My Dad’s family was Baptist, and my Mom’s family was Congregationalist. They were not church-goers, however, and I was not baptized as an infant. Still, like many parents in the 60s and 70s, mine thought it important for their children to have a Christian Education. My parents’ religious background and lack of church participation set me on a course to discover faith on my own.
I periodically attended Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. When I was in Junior High, my mother was concerned about how shy I was and sent me to Youth Group at the local United Methodist Church, hoping that interacting with other kids my age would encourage me to come out of my shell. I LOVED IT!! During the course of my first night at Youth Group a few kids told me I should come to confirmation class, which met on Saturday mornings. I jumped in with both feet!
I now look back on that year of my life and wonder how many twelve-year-olds would be excited to spend two hours every Saturday morning for a year in Confirmation class, but I sure was. When the time came to plan for the Confirmation service, the pastor asked if there was anyone who had not been baptized. One of the boys and I raised our hands. The pastor spent time with both of us in preparation for baptism, which would take place at the start of the service.
On May 21, 1971, I was baptized, confirmed, partook in communion for the first time, and received my call to ministry. It was the day I began my journey to become the person God had created me to be.
Up until that moment, I had always felt like the odd person out because most of my friends had been baptized as an infant but I wasn’t. I can still remember the sense of belonging I felt as I was marked with the water of baptism – belonging to God and belonging in the church. My identity was confirmed that day as a child of God. From the time I was very young, my Grammy Freida would say to me, “You are a special child of God.” On that day of baptism, I felt the truth of that statement I had carried with me for so many years.
In the Gospel of Mark, there is a voice from heaven that speaks to Jesus at his baptism: “You are my Son, the beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Baptism teaches us who we are – God’s beloved children – and confers upon us the promise of God’s unconditional love. In an era when so many traditional elements of identity-construction have been diminished with the frequent changing of jobs and careers and many of us moving away from the towns where we were born and raised, there is a collective yearning to figure out who we are, and whose we are. In response to this yearning, baptism reminds us that we discover who we are in relation to whose we are: God’s beloved children. We belong to God’s family, and baptism is a tangible sign of that.
This is my baptism story: I know I am a beloved child of God and a member of God’s family in the church. I pray this may be a part of your story as well. You are God’s beloved child, with you God is well pleased.