Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Baptism Policy

I enjoy dipping into Good in Parts, the blog of Kathryn, an anglican curate learning on the job. There is an interesting post about whether Godparents should be Christians.

When I was in my first curacy I visited a family who had asked for baptism and I made the appropriate arrangements. They were not a church-going family but agreed to the baptism taking place in a main service. We (the vicar and I) usually went through the service on one occasion and discussed the responsibilities of bringing up a child as a Christian on another. We often suspected that we wouldn't see families such as this until their second-born arrived but we tended to be welcoming and interested in staying in touch.

We invited newly baptised children to our children's groups and playgroups and generally built quite good growth by not saying 'no' if possible. Like Kathryn we wanted to be inclusive and helpful.

Well this family came to church and had the baptism and shortly afterwards sent me a change of address card to say they'd moved down the road from Mapperley to Porchester. I sent a card.

A few weeks later I discovered I had been conned. They had never lived in the house I visited them in; it was a relative's house. They had moved in for the night, put their own wedding photos on the mantlepiece and, with the house owners hiding upstairs in the bedroom trying not to giggle, welcomed me in. Twice.

They wanted a baptism at St Jude's because that is where they were married. And if they'd come to church for a few weeks before hand we would have agreed.

No matter what hoops you give people to jump through - training evenings, preparation classes or attendance at three to ten services - they will usually jump. It taught me that some people are so desperate for the tradition of baptism in a particular place that they will even lie to get it. I think I lowered my expectations at that point. When visiting before baptisms I sometimes tell this tale and ask the question, if you get what you want, what will it mean?


Kathryn said...

That's an excellent, if sobering story Steve...I'd love to really understand the motivation of people like that family of yours. Why does it matter so much to have a baptism that you're prepared to lie, even if you don't have any real intention/expectation that the sacrament will make any difference to life from then on? I can't quite get my head round it,- though clearly its common enough!

St said...

I forgot to say that the only reason I found out was that they told their neighbours, who told their neighbours and so on down the street about ten houses to the PCC secretary. Funny really.

see-through faith said...