Wednesday, 9 February 2011

General Synod - more Wednesday press reports

Updated Wednesday evening and Thursday lunchtime

Riazat Butt in The Guardian Baptisms to be given in ‘BBC1 language’
BBC Baptism language to be simplified
Maria Mackay in Christian Today Church of England hopes simpler baptism language will connect with unchurched
Tim Ross in The Telegraph Church of England to rewrite baptism service words in ‘EastEnders’ speak

Independent Catholic News Bishop George Stack addresses Church of England General Synod

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One of these articles quotes a priest who says something along the lines of, " parishioners have heard of Jordan, but they don't know it's a river."

Well, whose fault is that?

I can understand how guests at a baptism who are not churched, or not Christians, might well be puzzled by what goes on, but surely members of the regular congregation ought to have had an opportunity to find out that the Jordan is a river, since it figures prominantly in both parts of the Bible.

And certainly the family will have had at least one session with the priest to walk through and explain the service, both the language and the meaning. I don't know any TEC priest who would proceed with a baptism without a peparation session with the family and, if possible, the sponsors.

What am I missing here? And since I only ever hear BBC overseas service for the US, what's BBC 1 language? Examples?

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Wednesday, 9 February 2011 at 9:03pm GMT

In England, because of the relationship between Church and State, "parishioners" means all who live in the parish, not just the regular congregation.

Posted by: John Roch on Wednesday, 9 February 2011 at 11:01pm GMT

In the context of the C of E. parishioners can mean all those who live in the geographical parish as well as those who go to a particular parish church. They might never go to church, but they are still "parishioners", they have a right to be baptised or ask for their children to be baptised, and the incumbent has pastoral responsibility for them. So parishioners might well be unchurched guests at a baptism.

Of course clergy prepare families for baptism - but this doesn't mean that the liturgy could not be substantially improved (it's on line on the C of E website if yo are interested).

Posted by: Rosalind on Wednesday, 9 February 2011 at 11:11pm GMT

The issue is not so much with the immediate family and godparents / sponsors, but with the wider family and friends who attend a baptism and who haven't attended any preparation. For them, the whole service can be utterly alien. Many baptism parties now come with 50, 60, 80, 100 people. Where the parents are not married and it is a first child, the baptism can be the first time the two families have been brought together.
I do try to explain everything as I go along to make it accessible as possible, but liturgy shouldn't need a running commentary.

Posted by: Meg Gilley on Wednesday, 9 February 2011 at 11:15pm GMT

Cynthia, there's no such thing as an example of BBC1 language, so don't believe a soundbite just because someone has used a meaningless simile. It means 'everyday language' as used by millions of differently-educated people from different regions. You have missed nothing in translation.

The objection seems to be to what we would call 'theological' language, requiring a fairly basic grasp of Christianity. Admittedly, we do have a slight problem with the continuingly unchurched, who have either never been baptised; or have never been brought to church by their 'promising' parents; or have drifted away.

What is baptism? A mystery, and the first one not to understand it was Nicodemus. And who is it for? Almost by definition with an infant, it is for the unchurched, though the child may have churched family and friends. For an adult, for whom baptism numbers are apparently rising, it is for those who have already begun their faith-journey within the Church. By the time they come to be baptised, they may well know what Jordan means! And they will certainly know what has been, and be full of hope about will become, life-changing. If you want to give a sermon about life choices, do so in your own words - or, preferably, not at all.

I have never moved through a baptism, page by page without any interpolation or explanation, though that may not appeal to purists who prefer to keep to the script. Guests (and parents with whom I have always prepared for the event) constantly tell me that they 'never knew that.'

If I were to change one thing, I would move the prayers nearer to the start, as they sometimes feel a bit of an anticlimax after the main events.
And as for wordy in church, when aren't we?

Posted by: Peter Edwards on Wednesday, 9 February 2011 at 11:45pm GMT

"In England, because of the relationship between Church and State, "parishioners" means all who live in the parish, not just the regular congregation."

