We've recently begun an overhaul of Baptism preparation here. Nothing too radical, as we're not even considering an obstacle course for prospective families,- more a gentle tweaking to ensure that we, the church community, are doing everything we can to make Baptism as signficant as it ought to be. As part of the process last week we began a short course for our Baptism visitors, which gave plenty of food for thought. Clearly, it is not going to be easy to help families prepare for baptism if the majority of our visitors have almost no idea what they think that sacrament is achieving...
Methinks I spy a sermon series looming on the horizon.
Meanwhile, the reading/thinking for next week included an article by Clare Rayner (a humanist) on "non godparents", which included the depressing paragraph
"Who should be your child's extra parent. This is where the church's model is (or should be) left far behind. In the majority of cases, being invited to stand as godparent at a baby's christening is regarded as a sort of lollipop for a family friend...or a form of investment....more of an honour for the godparent than of real value to the child"
Leaving aside the many assumptions Rayner makes, this was a good jumping off point for general discussion on the role of godparents, those we've chosen for our own children and why...but the best bit of homework goes like this
"If you could have chosen your own godparent, contemporary or historical, who would you have chosen and why? Jesus is not allowed!"
Actually, my own parents chose some wonderful godparents for me, all of whom have shown endless loving, prayerful interest through the years, carrying an unexpected burden when my parents died when I was 18. I wouldn't want to displace any of them, but if I were allowed another, then who??
Maybe J, my inspirational former spiritual director...because she is so creatively aware of God in everything, and the joy of that knowledge keeps breaking through and transforming the most mundane situations? also, she does have the world's best tree house in her garden, which must be a consideration...and loves my children too.
Or maybe I could claim beloved George Herbert? I suspect he might have found a small child difficult to deal with, even one who shared his love of words, but his little rectory at Bemerton was surely full of books, and I might have joined him on his walk into Salisbury every week to make music with his friends there. I know I would have been certain of his prayers, and might have benefitted from his clear vision of God's loving relationship with us...He would have been a calming presence in my harum scarum life....and just think, if I'd been the first to hear one of his poems!
If I'd had C. S. Lewis, I might have found myself visiting Narnia with Lucy...now that was quite a legacy from a godfather...but I'm not sure he really liked many women, so it might have been uncomfortable sometimes.
Perhaps it's fortunate the choice doesn't lie with us.
That said, my own children are thoroughly blessed in their godparents . While I would hate to leave them yet, I do feel confident that they each have good, strong relationships with adults who love them generously and would do everything possible to help them find their way through life. I'm all too aware of my own shortcomings as a godmother; saying "yes" to too many friends makes it so much harder to really know all my godchildren, but they do each have one day of the week when I make sure I pray for them. Now I need to think of some other realistic ways of making our bond real for us both, despite the constraints of geography and time.