Saturday, 19 January 2013

Renewing Vows

No, Sarah and I haven't renewed our marriage vows, but we recently renewed our baptismal vows!
I'm getting confirmed in March.  It might be a surprise to some people in our parish that I am in fact not confirmed yet.  So, last week I called the rector at Billy Parish Church to ask for a copy of my old baptism certificate. 
It was strange, if I'm honest.  Mainly because I don't remember being baptized as an infant!  And also because I had tended not to think about those formative but distant years as part of my Christian autobiography until more recently.

But on the Billy Parish website, some photos brought memories flooding back from thirty years ago, things I'd never have remembered without seeing pictures.
My dad is a painter and decorator, and as a little boy I spent many a summer's evening with him in the church building, staring at the stained glass, the dark wood and the furnishings, as well as out exploring the graveyard, all while he painted little gold daubs on the walls and varnished pews.
And you know, I think those childhood experiences were more significant than I ever realized.  I didn't understand much doctrine, and a lot of choices were made for me.  But these days I'm finding that theological propositions and individual choice aren't in fact the bedrocks of my faith that they used to be.
Now, isn't it funny how the liturgical year coincides with life events, including small ones, and where the two intersect there can be really meaningful experiences.  Just after the baptism cert arrived in the post last week, kindly sent with a calendar of Billy Parish, it happened to be the first Sunday after Epiphany when we remember Jesus' baptism.
At Christ Church, Rev. Katie had the font at the front, and she invited us all to renew our baptismal vows, promising faith in Christ and renouncing evil.  We went forward and held out our empty hands, just like at Holy Communion, and received a drop of water from the font.  Katie said the words:
           'Know that you are God's beloved,
            and He calls you to make a difference in the world.'
There's one thing I noticed that I want to bear in mind for whatever way I serve the church in the future.  Katie said the same words to each of maybe fifty people.  And she looked at each person and smiled, and said the words with complete sincerity, like at that moment each individual person had her full attention.  Every little sheep mattered as part of the flock.
This service caught me by surprise.  It made the arrival of my baptism certificate very meaningful.  I saw how, before I was able to make my own mind up, before I was in a position to write theology essays on the economy of grace, and sacraments and what they mean, before I could even speak or eat solid food or be without nappy - God created that little seed of faith in me and set me on the journey I'm still on today. 

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