Well why not educate them? You could have an instructed Baptism, just as some US parishes that attract a lot of visitors have instructed Eucharists.

May this be part of the reason for declining church attendance? That is - you're OK if you come here all the time, but if you come for a wedding, a baptism, an occasional service, we sure won't explain anything to you.

A better argument for disestablishment I have not seen.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 1:15am GMT

Besides what John Roch writes, I'm under the impression that since the CofE is an established church, a priest can't turn down a request for baptism, wedding or funeral. This might make it more likely the baptismal party will not attend a preparation session and could know absolutely nothing about what is going on, or even what they think the church is doing in baptizing a child. That makes the liturgy itself the teaching moment, and if it is written with a certain level of understanding or knowledge as a given, it's more likely to fail.

Posted by: Lois Keen on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 1:25am GMT

"In England, because of the relationship between Church and State, "parishioners" means all who live in the parish, not just the regular congregation."

So? Would they - the unchurched locals - show up at a baptism?

I'm confused here. I thought the person meant congregants who didn't know about the river.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 4:38am GMT

"So? Would they - the unchurched locals - show up at a baptism?"

A baptism is a family occasion and you would invite people just like you would invite them to a Wedding. If unchurched locals happen to be members of your family, they would show up at a baptism, just as unchurched family members from all over the country.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 8:25am GMT

Cynthia, the best-known 'Jordan' in England is a celebrity.

Posted by: Savi Hensman on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 12:25pm GMT

In the C of E baptisms take place as part of a regular service; at a special ( say, once a month) baptism service or ( probably decreasingly) at a more or less family only event after the morning service or mid-Sunday afternoon.There can be one baby/child or more ( considerably more, say 5+ which does increase noise levels)Im sure most clergy have some preparation for the parents, but sponsors these days are rarely local..I once had a baptism where the father was in shipping and the 3 God parents came from Singapore/ Sweden and Spain!so sponsor prep is difficult...tho in my parishes we developed a "letter to God parents" which I asked they should be sent.
In my experience people seem to be inviting more and more friends/ Meg says sometimes 30 plus to 100..and at rites of passage in the C of E social class affects the sort of "event " it is...for a congregation this can seem like an invasion esp if the parish is baptizing 40+ children each year as I was when I was in a suburban parish .
I think the ASB service of 1980 actually worked pretty well..the CW service was never tested pastorally. The Decision owed more to patristic liturgical "fundamentalism",the effort to add symbolic richness in the Prayers over the Water etc made for wordiness..indeed the whole thing became over wordy. I suspect a lot of clergy have been quietly leaving some things out ever since CW appeared...and of course a certain type of evangelical clergyman has always omitted the giving of the candle ( which is optional) and even the Prayer over the Water ( which isnt!!)
Liturgical reform in the C of E was overly a textual reform and Im not convinced many clergy are very good practical liturgists......We could have done with more training in Pastoral Liturgy....
and of course when it comes to "Baptismal policies" the C of E is much divided ,with some clergy still operating a "Christendom "approach, some "fencing the font with barbed wire" ( to quote a former diocesan bishop who shall be nameless) and all points in between.

Posted by: Perry Butler on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 12:27pm GMT

If they need to dumb down the baptism, especially for that of an adult, it suggests the person hasnt really understood what it is all about and needs further teaching. What a tragedy if they didnt really understand that it is a baptism of repentance. Likewise the parents and god-parents must understand. As an adult you are being delivered from Egypt i.e. the world. In that sense it couldnt be more relevant because society is as godless as Egypt. We can all see the immorality of the world. Yes you may substitute the word "love" but will they then even understand that. Love has to be interpreted in a biblical sense. The way of love also involves living in a godly life. You are, in the process of sanctification, acquiring a more Christ-like character.

Posted by: David Wilson on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 1:14pm GMT

I took the comment as being a humorous quip, given that a lady who has undergone much enhancement surgery, and every week appears in the so-called "celebrity" magazines, has the professional name "Jordan".

