29 May, 2013

Baptism Anniversaries

Today is the anniversary of my baptism.  

Normally, I would not even have realized this. But I am re-sorting and packing boxes and noticed the date on the certificate as I removed it from my wall. I scarcely remember the occasion.  Or, should I say I don't remember the first at all and my memory of my second baptism is sketchy.

Two baptisms?  It's a long story.  I'll abbreviate it by saying my home church had no record of my baptism at the time I was in confirmation class.  I was a junior in high school at the time of my confirmation, having missed confirmation with my peers by a series of my own bad decisions.   Confirmation happened on Pentecost.  It also happened to be the morning after the prom. 

I had been on the prom committee, so after all the work of preparing for the prom,  I had been sure to snag a date (captain of the boys' track team)  for the event. The most memorable thing of the evening was that I sat by the pool at the Hilton most of the evening listening to my date talk about his plans to attend Williams College.  With my non-existent cadre of friends, my date and I had gone from the prom to the school-sanctioned after prom party and from there to watch the sun rise from Mt. Greylock. The after prom party was at the Community Center ("the Cow House" as it was popularly known) where there was a swimming pool, a large gym, and a band.  I only remember swimming while my date talked track with other members of the track team.  Having limited experience being up all night, I fell asleep in the car on the way to watch the sunrise.  My date returned me to my home just in time to change and get to church so I could teach Sunday School (3rd grade) and then be confirmed during worship.  

I don't remember much of the worship service that day.  I was more than a little tired.  I remember kneeling on something (a prie-dieu or was it the floor?).  I remember water on my forehead.  I don't remember the sermon that day.  I don't remember the questions asked (pre-UCC Book of Worship days).  I don't remember the congregational assent. 

What I do remember are the Saturday morning classes every other week at either the church or the church with which ours was yoked.  I remember long conversations on car rides to regional and conference-wide youth events and over games of Pinochle on Saturday night about faith as it relates to everyday life.  I remember the solemnity with which he asked me if I was sure I wanted to make the commitment of baptism and confirmation.  

What I do remember is Ruth Margaret Brown.  She was an elderly woman in the congregation who "adopted" me and another girl (Sandy??) who was a year younger than me as her "granddaughters."  She had no children. She and her sister-in-law lived together in a very rustic home about 5 miles from the church.  It was Ruth with whom I sat in worship whenever the choir was not singing.  Ruth invited Sandy and me to her home for dinner about 3 times a year.  And, Ruth wrote to me weekly when I went off to college.  She wrote a poem years before and shared it with me on the occasion of my confirmation.  I found it just last week as I was going through some old boxes as I re-sort and repack to move.

It was a fitting poem for me, the girl with little social grace.  It also fit her to a Tee.  She was as real a person as ever I have met.  Even in her eighty's, she was an authentic New Englander and stoically humble about it.  A person of strong faith.  A person who held my hand through the journey toward a life in the church. 

Much like the prom, I remember the preparation for the event of my baptism.  I have little memory of the event itself. 

A year following my (second) baptism, our beloved pastor resigned to take a new call to a church in Connecticut.  He was re-sorting and repacking items to ready for the move (as pastors know well how to do) when he came across an old box in the parsonage attic.  It was an assortment of old church bulletins from which a previous pastor had intended to record significant data in the church records.  Some had been recorded. Some had not.  Being a historian by nature, the good Rev (as we affectionately call him still) diligently sorted the bulletins and checked to be sure all the data was indeed entered into the church record book.  That's when he noticed it.  On January 29, 1961, four very young children were baptized:   Kenneth C Galeucia, Norman Timothy Sanderson (born the day before me), Stephen R. Peters (a Christmas baby), and me.  The boys' baptisms were noted in the record.  Mine was not.  Rev had baptized me the previous year because there was no record of my baptism.  When he told me of his great find, he joked that all he had really done was wake me up from my post-prom stupor.

