Sunday, November 08, 2009
The congregation mostly walks to church – and today is grey with rain. It began raining yesterday afternoon and has not stopped. And so the people dodge puddles as they arrive, wet and shaking umbrellas.
Today is a baptism service and the church soon fills up with family members, supporters and congregation. The band members trickle in and begin to tune their guitars - waiting for the keyboard player. I too am waiting for him, because I want this service to go well. Not only does he play the keyboard, but he owns the laptop which is connected to the projector for the words to the songs. But he does not appear so I allow the band to lead some community singing: which is really the old favourites that (hopefully) can be sung from memory.
I am in the vestry praying with the stewards when we get a message that one of the members of the congregation has had an epileptic fit. He is known to everyone – and so I lead the congregation in a prayer for him while various church members get him out of his seat and carry him to a side room where he recovers.
I read from John Chapter 4: the story of a Samaritan woman who engages a Jewish rabbi in conversation about religious division. (OK, OK, I know that there is much more in this passage – but I spoke about the way we use religion to perpetuate our religious divisions). I invited the people to discover God’s blessing that transcends the human barriers we erect. And I invited them to see the baptism of infants as a moment of God’s unconditional welcome.
Then I invited the parents to bring their children: there were four of them: dressed in their “Sunday best.” And amongst them was a little boy whose mother is lost in a haze of “tik” – but whose granny brought him so that we could pray for him and, in her words, “so that the church could know who he is.” And I baptised him, and prayed for him, and introduced him to the congregation.
As I watched the tears run down the cheeks of his granny, I knew we had done the right thing.