Yesterday, I had the privilege of baptizing three children. Two different families, neither of them with a connection to the congregation I am serving, aside from geographic. Both families, in my conversations with them, expressed their desire for their children to be baptized, as a way of belonging to something greater than themselves. I encouraged them to become part of the faith community, in ways that worked for them. We talked a bit about what ‘regular attendance’ meant these days, and that while every Sunday attendance would help them integrate into the congregation, that I had a little bit of understanding of the demands of working parents. I don’t know if they will follow through on their baptismal promises, I am leaving this congregation at the end of the year.
Picture the scene across the front of our sanctuary: two families, with two children each, two sets of godparents, two sponsors for the families, the chair of our board and me. Holy Chaos! The two babies are at the age where they are just starting to make strange, one kept his eyes on his mother the entire time I held him, the other started to cry as soon as I picked him up, so I baptized him in his father’s arms. The four year old boy hid behind his father’s legs when it was his turn. His mother tried to get him to come out and after a couple of attempts, I leaned over to her and said something like, “We can baptize him later, he is obviously not comfortable right now.” I turned to the congregation and said, “Brycen is not ready to be baptized right now and that’s okay. We don’t baptize by force, he will get baptized when he is ready.” I continued with the rest of the baptism liturgy and the service continued.
The family expressed relief after the service when I told them that he was not the first child that has refused to be baptized. It must be pretty scary to be up front in an unfamiliar place, expected to take part in something you don’t understand, in front of a pile of strangers. So after most people had left the sanctuary, I gathered the family and sponsors around the font and explained to Brycen exactly what would happen and invited him to touch the water. He sat down on the chancel steps and I baptized him there. When I marked him with the sign of the cross, he looked up, and with awe on his face and in his voice, said, “I got baptized!”
And that’s my window on God’s world.