Though we are far from overwhelmed with young families in our congregation, this is no reflection of the local area, which has more children out and about than anywhere I’ve ever been….Inevitably, the parents of some of them come to us requesting Baptism, and though both M and I agree on the need for an open policy, we nonetheless want to do all we can to help families realise the potential of this Sacrament to completely change everything…
I guess that, even before M arrived, ours has always been a pretty “co-operative” parish, and a few months ago I would have thought that was a Good Thing.
This, however, was before I attended a recent private Baptism. The odds were stacked against it before we started, as the parents, who had been married here, no longer lived in the parish at all, and the grandparents (who do) are not regular worshippers. Moreover, they had asked if the clerical friend who had married the couple (during our interregnum) could conduct the Baptism too. So, we have a family with no connection with our worshipping congregation, arriving from all points of the compass, to meet with a priest who is also unconnected with the local church…Between them, they have to claim the space and create a worshipful context from a standing start. The visiting priest is jovial, and succeeds in creating a party atmosphere…in which the promises seem oddly out of place. Godparents absently crunch on the carrot sticks they have brought to pacify their toddler…One or two guys wander outside for a fag,- clearly this church bit is hindering the family festivities more than they had imagined. The crunch comes for me when they reach the reading…a chapter from…wait for it “Alice in Wonderland”…
No Gospel. No suggestion that what is happening today actually MATTERS in any lasting way at all. Nothing.
The wrapt and reverent attention is reserved for the rite of photography which concludes the proceedings, then, without a backward glance they are gone, off to continue their party in more congenial surroundings.
I’m left apologising to God for what feels to me like an abuse of His hospitality….but perhaps I’m just being starchy or defensive?
Anyway, all this fuelled a growing sense that we ought to do SOMETHING to help parents engage meaningfully with the Sacrament….so I’ve been on the lookout for helpful resources, round which to build a social/discussion evening which we’re planning in October. There seems rather a dearth of helpful videos, but Tony responded to my plea for help with the following….
I've thought about your request, and guess I would say you need to start
with the question:
WHY do you want baptism preparation?
If there is time, and space on your examination paper, you may like to tackle
some of the subsidiaries:
What is the desired outcome?
If you were a parent wanting your child baptised what would you want from
preparation, and what would you feel about what was being offered or
How would it make you think/feel about God and what God is towards us?
Who is baptism preparation FOR? (If the answer is, the conscience of the
clergy, does that affect our other answers?)
Assuming that I’ve answered question 1 (why I want some sort of Baptism preparation) I guess we need to move on to consider the whole thing from the parents’ viewpoint. Any thoughts, anyone?
I accept that the clerical conscience is a very real player in this one, but I would still defend the need to help Baptismal families to seriously engage with the promises they are making, and to facilitate, as far as we ever can, a real encounter with God through the Baptism of their child. It DOES matter, doesn’t it?