Rudyard Kipling observed that “if history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
My own story is that born into a clergy family, my baptism came when I was barely three months old, in the parish church, as part of the Sunday morning worship. My father’s curate baptised me, and my sister and friends of my parents from their previous parish stood as godparents.
When I was thirteen we moved to a new parish. Willingly, but with a sense of inevitability rather than conviction, I was prepared for confirmation with half a dozen others. I genuinely thought that I was going to ‘conformation’ classes – a process of publically showing that I was freely conforming to the culture of my family.
The only thing that changed for me was communion. I was now no longer one who was ‘blessed’ at the rail. Now, I was given bread and wine. In a poem I wrote at the time, I called this a “wafer-thin stake and a ruby-red sip of something that constitutes Christ.”
Faith was not a reality for me though. The absence of conviction was an open sore and I became a miserable agnostic pretending to be a happy atheist.
After some years of living without any Christian faith, when I became involved with Christians again, it was in free churches. These were Christians who think of baptism as something done with lots of water as a mature affirmation of personal faith, and for whom confirmation has no relevance. Many of these friends urged me to be baptised, feeling that whatever had happened at age three months, it was not a baptism. It was a wrestling time, but I decided that my parents had acted in good faith on my behalf and that I didn’t want to ‘undo’ this in anyway by some kind of replacement baptism.
My journey moved on and came to pitch my tent right back where I started, by making the Church of England my ecclesial home. I also moved on from merely ‘accepting’ an identity as someone baptised as an infant, and am developing a deep sense of myself as a baptised person. Do I dare believe that all we say in in liturgy and hear in scripture about baptism is true of me, and has been since before I could conceive or even care that it was?!
I wonder what your story is.
Where are the waymarkers for faith and maturity in your journey? My guess each pilgrim’s itinerary is different.
As a parish, we are going to explore these issues in 2014. Small groups and special events will give us chance to learn each other’s stories and retell our own, and our preachers for Lent will help us focus on sacraments too. Resources to start this discussion can be found on the website (address below). We will also be considering our response to Canon Law, which says that children and adults who have been baptised can receive communion before being confirmed. A complicated issue that will touch our hearts and minds as well as our souls!
In the meantime though, do start sharing YOUR story – a New Year’s resolution you can give away!