On UK television there have been (it seems like daily, given the endless trailers) television programmes about the latest ins and outs of her marriage and divorce.

A search on the word "Jordan" produces many, many references to her

Posted by: John Roch on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 1:16pm GMT

Cynthia, your confusion is not surprising: as others have remarked, 'parishioner' in the UK does not equal 'parishioner' in the US. I have 12,000 parishioners and 250 members of my congregation. Baptisms almost always come from the 12,000 most of whom have never had much Religious Education, have never attended church, read the bible etc, but yet may have nascent faith, to which as a pastor I must respond. I voted for this proposal at Gen Synod yesterday, as a way of building bridges of understading between emerging 'faith' of parishioners and the 'faith once delivered to the saints'.

Posted by: Simon butler on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 3:44pm GMT

I can hear you are confused by this Cynthia, but you will just have to take our (the C of E clergy who are commenting on this thread) word for it that this is an issue which needs addressing. The reality here in the UK is that we have the wonderful privilege of having people come to us to ask for baptism for their children who haven't had any church involvement before. They want something holy to happen for their children, even if they don't quite understand what it all means at the outset. We can work with the family beforehand to help them explore what baptism means and what happens in the service, but we can't prepare the whole congregation, many of whom will have no church background, or even a fragmentary grasp of Christian stories. That's the reality here. If we genuinely want them to feel welcome, and to go away feeling that something in the service has resonated with their own experiences - that they have met with God - then we need at least to have the option to make the language accessible.
Like many clergy I explain everything as I go along, but there are points when we are really not helped by the language of the service, which assumes a background knowledge that very many people in the UK don't have.

Posted by: Anne on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 4:09pm GMT

Thanks to you all for enlightening me about the issues around revising the baptismal service. Someone has suggested on another thread that you look at the 1979 American BCP, both for language and for brevity. At most TEC churches, there are no 'private' baptisms; they are always done as part of the regular Sunday morning services or on the several days suggested as especially appropriate - e.g., as part of the Easter Vigil. As you will see, the whole congregation reaffirms its baptismal vows, as well as pledging to support the newly baptized in their new life in Chrict.

As for Jordan, the tabloid queen - her fame has not croessed the Atlantic. When I hear Jordan, I think of the river, and then the basketball player, St. Michael!

Thanks again, and good luck to you.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 4:34pm GMT

As an Episcopal priest, I cannot imagine doing a baptism without prebaptismal instruction at which the meaning of the language is explained.

There is also a sense here -- perhaps not able to be duplicated in England -- that one should not do a baptism to make somebody happy but only if there is a reasonable chance the parents and godparents will take seriously their commitment to bring up the child in the Christian life and faith, which means as a minimum being active in the congregation.

For the only vaguely religious, I see prebaptismal instruction is an evangelical opportunity in the best sense. It may also be a chance to say baptism is not (entirely) a happy social occasion but a serious commitment on behalf of the child involved, and therefore not for everyone.

At the same time I must admit that in writing our current liturgy (BCP 1979) they yielded to the gnostics among us who insisted that Satan/devil language be retained. So no text is perfect, but I find the recitation of the salvation history over the water is one of the most powerful aspects of the baptismal service.

Posted by: jnwall on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 5:45pm GMT

"When there are Children to be baptized, the Parent shall give
knowledge thereof over night, or in the morning before the begin-
ning of Morning Prayer, to the Curate. And then the Godfathers
and Godmothers, and the People with the Children, must be ready
at the Font, either immediately after the last Lesson at Morning
Prayer, or else immediately after the last Lesson at Evening Prayer,
as the Curate by his discretion shall appoint."
1662 BCP Rubrics for the Public Baptism of Infants.

I see nowhere here a preparation class!

Just advising the Clerk on Saturday of the need ..... Why make it any more complicated than that?

