This morning, bleary eyed from 2 very late nights/early mornings, I will be in church.
I won’t be the minister, but I will be a godparent/ sponsor for someone I know in this village. This person, whom I have known (and acted with- at various times I have had an affair with her and been her mother...) wants to be baptised.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I bumped into her at the pub and asked her about it and I don’t have the language to describe what happened. If I was to use shorthand, I would say that she has become a Christian, but it was something better, richer than that. I found I had no words, I was bowled over by the joy and the insight…and lack of jargon…this person was still the same…. but different.
…and this tired, cynical old soul, begins to hope again; and by being asked to be a godparent/sponsor is being ‘blessed’ more than he deserves…
You wait ages for a Baptism then you get 2 (well 3: 2 today) in two weeks at the same church.
I wrote last week how I like these events: often people outside the church reaching out for something & trying to articulate what is precious about their children or about how they hope life could be. The way I play it now it is that it is my job to listen, explain and welcome.
Then there is the attempt to fuse church tradition; essential- I abhor gimmickry- & those who regularly come (We regulars have to take to heart the bit from the end of the story of the Prodigal Son said to the ungrateful older son-often us- ‘Son: everything I have is yours- now come and join the party’). And, if you are lucky, people respond in an unmediated way & you glimpse what Leonard Cohen sang: ‘There is a crack in everything- that’s how the light gets in’.
I have a baptism in a service I am leading today. It is someone who is outside church life. They have never been to anything I have led in the community but they have met me and people from the church through lots of other stuff we have done in the community.
This person who is in senior school is exploring life and feels this strong compulsion to be baptised. I have met with the person and their parents on a few occasions to explore why and try and discern if there is any pressure: someone telling them that they ‘should’ do this.
In my older days I would have been much stricter & closed- this cannot happen, God is not here, certain things have to take place before this. Then I learned more about Grace and openness.
It has been a lovely time: someone genuinely open- outside the Christian tradition & beginning to explore what life is about, yet very certain that this is what they want. The person has started to read the Bible and has lots of refreshing questions that are really challenging me. The whole family have started to think & ask questions as well.
So we have this happening this morning in the middle of a normal service, with one or 2 traditional hymns remembered, some rock music & a school hymn.
…..whenever this happens it makes what I do seem so precious and worthwhile.