Photo (c) Nick Wright 2013Lately our little house has been bursting at the seams, with five extra adults and two infants. My daughter Bridget and her husband Scott returned from Doha so that I could baptise 19 week old Noah. Nick, Charmayne and Naomi came over from Sydney for the event as did Clemency's sister and some of Scott's family. We had borrowed folding cots and high chairs and car seats. There was an airbed in my study and people sleeping in the caravan, and the house had the sort of pleasantly chaotic holiday feel of lots of people in a small space that I remember so fondly from childhood Christmases.
We had decided that the most appropriate place for the baptism was our local parish church - this was not a Diocesan occasion , so the other logical choice, the Cathedral, was reluctantly set aside - and the people at St. Michael's and All Angels Anderson's Bay did us proud. This was St. Michael's Day, their patronal festival, so there was a beautifully arranged service followed by one of those spectacular morning teas where the best recipes of most of the parish are (literally) up for grabs. I was glad my family concerns could be so generously accommodated. I presided at the Eucharist and preached and then baptised my grandson.
An odd thing happens to me when I baptise children, or at least sometimes it does. I take the child from its parents and hold it. I look into its eyes and a connection is made. The child will often stop crying and smile, but something deeper than that happens. I can't quite articulate this, but in that moment I know the child; that's not to say I know about the child or have some sort of clairvoyant access to information concerning its future, but I have a deep sense of what is in this little one and what they will become. On one occasion, sadly fulfilled, it was a sense of imminent tragedy, and on a couple of other occasions, a sense of the hugeness of mind and spirit. If I seek this connection or expect it, it won't happen. So with Noah, I tried to be open, to him and to God, as we moved towards the sacrament.
I had preached about the hugeness of time, and the utter improbability of something which cannot be denied - this Universe's arising from the Big Bang. I gave Noah a small fossil - a bivalve from the Jurassic period I had carried about for the 20 years since, in company with his mother, I had dug it out of a cliff face near Raglan. I tried to convey the loving intention of the Living God in creating this universe and calling us all to be part of it. I spoke of how the purposes of God, intuited in the discernible progress of the Universe are clearly revealed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; who calls us into the life into which I was about to initiate Noah.
Then I took him asleep from Bridget, and poured water on him in the name of the Holy Trinity. He woke and smiled , and I held him to me and knew nothing of him but my love for him, and his for me; and of the love with which he was surrounded on every side, and which had flowed through the Universe since the beginning of time until this point in that little church just down the road from our small, heavily populated house. I prayed for him and for his parents, three of the dearest people in the world to me, accepted the candle offered by the parish as a token of the light of Christ and gave him back to Bridget.
We talked and ate, and returned home to talk and eat some more. Late in the afternoon the crowds thinned out a bit. Today Bridget, Scott and Noah returned to Doha, and Nick's family return to Sydney on Saturday. We will be back to normal, but Sunday has reminded me how beautiful and how privileged "normal" is.