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Holy Baptism at St. Peter’s

HOLY BAPTISM


A message from Fr. David


Before moving to the South Coast of England, I was a Vicar for a decade in the Diocese of Chelmsford. I used to say that my Font at St. Mary’s, Kelvedon was never dry. One thing that struck me in the early days of my ministry here in Bexhill-on-Sea was how few baptisms there were! I cannot say the same now for during the course of 2018 Deacon Olivia and I have officiated at no fewer than 35 baptisms. Sometimes we vie to claim a slot in the Church Diary in order to book a baptism.


Caroline in the Parish Office has currently a full time job completing all the Baptism Certificates. This is altogether wonderful and a clear follow on to our “Everybody Welcome” course. Let it be known and spread abroad that I welcome all who seek to have their children baptised at St. Peter’s for didn’t Jesus once say “Come unto Me” (Matthew 11: 28)?


Baptism is not mine to hedge around with rules and regulations nor is it up to me to put obstacles in the way nor to present countless hurdles and hoops to be jumped over and through before a baptism can take place. At the end of St. Matthew’s Gospel Jesus in His Great Commission tells the Disciples to go out into the world and Baptise in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.


As a 21st century disciple of Jesus, I hope that I will always be obedient to the Lord’s command. After all Baptism is not my sacrament it’s HIS! I never did personally baptise my own two lovely daughters – we gave that privilege to my two vicars under whom I was serving at the time – the late Canon Trevor Collins at Boston Stump for Emily and Father David Murray at Chalfont St. Peter for Eleanor but since then I have had to joy and privilege of pouring the saving waters upon countless babes in arms, including two of my own Grandchildren Freya and Jamie.


At our “Outstanding” Church of England School in my role as School Chaplain I was taking the Welcome to Your New School Service for the Reception Classes. In addition to the small children – they were supported by over 70 parents and Grandparents. It was indeed a lovely occasion and an inspiring act of worship. Two of the Mums who were obviously expecting babies came up and said to me - Father David could the yet to be born babies be baptised at St. Peter’s in the New Year? My immediate answer was “Of course, they can!” For everybody is Welcome at St. Peter’s!


Thinking back over forty one years of ministry - Good Heavens – that’s more than a third of a century or one 53rd of the time the Christian religion has been around on this planet!  So no wonder then, that Professor Diarmaid MacCulloch in his excellent book - “A History of Christianity” concluded by stating – “It would be very surprising if this religion, so youthful, yet so varied in its historical experience, had now revealed all its secrets.”  In other words – the best is yet to come! I must have baptised hundreds, nay thousands of God’s children over the years – what a delight it has been so to do. In all of them – there has been the transforming presence of Jesus.


I think that my second favourite Gospel passage occurs in the second chapter of John’s gospel – where Jesus changes water into wine at the Wedding at Cana of Galilee. Similarly a transformation takes place at baptism. Baptisms to me always have a party and a celebratory feel and atmosphere about them – similar to that of a wedding. The reason why Church weddings are so important – as opposed to those that take place in secular venues – is that when Jesus is involved He makes all the difference. Candidates for baptism and couples at weddings – receive His divine blessing. You see, when Jesus walks in to our lives, things change and get better and better. He certainly made a difference at that Wedding celebration at Cana when water used for purification was transformed into the most delicious wine to gladden the heart.


Baptism is all about the same kind of transformation. The Baptismal liturgy uses the ancient imagery of darkness and light to symbolise this transformation. It speaks not of water and wine, but of old and new life, of dying and rising again with the Living Lord, of washing away the past and putting on a new way of being.


In Baptism God welcomes the candidates (and all the millions of others who through twenty Christian centuries past have themselves been baptised) into a new and life-giving relationship with Jesus which can make a real difference to their lives as they develop and mature not only physically but spiritually as well. I hope and pray that they will know that they are loved by God and belong to God and will grow into the Faith into which they are baptised.


In Baptism, God is makes us members of the Church. That may not mean much to them as infants but for the rest of us, they are God’s gift – new members of the Body of Christ, helping to complete us and make us whole. So as we give thanks to God for vast increase in the number currently being baptised - let us blow off the dust from our own baptism. For all those who are baptised are also members of that Body with an important part to play, as we come to Re-imagine Ministry, as part of our response to the Diocesan Strategy . We all need to play our part, taking full responsibility for the gifts we have each been given and using them to the glory of God and the extension of Christ’s Kingdom “on earth, as it is in heaven”.


One final thought – just as we are born, so it is inevitable that one day we shall all die and on that day we will have to make account of how we have lived our lives! A sobering thought! At that Judgement Day as we stand before Our Maker our time on earth will be reviewed. As I so often say – Christians are meant to live Eucharistic Lives, lives of thanksgiving. We shall be asked about the “Meaning of Life” and God won’t be best pleased if in our earthly span we have changed the first vowel and turned it into the “Moaning of Life”! It must now be seven years ago since I officiated at my father’s funeral. Like me, Dad was far from perfect but he had an irrepressible sense of humour which kept him going through all the vicissitudes of life and throughout his long final illness. Above all – he had a strong Christian faith and served for many years as Churchwarden in the parish church of St. John the Evangelist, Seaham Harbour, where my own faith was first nurtured. He was baptised and confirmed, as an adult, in the private chapel of the Bishop of Durham at Auckland Castle – the former home of the Prince Bishops. As a result of his active faith – I am sure that he and “Me Mam”, who was also a faithful practicing Christian (and countless other Christian people who are faithful to the Lord and worship and serve him devotedly) continue to worship with the Church below around God’s throne of grace and mercy, in Heaven. Both mother and I were greatly influenced by the example of Adelaide (“Little Gran”) to whom Faith in Jesus Christ was so central to her life. This reminds me of a verse in the New Testament which says “I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1: 5). As a former Archbishop of Canterbury once said – “The Christian Faith is only one generation away from extinction.” So, pass it on!


As the hymn says “time, like an ever rolling stream bears all its sons (and daughters) away” but each new and succeeding generation, hopefully, will take their place. If we are faithful to Jesus the world’s only true Saviour – then, we must do all in our power to hand on the flame of faith that has been handed on to us so that the Light of Christ may continue to burn brightly in this land .


Every Blessing,


FATHER DAVID


If you’d like to know more about Baptism either for yourselves pr your child(ren) please contact the Parish Office which is usually open Monday Wednesday and Friday 9am until 1pm or speak to one of the clergy or our parish Children’s and Fanilies Worker.