Posted by: Martin Reynolds on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 6:59pm GMT

I haven't seen the Common Worship text but it seems to me from what people have said that it must be almost the same as the TEC/Anglican Church of Canada text. I've been using that one since 1985 with no problem. But then, I'm not a priest in an 'established church', and I have to say that C of E baptismal practice is one of the major reasons why I could not in all good conscience be a priest in the C of E.

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 8:22pm GMT

For me, as a retired but active priest in New Zealand, the most important part of all this discussion is that the child should recive the grace of Baptism. What happens in that ritual is that the Holy Spirit is welcomed into the life of the child concerned and we can never underestimate the spiritual grace that open-ness to Baptism may bring into the life of the Baptisee - not to mention the lives of the God-parents (who will need instruction before agreeing to take on their task) and any witnesses of the ceremony.

In the Anglo-catholic situation - such as obtains in my parish in New Zealand - where most Baptisms are carried out in the context of the Eucharistic Celebratiuon - the visible signs of sacramental grace - water and oil, the sign of the Cross, with the presentation of a Baptismal Candle from the Paschal Candle - all help to dignify the action of God in the life of the new Baptisee. This has been known to awake a charism of faith in the hearts and minds of those present at the Baptism - whether originally believers or not prior to the ceremony.

Also, the parish ocngregation is intimately involved with parents and God-parents in the repetition of Baptismal Vows, the Affirmations of the Creed, and their statement of willingness to do 'all in their power' to sustain the Baptisee in the Body of Christ and the Family of The Church.

In my opinion, it would be a mistake to refuse the Sacramenbt and grace of Baptism to anyone who presents themselves or is presented by believing others. It is God's call not ours.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Thursday, 10 February 2011 at 9:43pm GMT

Yet one more example of how the Church of England has been floundering ever since it largely abandoned the incomparable liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer.

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 11 February 2011 at 5:00am GMT

Martin, don't you think that, in 1662, people would simply learn The Faith by rote---reinforced by custom and habit (in 1662 England, *law*)---than really intellectually ENGAGE it?

I really don't think 1662 catechesis works in 2011 (OCICBW).

Posted by: JCF on Friday, 11 February 2011 at 5:06am GMT

This site is entitled Thinking Anglicans, yet clearly some hold to the belief that grace can be imparted by a hieratic mechanism that doesn't ultimately and meaningfully engage the mind or will (and I don't just mean intellect) of its recipients.

Is there not a concern among those that without understanding, the ritual reduces to little more than administering a vaccine against infantile limbo and the loss of cultural/family tradition?

What are the current strands of mainstream Anglican belief regarding the fate of the unbaptized child?

It seems a far cry from the grace that imparts moral insight (to which St.Paul refers in Titus 2 - emphasis mine): 'For the grace of God that brings salvation hath appeared to all men, *teaching* us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ'

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 11 February 2011 at 8:27am GMT


You may call me unthinking because I don't agree with you!

The whole point of the infant baptism is that it does not depend on the understanding and the active engagement of the baby's mind.

Or are you suggesting that God checks out the understanding of parents and godparents first before deciding whether a particular baby is worthy of his grace?

If you see Baptism as little more than an adult promise to bring up a child in the Christian faith you completely miss what I believe it is about.

Posted by: Erika Baker on Friday, 11 February 2011 at 9:31am GMT

"the incomparable liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer."

I recall Geoffrey Cuming commenting (about 30 years ago) that those who spoke of Cranmer's incomparable liturgy had clearly never compared it with anything else....;-)

Posted by: david rowett on Friday, 11 February 2011 at 9:43am GMT

One enlightened Synod member said that at baptisms when reference is made to Jordan some families think of a rather pneumatic lady rather than a river.
How come those same families don't bat an eyelid at Christmas when singing
"God of God,
Light of light,
Lo! he abhors not the Virgin's womb
Very God,
Begotten not created"?
An end to all this continual dumbing down and lowering of the hurdles is what I say!

Posted by: Father David on Friday, 11 February 2011 at 11:17am GMT

Hi Erika,

My comments weren't particularly directed towards you. However, I would contend that no-one is worthy of divine grace. God is no man's (or child's) debtor.

