The Eastern Echo sat down to chat with an Eastern Michigan University student, Abigail Snyder, who had previously mentioned she considers herself a “big C” Christian, “little b” Baptist. The Echo aimed to find out more about the Baptist perspective from a practicing, well-informed believer. Snyder attends Bible study weekly at the Eastern Student Center and attends church every Sunday.
Snyder was born and raised in Canton, Michigan. She moved to Hilliard, Ohio during early middle school for five years. According to Snyder, it was a drastic change that she wasn’t prepared for. She recalled living in a large, beautiful home and then having to move into a small townhouse and also having to share a bedroom with her sister. But the biggest change Snyder had to face was leaving her church in Canton.
“When we moved it was really hard because the church had become our family,” she said. “I knew all my Sunday school teachers and this pastor was the only one I had ever really listened to. I was used to Pastor Macintosh speaking every week and his style of doing it. Then we had to move and it was a big struggle to find a new church that we felt was actually giving us spiritual food not just entertainment. We wanted actual meat of the scripture and we found a new family there at North Point Church around Hilliard.”
The church was a good thirty minutes away from their new home, so Snyder could not attend every day as she used to.
Snyder explained that her old church, Berean Baptist church in Canton, Michigan, had a full property with its own building, whereas this new church did not. She said the Baptist members in her new church would “congregate” in the cafeteria of a local public school on Sundays. They only had a certain slot of time they were allowed to meet, set by the school. She recalled some of the school appointed janitors walking past while their sermon was being held. Sometimes they would stop and stay to listen to the sermon.
“It was always interesting. We were always trying to bring people in and build a community there,” she said.
But after living in Hilliard for five years her parents had the opportunity to move back home to Canton, Michigan. The Echo asked what else she recalled about being in a Baptist family and the conversation then flowed into a discussion of Snyder’s earliest memories, from before the move to Hilliard, Ohio during her middle school years.
Both her parents were Baptists and this is why Snyder was raised into the Baptist community.
“I was raised in a home where my mom and dad loved the Lord more than anything and each other, and they loved my sister and I. My earliest memories are of my parents being a strong spiritual presence in my life,” Snyder said.
She was at church just about every day of the week.
“For the longest time a big part of my life was going to church and as a child I honestly thought I kind of owned the church,” Snyder said. Her church was the Berean Baptist Church located in Livonia on 8 Mile Road. Snyder’s parents ran the Wednesday night program there. She gave a bit of detail about the program. “It was called Owana and it was for kids. You would learn verses and listen to little sermons. It was a lot of fun when I was really small. I met one of my closest friends there. They had Sparkies and TNT Girls who were going into middle school. That was when you really got deeper into the faith,” she said. After becoming a TNT girl, Snyder started middle school and also began to attend a regular Bible Study every Monday with her father. This was a huge stepping stone in her faith, she said.
“By then I had made my faith my own,” she said. “The way we understand the scriptures, is that, it is a personal relationship with the Lord, when you’re making your faith, when you see you cannot do this on your own. It’s a different process for every person. But you come to the faith yourself.” Snyder explained further that although she was raised into the faith and she got to experience Baptist life at a young age, she still made the conscious decision to become a Christian and a Baptist. She said she made this choice at the age of six, and even at that young age she remembers clearly being aware of her adult-framed decision.
“Honestly, I was really young, I was in this loving family and a really safe community with all this support, but I was terrified. I remember lying in bed at night, even after the most perfect day, I would stare at the ceiling and think the most morbid thoughts. What if the house burnt down? What if someone came in and shot my family? What would it be like to be an orphan? What if this, what if that?” she said. Snyder recalled these very distinct memories of anxiety over the possibilities of death and suffering.
She then explained how she came to be – as she and other Baptists call it – “saved.”
“One night I was freaking myself out so bad and I thought, ‘What if I died?’ I think it’s weird for a kid that just turned six years old to be thinking about their own mortality like that. But I knew the answer, I thought, ‘I’m going to Hell if I die tonight, if something happens and I stop breathing I’m going to Hell.’”
When I asked how she came to that conclusion, Snyder responded, “Well I always kind of knew because I was learning all these Bible verses and being taught the Bible scriptures and I feel that we [Baptists] are very theologically sound. ‘For all who have sinned have come from the glory of God’ and even at that point I knew I’m a sinner which means that I have this nature that is dead – it’s not sickly, it’s not broken – it’s dead. I am completely separated from God.” She continued that from that moment on (at only six years old) if she tried her best to be a perfect person, since she sinned already, she could not be with God.
Snyder explained that in the Baptist belief, humans are not born with standard lawful morals, like the laws in the U.S. or in any of the United Nations’ countries today. She said she was taught the Israelites were given the Law by Moses and that showed them right from wrong. Baptists have followed this Law. Teachings from the Bible’s scripture taught Snyder that she was a sinner. She admitted that back when she was six she was a liar and even today she continues to struggle with lying. She says sin separated her from her God and that is not what she wanted.
“I didn’t want to be separated from the only thing that could give me meaning,” she said. “Nothing in this world is ever going to satisfy me. Nothing in this world is going to make me feel safe. I decided that I didn’t want to be scared and the only thing that I knew was going to make me feel safe, that was going to be assuring and comforting, going to give me confidence, going to give me strength, that I didn’t have – because I certainly didn’t have it being that weak little six-year-old – was God,” Abigail said.
Back when she was only a child, at six years old, when Snyder realized she wanted to be saved, she got out of her bed and went down to her parents who were in the living room. She told them her decision to become a Christian and they were ecstatic. They sat her down to make sure this was her decision and then they prayed with her.
Snyder recalled her immediate experience after making her decision. “There was a major difference. It’s not even something that can be described, it’s like a sort of light. All that fear that had been weighing me down was gone. I’m not scared of these [earthly] things, I’m not scared of walking in the dark in a scary place. If someone physically attacks me, what can they do but kill me? After the physical body is gone, the rest is left with the Lord. The Lord is my one source of joy now,” she said.
She said still identifies as a sinner and the Baptists believe that once you accept Christ “you have a new nature.” She also said we all live in this world and are still humans, she’s still growing, but once “you decide to accept Christ” you will be accepted into Heaven. She lives with this belief every day and this is what gives her confidence, strength, and emotional support. She sees other people struggle in feeling lonely, unloved, and unsafe. But she no longer has those fears. This lack of fear due to her strong faith in Christ compels her to want to share her faith with others.
“It can be scary sometimes but I want other people to have that,” she said. This is why she agreed to sit down with me and have a conversation about her Baptist journey.
She said she still struggles because she is only human and sometimes she makes the wrong decisions. But even though she believes she will reach Heaven, she continues to go to Bible Study at Eastern Michigan University and to her church. The Bible Study meets for sessions twice a week, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, at the campus in the Student Center. She believes that she will always have the need to nurture and continue her work in her faith, even though she believes her after-life is stable. She said, “I used to not let myself go to sleep until I prayed and now I’m trying to rebuild that. When I do pray, I thank Him that I am still alive.”