Posts Tagged ‘ The Body ’

The Body: The Church For Anybody, Part II – Visited on 12/19

Welcome, and a merry Christmas to all Churchspotting’s readers today.  This update is the second part of our coverage of The Body: The Church for Anybody.  The first part, uploaded on December 18, is found here: http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-5N.  Now, without further ado, Churchspotting’s interview with Tim Fowler, senior pastor at The Body.

Tim Fowler, as described The Body Part I, is a strikingly tall fellow.  An older man, his shaved bald head makes it difficult to assess his precise age.  By his own account Mr. Fowler is a native of South Carolina.  He was born and raised Spartanburg, SC, where he met his wife of thirty-two years.  His entrance to the professional world began with a nine year term of service in the US Navy, where his father served before him.

After working as an electronic warfare technician he entered a stint as a Navy recruiter in Asheville, NC, where he and his wife first started to attend church regularly.  By his own admission Mr. Fowler spent much of his early life struggling with drugs and alcohol but in the early 1990s, with help and support from his teenage daughter, he overcame those dependencies and felt a calling towards ministry.

Beginning with youth ministries, he rose to an associate pastorship before taking his first role as full pastor at Stone Station Baptist Church in Spartanburg, SC, 1997.  After some time at Stone Station, and a later transfer to Emmanuel Baptist Church in Rock Hill, SC, Tim left the Southern Baptist denomination to found The Body.  As he describes it, Tim “struggles with the traditionalism of the Southern Baptist Church,” and wanted to create a church that could appeal to people outside that particular cultural milieu.

His goal for The Body is to create a place where people who have left Christian practice, and those who are new to that faith entirely, can return to an open, casual community.  There is no dress code at the Body, and as observed in our first article on the church much of its membership is composed of young families.  Many of them are in similar circumstances to Mr. Fowler’s family when he first began attending church regularly: couples with young children on recently settled into the roosts of their more mature years.

Mr. Fowler asserts that The Body is a nondenominational gathering.  Though it remains a member of the Southern Baptist State and National Convention, the church has parted company with that group’s more established traditions.  Tim explained that The Body retains its convention membership in order to support the Southern Baptists’ international outreach programs, which he believes serve a useful purpose in the world.

Besides Mr. Fowler The Body comprises two associate pastors, a worship leader, a youth minister, a handful of elders, and a regular congregation of around 150 members.  Included in that figure is the church’s regular attendance by between two and six deaf worshippers, whose needs are facilitated by a sign language interpreter at each service.

In terms of charitable works The Body provides aid to its needy members first, offering coupons for food at local stores as opposed to an open pantry or doling out donated foodstuffs.  The church also supports a locally owned consignment store down the street and maintains a ministry to the deaf that provides deaf-enabled weddings and funerals, among other services.

Pastor Fowler did remark on a comment in the previous article on The Body.  That piece used the term ‘complaining’ to describe segments of the sermon observed that morning, which was largely concerned with discussing the theory of evolution and the de-Christianization of the Christmas season.  The use of the word ‘complaining’ for that discussion seemed to cause him some distress.  He explained that the substance of his sermons is often a response to questions he receives from his congregation; young couples come to him asking for advice on how to respond when their children come home from school talking about biological evolution and other concepts taught to them in class.  “I’m not antisocial,” he said; he explained that he was responding to concerns from his community, many of whom are relatively new to Christian belief and unsure of how their faith relates to and counterbalances with such issues.

Finally, on the relationship between Church and State, Pastor Fowler believes that “there should be a concerted effort between church and state to take care of people.”  He believes the government should not tell churches what to do and that churches, composed as they are of citizens, should do what they can to help the government “do what it does.”  Fowler tries to keep his ministry studiously apolitical, though he’s the first to admit that he was raised to be very patriotic and maintains those sentiments.