Christ happily received infants and young children and blessed them, saying, 'Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.' Grace was and still is directly imparted into their fledgling lives (as with Samuel and John the Baptist) without resorting to rituals.

However heretical to Anglican orthodoxy it may sound, it would appear churlish of Him to invite them with words of full acceptance, only to insist on a ritual that they couldn't understand.

I happen to believe that, in those words that I quoted, Christ promised full acceptance to them without the need for this rite.

I don't claim to have a thorough understanding of the Anglican perspective on baptism. Some also believe that limbo, rather than heaven is reserved for unbaptized infants? I don't.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Friday, 11 February 2011 at 8:38pm GMT

My concern about "dumbing down" is that it lowers the expectations, consistently.

I tend to agree with David that a ritual is not required for admittance to Christ's redemptive nature, but, having embraced that act as symbol of community, why not expect people to understand, study and absorb the subject. Obviously, the infant can't understand it, but it can be reintroduced for study later.

We constantly expect less and less from our minds, and human tendency to complacency and a gravitation toward entropy mean that the lower we set the bar, the less people will attempt to learn. Like any instrument, unused, our comprehensive faculties, both intellectual and spiritual, become moribund.

Posted by: MarkBrunson on Saturday, 12 February 2011 at 11:19am GMT

What a horrendous idea. Dumbing down the liturgy so that witless and politically correct yahoos can understand it? What's next? Does the church of England not have any self-respect left?

If people are interested in the sacrament of baptism then they need to make an effort to educated themselves as to what it means, full stop. _They_ need to make that effort, not the church. Just like no one should receive the body and blood of Our Lord without self-examination and examinatin of conscience. It is not the role of the church of England to ensure that there is nothing in the liturgy that challenges secular folks or makes them uncomfortable. And it's not the role of the church of England to baptize any fool who walks in fresh from watching reality television shows, nor is it the role of the church of England to lob consecrated hosts into the crowd so that every yahoo who wants one can have one.

What the h*ll is wrong with the church nowadays?

Posted by: Hector_St_Clare on Saturday, 12 February 2011 at 1:34pm GMT

46 years ago my prematurely born brothers were emergency baptised by a nurse in hospital because they weren't expected to live and she was afraid they might go to hell. I don't know anyone who still believes that, and I do believe that even the Catholic Church has not so long ago given up the idea of limbo.

I don't understand your thinking on Baptism, is it not the moment in which a child becomes a member of the Christian family, not merely by virtue of human beings declaring him to be a member but by God's grace? Are you saying that baptism isn't "needed"? Is Baptism then nothing more than an intellectual assent to Christian doctrines? A kind of promise to God without any input and response from him?

I would find that view hugely difficult because it excludes people with learning difficulties who will never rationally understand anything about God. And it begs the question who much understanding is sufficient, and who truly "understands" God. We tend to intellectualise our faith and I find that highly problematic.

Can I therefore turn the question back to you and ask what Baptism means to you? Is it something that should be reserved for adults?

Posted by: Erika Baker on Saturday, 12 February 2011 at 3:11pm GMT

There is a significant difference between "dumbing down" the liturgy on the one hand and making the language of the liturgy accessible and meaningful to a new generation or a new culture on the other. The General Synod has asked for the latter, while the usual Chicken Littles are all assuming that the end product will be the former.

Now, there is always a risk that even well-intentioned liturgical revision may result in some "dumbing down," but it is dishonest and frankly tedious for the Sky Is Falling Brigade to pretend that such is always the case.

All that said, it is worth remembering that there were riots at the introduction of the "dumbed down" new liturgy in 1549, with Cornish objectors claiming it was "but lyke a Christmas game." Eight of the 18 bishops present in the Lords when it was passed voted against it.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Sunday, 13 February 2011 at 12:28am GMT

I took pains in an earlier post to this thread to distinguish the mind and will from mere intellectual assent. Yes, I may try to describe my experience in understandable terms, but why He saved me from self-destruction and how He did it is beyond my comprehension or anything I would imagine sacrificing for someone else.

