This question is not new for those who have been looking at generational theory, in respect to the church and where it has been and where it might be heading. We know that the church – what was once a cornerstone of western expressions of political organisation – no longer enjoys this same position. And, in much of the study and analysis, it is not likely to occur again for some time, if ever. And though many may debate whether this is a good thing or not, it is what it is and it allows those of us who have opted into institutional expressions of the Christian experience to discern what this means … and for some this expression of Christianity has been called the ‘Emerging Church.’

It would be misleading of me to imply that this is not of interest to me. The reality is that I began blogging because of The United Church of Canada’s response to this growing discussion and was called, Emerging Spirit. The research and data has helped me in my own journey in ministry to understand the world-view­ of the various generations with whom I have the honour to walk as a Deacon! This blog, however, does not find its catalyst in this background …

Baptismal Waters

Baptismal Waters

This last Sunday, UCiM celebrated Baptism, one of two Sacraments that our denomination holds. The other is Communion … for me, the Baptism ritual is one of the most powerful and significant things we do as a faith community. It recognises the responsibility that we collectively have in nurturing and raising the children in our midst. It also opens the door to reflect on our own faith choices and to gauge the degree to which our own journey has matured allowing us to embrace compassion, as opposed to ego, to walk with others in humility, as opposed to self-righteousness.

As these children and their families, accompanied by Godparents & a member of UCiM’s community, came forward during the ritual, we learned that the garment, which was worn by one of the babies, was over 100 years old and had been worn by five generations of boys and girls of the faith! I was humbled, I was wowed and something clicked that was more than a head space recognition of something significantly different for Christians in that Sanctuary last Sunday than the original child who wore that gown for the first time in a Celtic land over the pond a century prior!

A Christian by Culture is imbued with assumptions that are integrated into the codes and mores of a society that has often accommodated, some would say appropriated, a faith system with expectations that are not necessarily in keeping with beliefs inherent to the Christian tradition. I do not want to imply that a hundred years ago a child being baptised was not an event filled with import or meaning, but there was no choice, per se. It was what was done, everyone else did it and the church was as much the social fabric as much as it was a place where one’s spiritual exploration occurred through a religious institution. Watching these families on a Sunday, in the 21st Century, however, I was awed by the fact that they were making a choice – this was what they wanted for their child!

We live in a consumer culture that is lulled into schedules that are so busy that we have no time to discern between the freedom to make a choice, as opposed to the illusion offered by purchasing what feels like anything on Amazon. A real choice, for Christians historically, has meant the possibility of rejecting the mores and values of the culture around them and this last Baptism drove that home for me. What is even clearer, and I think the video at the end of this blog reinforces, is the tension we all – those who CHOOSE Christianity in an age when the human genome has been catalogued and we have embarked on space travel – must confront: what we have been TOLD is Christianity is, in many ways, more a modification/manipulation/appropriation of a set of values that were modelled by a man – Jesus – who did not come to build churches, but to free people from the oppression and limitations placed upon them. And, perhaps with irony, those very teachings have been usurped to imprison men and women during a time when one was a Christian by Culture. I do not finish this blog with judging those who have come before – I am simply hoping to acknowledge that the choice of Baptism in our context means re-examining the assumptions that we have inherited and, when we do that, we must be prepared to hear our Sacred Stories and our faith tradition with new ears that are, I would suggest, actually quite old …