back to top

One Spirit, One Body, One Church by Donna Hopkins Britt

Labrador retrievers were bred to swim; they have webbing between their toes to prove it.  At a farm, we would walk our Labs through the woods and around to an open space were they could run.  When they crested the hill, the pond came into view and they would race down and jump in.  One of them would splash out till he was halfway immersed, then drop his head and drink the cool water with sloppy gusto.

Let that be an image for us as the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity concludes:  that we all splash with gusto into the inviting waters of the Holy Spirit.  In a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to the congregation at Corinth, he said, “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (I Corinthians 12:13, NIV).  Great things can happen when we get immersed in God’s Holy Spirit.

Last year, a survivor was pulled out of the rubble of Haiti’s earthquake after eleven days.  Normally the body can’t last that long without water.  Similarly, we can last for a while without a sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence, but when we drink in the Spirit like a partly immersed dog drinking water in a pond, we find surprising refreshment, renewal, and inspiration.

Baptists have a history with drinking spirits.  A bunch of us fought for prohibition.  One of the earliest pastors of Calvary Baptist spoke out strongly against drinking alcohol.  I hope he preached as strongly in favor of drinking of one Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God.  Historian Leon McBeth writes that, “Baptists accepted the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit and defined His work from a biblical perspective in such areas as inspiration, comfort, and illumination of Scripture” (The Baptist Heritage, Broadman Press, c. 1987, p 68).

True Baptists continue to trust the Holy Spirit to inspire, comfort, and illuminate our understanding of Scripture; and we trust the Spirit to guide other people’s understanding of scripture, even when it differs from our own.  We recognize that the Spirit is alive and active within every child of God.  Together, we make up the “body of Christ.”

The image of the body had been used by others for subjugation in the first century: certain people were in control and the rest were simply to respond to the direction of the head.  For Paul, the body of Christ was different.  In the body of Christ—a group who worships and serves God together—there is no hierarchy.  A committee chair is no more important than the person who has never been nominated to a committee.  A pastor is no more important than the person who was baptized last weekend.

Imagine how grotesque the body of Christ would look if we all were hands, or if we all were eyes, or ears, or noses.  Paul presents a humorous picture of what happens when a foot or ear secedes from its place of service to the whole body.  It’s less humorous when it actually happens in a church – as when someone is offended and secedes from a place of service out of spite.  Even lacking one person, the body is no longer whole and healthy.

Broadening this picture, each community of faith is a part of the larger body of Christ and has unique gifts to offer the Roanoke Valley and the world.  There is a congregation for each person who seeks to be immersed in God’s Holy Spirit.  Together, let us pray for unity through the one Spirit.  As each church drinks of the Spirit with gusto—conservative or progressive, urban or rural, large or small—we take part in spreading the good news of Christ to a society that needs to be able to trust churches and Christians once again.

Donna Hopkins Britt is pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in Downtown West:  608 Campbell Avenue, SW; web site,

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -Fox Radio CBS Sports Radio Advertisement

Related Articles