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The Body: The Church for Anybody, Part I – Visited on 12/18

Rock Hill, SC is a rising city.  In the last ten years it has bloomed, secreting ring upon concentric ring of commercial buildings and housing developments, metastasizing into the primary city of York County.  In its fairly rural surroundings Rock Hill’s university, airport and civic buildings make it one of the leading exurbs of the great concrete beast that is Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Body lies on the periphery of this growth, at the threshold between York County’s rural highways and Rock Hill’s newfound urban sprawl.  A repurposed structure, from the outside it looks like any of the many commercial spaces that share its road, a low, brown building that could be the office of a local credit union.  No steeple announces its religious affiliation, but a painted sign by the road displays its name and goal: “The Body: The Church for Anybody.”

The Body is a contemporary, nondenominational Christian group, similar to some other congregations visited by Churchspotting: The Journey at Crowder’s Creek Middle School (http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-40), The Bridge at Clover High School (http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-x), or relevant Church (sic) at Oakridge Middle School (http://wp.me/p1JM4Z-r).  Like those groups, The Body takes an informal approach to Christian worship.  Its music is performed on contemporary instruments by a live band.  Dress is casual and semi-casual—adherents arrive in whatever they prefer, tending towards their nicer street clothes.  The congregation of the Body is a mixed group, with many families and children, young adults, and a strong cohort of aging Baby Boomers.

The sanctuary of The Body might once have been a warren of cubicles and copy machines.  Those barriers are now removed, creating a wide open rectangular space lit by the cold glow of institutional halogen lights.  One corner holds The Body’s modest stage, the facility for the church’s in house band.  A full drum set, keyboard and stools for guitarists cluster behind a palisade of mic stands, flanked by speakers and a pair of flatscreen televisions hung from the walls.  The TVs display song lyrics and sermon-appropriate visuals to support The Body’s worship services.

The morning of the 18th was a special one at the Body.  In lieu of its normal pattern of worship, the church held its Christmas family dinner.  The sanctuary was set with dozens of tables draped in white cloth, around which the congregation sat to listen to the sermon before the community meal.  Interspersed among the full-sized tables were smaller ones for the congregation’s children, who joined the main service that morning rather than attend a smaller Children’s Church gathering.  A far corner of the sanctuary was taken up with trestles and platters, all stocked with food prepared by the congregation.

The service began with a medley of Christmas songs performed by the band.  Once they’d finished, The Body’s senior pastor took the mic.  Pastor Tim Fowler is an older man, his exact age obfuscated by a bald-shaven head.  He is a strikingly tall figure, and attended the morning’s worship in a purple monogrammed shirt with his name and The Body’s insignia stitched in yellow thread upon its breast.  He paces while speaking, treading up and down before the band’s rampart of mic stands, grinning and interspersing his sermon with jokes that draw a smattering of chuckles from the audience.  Like his dress and the layout of his church, Fowler’s delivery is both personal and informal.

The substance of Mr. Fowler’s sermon that morning was cultural critique.  He decried efforts he sees in our culture to remove the Christian elements from the holiday of Christmas.  He linked such trends, in a broader sense, to an effort in our culture to turn away from religion.  He spent a great deal of time complaining of the “negativity and the doubt and the naysayers,” whom he feels try to denigrate his beliefs.

Key to his sermon was the idea that there is precisely one way to find salvation, that being Jesus Christ.  His complaints seemed much reserved for those who resist that idea, especially those whom he believes attempt to use science to negate it.  “We’ve come to a point in history,” he said, “where not only science is trying to tell us there is no God,” but where society is attempting to take the Christ out of Christmas.

After his sermon, the band retook its position behind their mics to play while deacons passed around offering plates for that morning’s tithe.  Following the morning’s devotions, the congregation of The Body sat down to its meal of thanksgiving.

Later this week Churchspotting will sit down with Pastor Fowler to learn more about his beliefs and the history of his church.  Don’t miss Part II of “The Body: The Church for Anybody.”