Rev. Heather J. Blais
Two weeks ago, Bishop Fisher was here and we welcomed Laurie, Mark, and Alyssa into the Episcopal Church, while supporting Joan, as she reaffirmed her commitment. We stood up with them, reaffirming our own baptismal vows.
Last Sunday, I offered a teaching sermon that focused on baptismal beliefs and practices. We explored how baptism:
We also talked about the shadow side of the institutional Church; how it has used baptism and fear of heaven and hell as a tool to grow the Church, misrepresenting God and causing detrimental harm to God’s people. We celebrated the fact that scripture shows us repeatedly that our God is a God of transformative, unconditional love. Whether or not one has formally been marked in baptism, each and every person in this world is adopted, cherished, and loved by God, and there is a place for all of us at God’s Table. No exceptions.
We affirmed that baptism at its best is an intentional act of love, a choice to walk this life with a community. A choice made in freedom. We gave thanks for the fact that the promises we make in baptism are not individual promises - they are communal promises that we strive to live into together, as a community of faith, with God’s help.
Today, we will be baptizing Evelyn into Christ’s Church. We will stand up, for the second time this month, to promise Evelyn and one another that together, with God’s help, we will:
Are you excited? Because I’m excited. I love these promises, and I love making them with this community, again and again. What about you?
What do these promises mean to you? And what does it mean to you that these are communal promises? Do you recall a time when you felt the community really lived into these promises by supporting you, or encouraging you to grow in some way? What was that experience like for you?
I bet you can guess what’s going to happen next….For those of you here in person, in just a moment, I’m going to invite you to get up and move near someone else, getting into pairs. The ushers will be handing out a piece of paper with a bulleted version of our baptismal promises and two questions:
For any of our kiddos, draw a picture of what you think baptism looks like or of what our church community looks like to you. For those of you joining us online, I invite you to engage in the comment section, share with any household companions, or by writing it out on a piece of paper.
I wonder if 2 or 3 folks might be willing to say in a few words something they took out of their conversation?
From in-person folks:
"I talked with Joan McKelvey - two Joans. We were talking about the second question, and we were talking about when St. James welcomed St. Andrew with open arms - 5 years ago this April. That was definitely a sense of community. Nobody knew how that was going to feel. And, I remember that very day. We had a police escort over the mountain, and I just felt so overwhelmed with how everyone here, with open arms you let us be part of what you do here....this is off the cuff, and I'm not really good at off the cuff. It was a really good time for me. Because when St. Andrew closed, it was a really strange time not to have a building to go to. So thank you for welcoming St. Andrew's all those years ago."
"The first question: you become of a loving community. And also, the second question: is everyone's welcome. No exceptions. That means a lot to me."
"Elizabeth, Rose, Bernie and I chatted and we decided the second question we are living into the promises-we managed to stay connected as community, even when we were not in a church or in community, and we always managed to help others along the way. So being able to stay together, without being able to be together, was a big thing."
From virtual folks:
"I believe we are living into the promise of respecting the dignity of every human being by welcoming all neighbors into our midst and offering them the love of our community, whether by sharing our property in the labyrinth or by sharing our bounty in our outreach ministries."
We are blessed to have a diversity of preaching voices in our parish. Our guild of preachers is a mixture of lay and clergy. We hope you enjoy the varied voices.
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