When I first decided to ask to be baptised its was purely because I thought it would be nice to do it with my youngest son, Frederick, and it would make for a nice picture and that was all really. We had a meeting with Lesley at her house to discuss what we needed to do. Frederick needed to do nothing (honestly I ask you two years olds get away with doing nothing all the time!) but she said she would like me to come to her “Questioning Faith” course.
So I did and I was totally and utterly amazed to find that I found the Church. To make things clear I have always had faith that Jesus and God were keeping an eye out for me. Never once (even during those dark days everyone has) had I doubted they were there, but in the dark times they were just not looking at me for whatever reason, but I had no idea what the Church was. Nor did I know what it could do for me, or I for it.
Now, who’d have thought the church was in a rather nice living room in a beautiful house in Farnham when I thought it was in those huge intimidating granite grey edifices dotted around the place with huge forbidding (and to me) closed doors.
I got to really look forward to Wednesdays to have a chat with a group of people who very rapidly became my friends, to the point where I was asking questions that I had previously thought were too naïve and silly to put voice to. Not that I got many answers to them, mind. I did, however, get many different and opposing views (which in my opinion are much more important). All the time though, the count down to my baptism was a very real concern in my head. Most people who know me would be happy, not to say eager, to list out my many, many faults but I believe fear would not be among them. But I have to confess I was getting a fair bit nervous about it, and felt that I would somehow get it wrong and that I would be out on me ear.
Well, I am delighted to say that my and Fredericks Baptism was one of the best days of my life. I had purposely not told any member of my family that it was not only Frederick who was getting baptised, but myself too, and when Lesley asked me to join the group at the font their faces were a picture. But it was what happened next that made me realise I had become part of a wider, kinder and supportive family. I was holding my Little Fredbear (a whimsical nickname that I am sure he will continue to enjoy, even when he becomes a man and will not mind one jot when, in front of his peers or any young lady he is trying to impress, I call him it) and I was looking at him and he was waving to someone in the crowd. I thought he was waving at his Mum or His Granny or Granddad but, no, he was waving to the whole congregation and they, (and this warms my cockles to this day) they were ALL waving back. I felt almost as happy at that point as I had felt when I first laid eyes on my wife and children.
As a bit of an aside, I have rather old fashioned middle names and have always been very reticent in divulging them. This comes from a school career-long micky take as the teacher would ALWAYS insist in naming me FULLY at the beginning of every term thus condemning me to yet another year of relentless jibing. So, of course, I didn’t tell Lesley my names before the day. So, to set the scene, myself and Fredbear have moved down to the font and I am holding a rather soggy Fred (he had just been done and was slightly put out as to way the Lovely Friendly Lady had seen fit to try and drown him in front of his friends) and then Lesley asked me to step up and identify myself so I said (getting redder by the minute) “Matthew Cavendish Nelson Brown”. In my mind everything went very, very quiet and looking up at Lesley, all I saw in her face was, “Are you having a laugh??? I cannot baptise you with that moniker!!” Dying a death, I sought to break the spell that had descended, so I passed on my thanks to my mother for my name, and a little old voice piped up “you’re welcome” and with that I did indeed get baptised, but to this day I still feel it was a close run thing.
As I look forward to my confirmation, I see it this way; my Baptism was the acceptance of me into the Church by the Church and a demonstration that I was, not matter what my faults were, being warmly welcomed. Whereas I see my confirmation as my reply to that acceptance and that I am giving myself willingly to the Church with the understanding that I will strive for its wellbeing and try, in my very, very modest way, to help in its works.
Mind you, the thought of being in the Cathedral and being confirmed by a Bishop does make me feel as nervous as a schoolboy going up before the Headmaster after being caught undertaking some misdemeanour, but I have faith that this feeling will be fleeting. Bring it on 🙂