew literature. Scholars—and we—have called them J (Jahwist), E (Elohist), D (Deuteronomist), and P (Priestly). We’ve learned that each of these contributors experienced God, faith and culture in different ways. While an oversimplification, J focuses on the importance of relationship, E—power, D—morality, and P—ritual. We’ve further discovered that each of us tend to predominantly experience faith and life from one of these perspectives. I’m a J person and a P person. I tend to shape life and theology around relationship and ritual. When people ask me what I’ll miss most about First Baptist Greenville, I always talk about friendships and traditions. I rarely mention how moral you are (although I consider you to be a wonderful congregation of semi-saintly parishioners) or how successful we have been (although God has certainly blessed our prayers and efforts). For me, it always boils down to friendship and tradition.

The friendships need no explanation. It is evident in the hugs, handshakes, heart pats, and conversations we share. I do, however, want you to know how precious the rituals have been for me. It has been an honor and a delight to walk your newborn children around the sanctuary and speak a word of blessing over their life. It has been a sacred task to baptize new converts and serve communion to all who need a taste of the holy. The holy seasons of Lent, Easter, Advent and Christmas are always high points in our celebration of faith. I will also never forget the fruit collection for United Ministries as a celebration of my birthday. By the way, my birthday is next week…hint, hint. The fruit collection boxes are at the church entryways. There are still hungry people in our community. Please do me the honor of one last fruitful celebration. It’s a ritual that feeds my soul, feeds our need to be of service, and feeds those who truly need a helping hand.

—Jim

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