Up betimes (no light undertaking that, with 3 teens at home) .
Really strange to drive past St M's while the congregation were just leaving after the 8.00 Eucharist - and disturbingly hard not to feel guilty. But absolutely no doubt that I wanted to be where we were going, - to J's Baptism at a little church just over the border into Bristol diocese.
My first thought when we walked in was a silent cry of gratitude to God that I wasn't responsible for arranging worship in that building. It was charming in a traditional English village sort of way, but having a chantry chapel (complete with sleeping knight) the same size as, and parallel to, the chancel, and a double aisle to boot, the scope for congregation to hide away from sight was immense. Big chancel, though...a good space to seat people for a midweek Eucharist, perhaps.
I suspect that J's groupies more than doubled the size of the congregation, and we were made very welcome, despite the vicar having to hurtle off to one of his other churches fairly speedily after the service. Benefice of 3 at the moment - but pastoral reorganisation means he'll acquire 7 different ones instead this autumn. I so don't miss rural ministry! (Further fervent prayer that this won't be the direction in which I'm sent next - please)
It felt quite peculiar not to be the one doing the baptising - specially as, inevitably, they did it slightly differently there - no oil, no candle and an abbreviated prayer over the water, which would certainly have made things quicker and easier for an unchurched family, but meant that we missed out on the "edited highlights of salvation history" that the prayer brings together. The place where the whole congregation is invited to join in supporting the candidate was also cut - a bit of a shame, as J is well supplied with people who would have been happy to voice their committment to praying for her along the way. I tend to dwell on that rather when I'm baptising - reminding the congregation that there are no passengers on this journey, and that the support they are expressing by their presence extends beyond the celebrations of the day, since they represent the whole church of God, changed forever by this new arrival. A couple of times I had to stop myself from asking the questions, rather than giving the answers. A bit of role confusion here,then!
However, that's all by the way. What really matters is that my delightful god daughter was duly baptised into the Church of God, amid great rejoicings. She was most enthusiastic about the whole thing from beginning to end,- and I'm so proud of her and excited to have a stake in her journey!