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Urban church embraces creativity, holds outdoor baptism

[SLIDESHOW=42570,42571]NASHVILLE (BP) — When Mosaic Nashville church baptized 40-year-old Paul Ramsey, he found it fitting that he should slip and hit his head on the rim of the aluminum horse trough that was his baptismal pool.

“I’ve made a lot of bad choices in my life,” he told Baptist Press, “and it’s just taken me a lot of knocks and a lot of bumps on my head to get on the right path.”

Ramsey was baptized under a ray of sunlight on the grounds of the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee building in downtown Nashville, where Mosaic church has worshipped for eight years, usually in the 2nd floor auditorium.

A recovering alcoholic, Ramsey has been sober for nine years and said he stopped smoking cigarettes around the time of his baptism. He and his 40-year-old wife Amy Ramsey, who received her first Bible at age 38, were among three new believers Mosaic pastor Gary Morgan baptized in mid-April at the urban church.

Morgan has baptized 10 people in the past 18 months, he said, and the congregation has shared a watering trough with a couple of other church plants. The April 17th service was his first outdoor baptism since he helped found the church.

“We normally do it inside [of the SBC building] by the information booth,” Morgan said. “And I was just coming in and I said I’d like to do [baptism] outside sometime, which I’ve said a bunch of times. And my daughter [Story] who’s 13 said, ‘Why don’t we do it today Dad? It’s gorgeous outside.'”

The horse trough was moved outside, and passersby stopped to watch.

“It was a great, great morning,” Morgan said. “And it was a lot of fun.”

Morgan, husband to Johni and father to Story and 17-year-old McKenna, holds a masters in religious education from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and describes himself as an “ongoing learner of culture and theology.”

Mosaic church seeks ways to creatively minister to Nashville. Morgan incorporates the city’s art and music scene into worship services, at times including art displays, painting stations in the auditorium, music, dance, photography displayed on screens, and poetry and prose composition and recitation.

“Let’s say if we’re doing an eight-week series from the book of Galatians, we’ll sometimes get a variety of artists and painters together, clear out furniture … and let people paint, and provide canvasses. We’ll do art in that way,” he told BP. “When you come in, there’s art all over. …We’ll have painters that paint during our service … about once every two months.”

He periodically utilizes what he calls “experiential stations” in Sunday service, he said, allotting time for worshippers to move among writing, prayer stations and art stations. This gives worshippers the opportunity to express their responses to Scripture and sermons, and pray over congregational and individual concerns. Morgan displays the artwork, even unfinished work, and might use the written thoughts in his sermons.

The church works to include members who are hesitant to participate in creative worship.

“What do we provide for those that won’t dive into that? We do readings that we’ll pass out,” he said. “Maybe they’re not engaging in touching or creating something, but they are taking something in. … If someone wants to kick back and not engage, that’s OK as well.

“We just say God is shaping us in different ways,” he noted. “It is fun, and people are shaped by that.”

With a focus on creativity, Morgan includes a variety of people in leading worship, utilizing perhaps 25 to 40 musicians a month, not a specific praise and worship team.

“We wanted to be a community that didn’t flow out of another culture,” he said. “I think the creativity in our gatherings has just flowed out of who people are, and they’re able to express themselves, which for us, we believe helps them understand that the truths of God are reproducible.

“Because their art, their creativity is reproducible, and so are the things of God,” Morgan said. “It’s not just based on one talking head, or one musician, or the greatest artist, or the greatest painter.”

The church sponsors small groups to minister during the week, and embraces community outreach for missions. Many who attend the church are drawn through relationships fostered through community outreach and friendships, Morgan said.

For Ramsey, Mosaic church has been a community of faith and strength that has helped him grow from a tumultuous past.

“When everything started falling apart for me, I remembered that church,” he said, recalling when he became a frequent Mosaic attendee nine years ago. At that time, Morgan asked Ramsey whether he had ever considered he might not be able to live a Christian life without the advantages community provides.

“I had actually never thought that,” Ramsey said. “It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do it by myself. After that conversation I got checked into a treatment facility and spent a little time getting sobered up. I got out of treatment and ‘been hanging out with Gary and the folks at Mosaic ever since.

“And it’s taken me nine years of hanging out with them to finally accept Christ as who He said He was,” said Ramsey, who sometimes plays guitar during Mosaic worship services. “I can be hard-headed and a slow learner sometimes.”