John the Baptist was a life-long Nazirite. He challenged his contemporaries to demonstrate genuine penitence in order to escape the retribution of the Day of the LORD. He was then was inspired by God to use the River Jordan as a large-scale accessible version of the Nazirite Mikveh, or bath of purification.

St.Peter's view was that baptism went further than ritual purification: 'not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience-- through the resurrection of Jesus Christ' (1 Peter 3:21). It is everywhere in scripture (with the exception of Christ’s) considered a baptism of metanoia: an outward appeal to God, believing that He can change us, that He can win the hitherto unwinnable war against our personal moral decline on our behalf.

It is a response to grace, not the initiative of grace itself. The baptism is a burial site, an interment of the past life and an expression of faith in the power of Christ to raise me from that past life to live His new life and purpose through me.

Christ says, 'And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.' (John 3:19). The cases that you cite are either before or beyond that level of rejection. They cannot be considered to have rejected insight in order to persist in evil. They are already candidates for divine compassion. I'm not sure why they 'need' baptism.

I would also distinguish water baptism from being joined to God’s family through the Holy Spirit. Although this is ritualized in Anglican confirmation, I still believe that God does overwhelm the soul with waves of deep parental affection and supernatural empowerment for service by the laying on of hands. It is referred to this as the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Sunday, 13 February 2011 at 2:45am GMT

"I would also distinguish water baptism from being joined to God’s family through the Holy Spirit" - David Shepherd -

Oh, really? However, I suppose that's the problem when one short-changes the liturgical nature of Baptism to being simply - a 'water' Baptism.

In Anglican formularies for Holy Baptism in most Provinces of the Anglican Communion one notes that there are several 'outward and visible signs' of the 'inward and spiritual grace' intentionally provided for us in the ceremony.

Water, Oil and Light are ancient symbols of the grace of Christ present in the Baptized that give us some clues about what is happening in the rite:
Water - for the mystical washing away of sin;
Blessed oil of chrismation as a sign of the Holy Spirit's presence in a special way at Baptism;
and A Candle, lit from the Paschal Candle, as a sign of the new life 'en Christo' bestowed upon the Baptized.

The grace of Baptism is availble, as we are told in the Scriptures - "To ALL whom the Lord our God may call". The initiative is from God directly. We only respond as best we are able, orare invited to do so. This is one reason I have never refused to btptize anyone. Who knows what the lord our God may not bring about in their lives - and indeed in the lives of all who are witnesses?

I sometimes reflect on how many of today's delinquents have never been introduced to the grace of Christ in Baptism. Life is a struggle, we need all the help we can get in living it out to the best of our ability.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Sunday, 13 February 2011 at 9:59am GMT

Father Ron:
'The grace of Baptism is available, as we are told in the Scriptures - "To ALL whom the Lord our God may call".'

Thanks for your insight and gentle instruction. It makes a welcome and exemplary change to the usual exchanges.

I agree with the quotation, but the rest of the text renders thus: 'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you and to your children and to all that are afar off even as many as the Lord our God shall call' (Acts 2:38.39).

In contrast with your view, I reflect on the other delinquents who, like me, received Anglican Baptism, but were never given any clear explanation of how I might move beyond those types, shadows and figures that you describe, how divine empowerment could be applied within the context of my natural daily life. It appeared that it was more DC (doctrinally-correct) to assume I was already a Christian by baptism, than to ask whether I had experienced that bereft yearning for divine goodness imparted by grace through conversion.

You might say that baptismal grace did go on to ultimately catch my falling soul (at age 20 running alone in an open valley in Trinidad, I repeatedly declared with incredulity to my unloveable and unlovely soul, 'God loves me, He actually loves me'). Yet, that was after the need for conversion was explained to me for the first time through Roman Catholic laity.

