Monday, June 06, 2011

Out of darkness...

I hope that I'm always conscious of the privileges of ministry, - the way people suddenly open their hearts and tell their stories, hoping and expecting that I may be able to point out where God is amid the joy, pain or confusion.

Apart from saying Mass, it is simply the most amazing gift, to be allowed to spend time listening to people and helping them notice God at work...but sometimes it is more evident than others.

For me, one Baptism in this weekend of many positively shone with evidence of God's presence.
It started in a rather unpromising way. An infant baptism arranged, at least in part, to placate an anxious great-grandma.
Nothing unusual about that, nor in the discovery that not all those invited to be godparents were themselves baptised.
At this point, I give the parents a copy of the service to share with the would-be godparents, explain that there is nothing to stop them from being wonderful, supportive role models for the infant even without baptism - but that they cannot make promises on his account that they would not make for themselves, and send them off to discuss it.
Often, that is the end of the matter.
Sometimes, I meet up with a possible godparent and we discuss whether or not they might ever have considered baptism were it not for the current possibility...usually, they have the grace to admit that they would only be going through with it to support their friends, and we go our separate ways with our respective integrities intact.
Occasionally, they seem prepared to jump through hoops, and I find myself, bizarrely, trying to talk them out of making promises they really don't plan to keep.
Just sometimes, - there's another agenda running.

So it was when I met with one potential godfather a couple of weeks ago.
Accompanied by the baby's mum, he sat uncomfortably on the vicarage sofa, very young, very male, and very ill at ease.
My heart sank.
I was certain this was going to be one of those conversations that led nowhere - but I could not have been more wrong.
While far from chatty, he was very willing to tell me that he had made some bad choices, wanted to draw a line under those and make a new start, and hoped he would be able to show his godson that there were different possibilities.
How could I do anything but rejoice, and book a date for the baptism.

It happened last weekend.
He came along to church, with only his mum for support...I'm not sure if the alochol fumes that came too were a memory of Saturday night, or Dutch courage to spur him on his way - but he made his promises with clarity and, I believe, conviction.
At the end of the service, I sent him on the journey from the font to the Paschal candle, which still stands in its Eastertide position at the head of the nave....Not a long way, really, but one that seemed freighted with extra signficance as we watched him go. 
7 weeks ago that Paschal candle was carried up the aisle and the darkness of Holy Saturday receded with every pace.
As the young man walked back to us, carrying his baptismal candle with huge care, there were no words necessary.


Perpetua said...

Kathryn, that is a beautiful post and a lovely story of hope and new beginnings. I think you must be a wonderfully pastoral priest and your parishioners very lucky to have you. :-)

jo(e) said...

Aw, I love that.