AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.
A 3-Minute Read
by Ren Turner
My three children were baptized Sunday.
The fact that baptismal Sunday and the end of daylight saving time fell on the same day provides pretty strong evidence of a gracious God. Also evidence of a thoughtful Parish staff aware of the pleasures and pitfalls of getting young children in their nicer-than-usual Sunday best, all while ensuring an early arrival at Kalen.
So I am here to publicly repent of any foul mouthing I’ve ever uttered regarding setting back the clock and profess that the time change is the one and only reason we were on time with hair combed—and in matching outfits, I may note (thanks be to my wife, Britt).
Let me tell you how we decided to baptize our children. We were at church one day and Sarah announced that baptism Sunday was coming up. In typical Sunday fashion, we left church, swung by Jimmy John’s, got home and put everyone down for naps. Lingering in the kitchen, Britt broke the silence.
“I think we should baptize the children,” she said.
“Yeah,” I said. “Me too.”
Clearly the decision was void of any serious theological thought or even intentionality. But it seemed to come from a place within, a place of desire, a place of unity. It was not, and this I can confirm, the Jimmy Peppers talking.
Well, at some point the questions and doubts came for us. Wait, why are we doing this? Is this the right time and the right way? Shouldn’t it be our children’s decision? Shouldn’t they be dunked as adults in a glass pool suspended above a large congregation? Should we go (back) to a megachurch?
That’s when Scot McKnight’s book, It Takes a Church to Baptize, came into our life. I’ll save you from an exhaustive summary and encourage you to read yourself. McKnight frames infant baptism in a beautiful, at times surprising, historical, familial and biblical way. It’s chock-full of nuggets like this:
“Baptism is one of the purest moments of declaring, enacting, embodying, and understanding the gospel itself. In baptism the gospel is put into motion.”
This book helped guide our souls through this time, bringing the theology and intentionality that we craved but lacked.
The day arrived and we felt expectant. We’d missed previous baptism days so didn’t fully know how things would go. Like, how would they hoist the glass pool up that high? (Kidding!)
The weather outside was pristine. The kind of fall day we Georgians live for. Crisp air, big blue sky framed by colored leaves awaiting their final descent.
Then came the liturgy. McKnight says that if you want to know what Anglicans believe, come to our church for a season. “The theology of the Anglican Communion is heard, repeated, and experienced in worship based on our worship manual,” he says.
Or as Sarah put it beautifully in her sermon, this is how we’re nurtured in the faith.
The words, the commitments, the prayers and the covenant spoken over my children, confirmed by us and the church community, resonated deeply as a sacred ritual. Another McKnight nugget: “Ritual and religion go hand in hand because ritual and life go hand in hand.”
Render, my 5-year-old son and my oldest, walked up to the water first. White button-up, khaki shorts with brown loafers with white socks. Jordan, three times, scooped the water with his hands and placed it on Render’s head. Render stood straight. The water poured over and around his face, down his shoulders, soaking his shirt.
Hands in his pockets, Render looked up to the sky with eyes closed and a big smile. The joy of a child.
I then took my girls, one at a time in their blue and lace ornate dresses, and held them while Jordan placed the baptismal waters on their heads. Sarah anointed them with oil and the sign of the cross on their foreheads. It was spoken over them, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever. Amen.”
It’s already a cherished memory. One that keeps ministering to me as time passes. A few days after, Kristin Hill sent Britt a few pictures from that day. One of Render captured the moment I described above—on it, Kristin wrote, “What a picture! That makes me kinda want to bawl my eyes out! What if we all came to Jesus like this?”
Yes, I thought. Let me, let my family, let us all come to Jesus like this.