Great excitement at the vicarage yesterday, as for once (probably the first time since I found myself doing such things at all) the first Baptism of the year took place before the first Funeral...I tend to do a fair number of both, but it always feels as if the funerals far out-number baptisms, whatever the statistics may say - largely, I'd guess, because there is generally a much deeper connection with those whom I meet in the context of bereavement, when there is little room or energy for pretence. I love officiating at all the "occasional offices" but too often the happier the event, the weaker the bond forged with the family. I believe with all my heart in having a totally open and unconditional baptism policy - how could I do otherwise? it's God's church, not mine! - and I recognise that this can mean that families come through our doors for Baptism when it's most unlikely they will forge lasting bonds with the church.
Yesterday, though, was a splendid exception. Baby William's baptism at lunchtime was a delight as his whole family were really focussed on what was happening...They responded when invited to, listened (and commented on) the address, and were pretty much a dream congregation, really. They even said, as they left "See you soon..." and I dared to believe that I might.
What I didn't expect was that, after all the excitements of a baptism and a family celebration afterwards, they would make the effort to return to church that evening to join us for our Epiphany Carol Service....but there they were, baby, parents and a clutch of other family members, holding their candles and singing with enthusiasm. They even stayed for mince pies afterwards, - but they can't have known what a difference their presence made to the way the New Year started. So very grateful!