What?  My baptism was not a baptism?   It was a redundancy and an error.  You can't "re-baptize;" one can only renew the vows made at the original baptism.  Since that's what I had done with the confirmation vows, the baptism was not a baptism.

I have no memory of that first baptism.  I grew up with those three guys and am quite sure none of them remember theirs either.  Promises were made by their families that they probably didn't remember for very long either.  That baptism was in an era when we became a "Christian" by drinking the water and breathing the air.  It was just supposed to happen.

I was aware of the promises I was making at that second baptism that wasn't really a baptism.  That day was an intentional act of commitment even if I don't remember the actual event.   It is this second baptism that is commemorated by a plaque on my "power wall" -- in a frame that is bigger than any of my diplomas, and larger than my certificate of ordination. It is this baptism, deemed unnecessary and redundant by my pastor, that means the most to me of any of my other "accomplishments."  It is this date that marks me as a follower of the Way of Jesus, a Christian, a person who has covenanted with God to live as a child of God.  

Today is the anniversary of my meaningless and yet so meaningful baptism.  I was reminded of this as I took down the plaque from the wall to pack it in bubble wrap and paper in a box with other framed items so that it can be moved to an as-yet-undisclosed-by-the-Spirit location.  The date on that baptism certificate from so long ago jumped out at me as I prepare for another relocation for ministry in God's church.  

How fitting that today -- as I place (blind) trust in the Spirit for a new call -- is the anniversary of my baptism.

10 May, 2013

Peaking hope

Sabbath dawns:
Look east -- hope rises!
Look west -- horizons of opportunity!
Look north -- light in the darkness!
Look south -- Spirit breathes new life!
Look within -- stirring transformation oozes forth!
Look without -- sojourners abound.
Look! Sabbath dawns!
Shalom peeks forth

08 May, 2013


I've taken a break from Facebook.  It's amazing to me how much time it takes to just catch up with 24 hours of friends' activities.  Oh, I've done the filtering thing on the site:  I've set the "settings" on each contact to show me just the "important" things (however FB defines that), and only the "life events," "status," and "photos."  And still I found myself spending too much time scrolling through the happenings and views of others. So, four weeks ago I posted that I was temporarily deactivating my account.  Three weeks ago, I did just that.

I appreciate social media; it allows me to feel connected to friends and family, colleagues and classmates while I am geographically separated.  I enjoy hearing about the children of my nieces and nephews, the travels of my siblings, the "church stories" of colleagues in ministry, the life happenings of former parishioners.

Faith and ministry are both about connected-ness, about relationships, and about the inter-related-ness of souls.  As in any connection, deep and honest communication between the parties is essential to continued growth, ongoing trust, and, frankly, the success of the relationship.

Deep and honest communication.  Facebook statuses are not deep and not always honest.  They may be informational. They may be humorous.  And they may even express a deep thought.  Deep and honest communication requires more than digital dots on an electronic screen.  Deep and honest communication requires listening from the heart, discerning the heart and (e)motion of the speaker, and sharing in the experience of the other.

The word "companion" has significant meaning for me.  "Com" means to share with.  "Panos" comes from the word for bread. In ancient cultures, sharing bread with another is the sign that the two are equals, inter-related, and bonded.  Bread is a basic need for human sustenance.  Sharing bread indicates the base similarity between those around the loaf.

Faith and spiritual growth does not happen without the same sharing of bread -- both with others on the journey and with God.  It requires listening from the heart; discerning the heart of God; sharing in the joy, pain, frustration, tedium of our Partner on the journey.

In our world of social media where even young teens have hundreds of "friends,"  too often we practice "Facebook Faith."  Too often we spend inordinate amounts of time on the informational, pictoral, and in-passing aspects of our faith relationships. Too often congregations expend more energy on the mechanical and mortar aspects of life together than being (with) the Body of Christ.  This is not the bread that feeds us.  This is not the bread the nurtures our growth.  This is not the bread of life.

I've taken a break from Facebook while I ponder, explore, and seek to reconnect with the bread that feeds the soul, nourishes the spirit, and grows the spark of Christ within me.