Although I could officially have been baptising cheerfully for a long time now, for various reasons I’d not actually done a whole baptism since I was ordained Deacon last year.The vicar and I therefore agreed that the first babe to come along once the post-priesting dust had settled would be my responsibility, and as it happened, things worked perfectly, with a family whose older children I know very well wanting their twins baptised at the earliest opportunity in July.
Since there were twins, M and I agreed to do one each, so that I could have him on stand-by in case of panic, without anyone feeling that he was checking up on me. Just in case I’d forgotten how to pour water over a baby’s head, we also agreed that he’d do the older twin first…Well and good.
Until we came to Sunday, that is, which was an extremely hot and sticky day in leafy Cheltenham.Having dripped our way through the Parish Eucharist, we downed gallons of orange juice with the post Communion coffee set, then returned to church to await the baptism party. It wasn’t long before we heard them coming, - the sound of crying baby intensifying as they approached the church. By the time we were all gathered round the font, the noise was deafening…The infant was passed from mum to dad and from dad to grandma. Assorted friends and relatives attempted assorted baby calming devices…all to no avail. Throughout the drama, his sibling gazed on quizzically, clearly preparing a few choice comments should peace prevail for long enough to allow him to voice them.Eventually, we realised that there was no point in delaying the start of the Baptism till he was quiet: not if we believed in infant baptism at all, that is,- so we ploughed on. Since the boys are identical and were dressed in matching white romper suits, we remained in blissful ignorance as to which twin was irate and which smug. But you’ll have guessed, won’t you?
That’s it. Number 1 twin was a model of decorum and probity…he may even have gurgled gently as M poured water over him in the three-fold Name, but of course his brother was making too much noise for anyone to know! Then it was my turn. I took the small person, by now quite rigid with fury and almost purple in the face, from his apologetic mother. I tried a few auto-pilot mother things like swaying from the hips and blowing gently…I practised all my best distraction therapies…but not a hope.
He was intent on his rage so in the end I just had to go for it. “WILLIAM DAVID!” I bellowed “I BAPTISE YOU IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER AND OF THE SON AND OF THE HOLY SPIRIT”
At this point, his brother clearly realised he’d been missing out on the action and joined in at full volume…and the whole congregation erupted into helpless laughter. There was nothing else to do. As I said to a sympathetic great granny afterwards
“Well, at least I knew that nothing I could do could possibly make things worse”
Do hope they’re not all like that, though!