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Hallo again to all.

This morning's Eucharist included a baptism. We attend church in a place where the economy is heavily dependent on seasonal tourism. The high season means many weddings and baptisms as families reunite for their holidays. Yesterday there were two weddings at the church, and today there was a baptism.

There are different philosophies amongst the parishes in our region about the importance of being affiliated somehow—either directly or via a family member—to a local parish in order to have a life-event in the church. Welcoming the non-parishioner to regular services is not an issue: that is universally seen as part of the mission of being church. What is less defined among the parishes in the area is when to offer the sanctuary to non-parishioners for other rites of passage.

Weddings are a good example. Some parishes are adamant about there being an affiliation between the couple and a member of the parish before allowing a wedding to be booked on the grounds or in the sanctuary. We understand the desire for a local parish to be seen as more than a wedding chapel for non-members, but we wonder if it isn't more welcoming to find a way to work with a couple and their families to have the wedding there. Which is more important in the grand scheme of things: ensuring a couple has a tie to an active parishioner before allowing the wedding in the sanctuary, or providing a way to include the Church in an important moment for two people committing themselves to a life together? Wouldn't the latter tend to engender warm feelings in the couple and their families which might lead to attending church services in their own towns or maybe having their future children baptised into the Church?

We also have heard the occasional harrumph from some of our local old-timers about the number of non-parishioners having infants and children baptised at our parishes. This we do not understand. Our own thinking is that one is baptised into the Communion of All Believers and not into a specific parish. It is wonderful when the baptism can be held in the family's home parish, but it is still wonderful when it happens someplace else. A case in point was this morning's candidate for baptism. The young infant and his parents and their twenty or so friends and relations were visitors to the area. But they were made welcome, and the little boy was welcomed into the Body of Christ. The parents were happy and grateful, and the priest made a special point to tell them about parishes in their home town that might be good choices to attend with their young son.

This morning's baptism is the third we have witnessed in this parish within the last month, and it made us think about the different traditions parishes have to accompany the rite. In one parish we know, the deacon gives a soft woolly sheep toy to each child or infant baptised. In another, the parish knitting ministry gives a blessed hand-crafted baby blanket to each new young member of the Church.

In many other parishes, a specific hymn is used to mark baptisms. A parish we attended for years sang 'I was there to hear your borning cry' for every baptism. This hymn is by John Ylvisaker, a prolific and influential composer in the US Lutheran Church. You can learn more about it here, read the text here, and listen to it here or here. The parish had many young families, and the hymn was not in the parish hymnal. So the music minister made arrangements with its publisher, and copies of the hymn were pasted by the Women's Auxiliary onto the back endpapers of each hymnal.

The parish we attended this morning has a tradition of singing 'If you believe and I believe', a hymn based on the powerful traditional Zimbabwean song that is a prayer for freedom (score). The parish sang it with joy as the candidate for baptism, the family and sponsors, and the priest made their way to the font, and they sang it again after the baptism as people returned to their seats. The sentiment of the Holy Spirit coming down to be among us and setting us free is a fundamental message for anyone—parishioner or visitor—and is one that can be remembered easily after leaving the service.

We think the young family was glad to be part of the Church this morning as their son was baptised. We know the regular parishioners were gladdened by their presence. And it spoke to us about the importance of supporting and holding this young child, whether or not we ever see him again, in our collective prayers.

See you next week.

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13 September 2015



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