However, up to that time, I can assure you that I was not indwelt by the Holy Spirit 'whereby, we cry, Abba, Father'.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Sunday, 13 February 2011 at 2:51pm GMT

"However, up to that time, I can assure you that I was not indwelt by the Holy Spirit 'whereby, we cry, Abba, Father'." - David shepherd -

Dear David, whether you were aware of it at the time or not (and possibly not, if you, like me, were an inbfant at the time), at your Baptism you received the grace of the Holy Spirit in your life. After all, that was the most important action of God in your life from the moment of your conception in the womb.

However, like any gift that is given, the grace of the in-dwelling Spirit of God at your Baptism - because of the circumstances of your life in the following years up until your enlightenment' - had been 'left on the shelf' - like an un-opened present, unexplored, and perhaps unexplained by either your parents or God-parents. Many of the Baptised, sadly, have never been taught about the in-dwelling Spirit of Christ at their Baptism into Him. S/He needs to be personally discovered!

The 'Baptism in/of the Holy Spirit' of which you have so beautifully spoken here, comes in answer to a deep-felt need within the human soul for some tangible evidence of the 'grace within'. The grace has already been given (in Baptism) but not fully comprehended or accessed by the Baptisee.

This can be seen as a direct response to the call of Jesus: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find". When we get to that moment of recognition of our deep need of God in our lives (such as you did in the Trinidad valley) we are often overcome with the sense of freedom and joy that is suddenly released within us.

My charismatic renewal experience occurred later in my life, causing me to become, in progression: a Franciscan Brother, an older theological college student, a priest, and then a husband and proxy father - in that order. That was God's plan for my life. But until I succumbed to the growing pressure of the Holy Spirit within me, it was not possible to bring into being.

This should/could all have happened to me at my Confirmation at the age of 13, but I guess God knew that at that stage of my life I was too immature, and too self-absorbed with the problems of my adolescent sexuality to discern my unique calling - God got me in the end.

P.S. I'm still a sinner, but a redeemed one!

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 14 February 2011 at 5:10am GMT

Father Ron,
I am left to wonder how so many Pentecostals encounter the same experience of conversion without having been baptised as infants. Are they indwelt by the Holy Spirit during infancy as well.

The pastors of these churches perform a infant dedication ceremony. However, many Anglicans would argue that their leaders lack the intermediary authority to participate in the sacramental impartation of grace.

While we rage over exclusion of Anglican woman from episcopal authority, many of our number happily treat those outside of our number with similar contempt.

Posted by: David Shepherd on Tuesday, 15 February 2011 at 9:04am GMT

"The pastors of these churches perform a infant dedication ceremony. However, many Anglicans would argue that their leaders lack the intermediary authority to participate in the sacramental impartation of grace."

- David Shopherd -

God's grace is sometimes experienced as 'pre-venient' - meaning that we can never be certain of the origin or timing of such grace. This was borne out in Acts, when certain converts were seen to be showing signs of their conversion - evenb before being baptized. They were then Baptized - to ensure that they would be recognized by the Church as 'kosher'!

We can never manipulate or control where the Holy Spirit may or may not be at work - only observe the obvious signs; and give praise to God. Having said that, the Church catholic has been given the authority to 'make disciples', and the liturgies of the Church are outward and visible signs of the inward and spiritual grace of God at work.

As with Baptism so with the Eucharist. The form of the sacraments is only a framework for the transmission of grace. We need to cherish what has been provided for us, in order to experience their attendant blessing.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Wednesday, 16 February 2011 at 12:00am GMT

David, I am not aware of any theological argument which argues that any baptized person "lack[s] the intermediate authority" to perform a baptism - and I am aware of arguments that even a non-believer could perform a baptism if a person desired to be baptized. (Not sure I buy the latter argument, but that's beside the point.)

An infant dedication ceremony is not a baptism. Baptism as baptism, and dedication is not.

Posted by: Malcolm French+ on Wednesday, 16 February 2011 at 12:04am GMT
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