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A Child of God

Thursday night was a particularly busy night in my first parish in Portsmouth. It was baptism booking night. Proud but nervous parents would arrive to make arrangements for the baptism of their child. Numbers were so great that on one Whit Sunday afternoon I found myself confronted by 19 bundles of joy - well actually 18 bundles of joy and Norman.

For these children it was their first major public engagement and their parents were determined to make sure that everything went to plan. New dresses were bought, family shawls were passed on and fingers were kept firmly crossed that the baby would sleep throughout the whole proceedings.

Norman (Unconquered)

Norman had other ideas. He was not a baby. He was a bouncing four year old. His Godmother who was also his Grandmother brought him to the font. "Name this child", I said. "Norman" she replied. Not wanting to hold a four year old for any length of time, I had put a chair by the side of the font. In a very fatherly way I turned to Norman and said, "Come on Norman jump up on this chair". Without even raising his head to look at me,

Norman replied in a clear, determined voice, "Shant". Keeping my smile - as a vicar you must never lose your smile, other wise they think what a nasty vicar, no wonder no one goes to church - I got hold of Norman and suggested that he might bend his head over the font and everything would be alright. Co-operation was out of the question as far as Norman was concerned. No sooner had I stood him on the chair than he put his hands over his head. It was impossible to get water near or by him without drowning him.

At this moment the mother appeared at the font as reinforcements. I could see what was going through her head. The cake had been made, the sandwiches were under a damp cloth and the kettle was on a low gas. She was going to have Norman "done" if it killed her. But still Norman held out. In sheer exasperation she turned to Norman and said, "Ill get your father to you". I looked down the aisle and saw this bruiser of a man making straight for the font. Not wanting punch-ups on a Whit Sunday afternoon, I said in my best T.V. comperes voice, "Can you come back next week". Norman was removed from the font, peace was restored and the service of Holy Baptism continued.

A child is a child of God

Not all baptisms need be so fraught. Most are wonderful occasions, which bring joy to parents, grandparents, Godparents and family friends. Although I believe that a child is a child of God whether it is baptised or not, baptism is a public acknowledgement of the fact that this child does not just belong to his or her earthly family but is also an integral and important part of God's creation. It hopefully sets standards for a child that will sustain him or her throughout the rest of their life. It acknowledges that the child is part of a wider community from whom, in the future, it will draw strength and support.

For heavens sake dont think that if a child dies before it is baptised it will be damned or if it cries when it is baptised the devil has left it. But by having your child baptised you show that you want to care for the whole person. You would never starve it physically. So why dont you feed it spiritually? Baptism is part of that spiritual diet which is necessary if a child is going to grow into a full and secure human being.

Obviously there will be some people for whom such commitment is not acceptable. Most churches now have a service of blessing for the child and this is well worth considering. It is another way of acknowledging the spiritual dimension of a childs life. Whatever you decide, hopefully your child will never suffer from spiritual starvation.

Next time we meet I shall give you some hints on choosing Godparents. It is quite a task.

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