Butler County Times Gazette
Baptismal Parties Behaving Badly
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By Father Tim
May 20, 2013 11:29 a.m.



baptism2I love baptisms. Baptizing infants (and those who can speak for themselves) is one of my absolute favorite things about ordained ministry. Being the conduit for establishing that indissoluble bond between an individual and Jesus is a privilege.

Plus, when there are babies involved — which is the norm — I’m able to get my baby fix. I look at it as grandparent training: holding babies until they do those things that babies do and then handing them back to the parents. Some of my parishioners call me “The Baby Whisperer” and I admit I do have a pretty uncanny ability to quiet down a fussy infant. Also, my preaching puts them right to sleep.

We’re fortunate to do a lot of baptisms at St. John’s and there’s nothing better than welcoming a new parishioner into the “household of God.” But we also err on the side of grace and baptize babies of some families we don’t know. I always run a mandatory baptismal preparation class for parents (and ideally godparents) in the days or weeks leading up to the big day. I talk about the symbols of baptism and the liturgy and what it all means (fortunately I had the Episcopal Church’s baptism guru, the Rev. Dr. Ruth Myers, as my liturgics professor so I take this stuff seriously). I also give them a booklet with some more detailed information about baptism in general and at St. John’s in particular.

One of the major points I like to stress is that baptism isn’t a rite of passage but a rite of commitment. And there’s PicTest2.phpa major distinction between these two! If the baptism becomes merely something to “get through” before the day’s major event — brunch — then we have a problem. Reading through the baptismal questions demonstrates just how serious this stuff is, a point I’m always tempted to make by showing parents that wonderful carnage-filled baptism scene from The Godfather.

Yesterday on Pentecost — one of the four days of the church year deemed “especially appropriate” for baptism — we welcomed thousands of new Christians into the church (uh, not at St. John’s — five this weekend — but in parishes everywhere). And I’m always reminded that some people still struggle with taking it seriously (not regular parishioners mind you). I think the worst example of Baptismal Parties Behaving Badly was the parish I served in New York where a godparent answered her cell phone during the baptism and then proceeded to narrate the entire baptism for her friend.

So in this light, I have rewritten the baptismal questions from the Prayer Book. There are three renunciations followed by three affirmations. Maybe we’ll start reciting these at our baptism prep classes!



Then the Celebrant asks the following questions of the parents and godparents who speak on behalf of the infants and younger children.

Question: Do you renounce flash photography and all annoying actions that rebel against the liturgy?



Answer: I renounce them.

Question: Do you renounce blowing off coffee hour and other actions which corrupt and destroy the concept of community?



Answer: I renounce them.

Question: Do you renounce yapping during the communion anthem and all sinful desires that draw you from the love of the sacrament?



Answer: I renounce them.

Question: Do you turn to the hymnal and actually sing the hymns?



Answer: I do.

Question: Do you put your trust in God by shutting down your cell phone and not surfing the internet during the sermon?



Answer: I do.

Question: Do you promise not to use the Peace as your own personal family photo op?



Answer: I do.


Okay, so I’m having some fun with this. And in that spirit, feel free to share your own stories. As clergy we do ourselves and the church no favors by accepting such behavior and it’s our responsibility to nip it in the baptismal font.

 

 

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