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Tuesday, April 29, 2014


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She must have noticed my books about the Bible on the table. If that wasn’t a give-away, surely the bow-tie was. Whatever the ‘tell,’ she felt the inclination to ask: “So, are you like a pastor or something?”

Whenever I’m asked this question, I intentionally delay my response. I do this not because I’m ashamed of either my faith or my status as clergy, but because I’m hesitant about what follows my answer: “Yes I am; a Presbyterian pastor, actually.”

“Oh that is cool,” she replied, as she continued wiping down the table.
“Like, is that the same as a priest? Because I am a Christian. Actually, I was. I mean, I haven’t gone to church in a long time. Also my church is in Springfield. You might know what it is. It is that really big one. I think the name is…”

She stood trying to think of the name of her church.

“Oh this is awful and embarrassing.”
I assured her it wasn't. “I understand. There are a lot of churches in Springfield.”

Stopping what she was doing, she looked at me and said, “You are right on that.”

We returned to the tasks at hand: I went back to researching and “sermonizing,” and she to sweeping and wiping surfaces, though not venturing too far from my table.

Just as my coffee was turning cold, the question behind her lingering presence emerged, “So, like, do you baptize babies? Like, I have a child.” She gazed away from me for a second, before adding: “This is awful, but, he is already 1. And I know his daddy would want him baptized. I do too. But, like, where or how do I do that?” After explaining that they’re separated—that they aren’t even married— she added that she wishes she could go to church


The Sacrament of Baptism, the sign and seal of God's grace and our response, is the foundational recognition of Christian commitment...[W-3.3600--Book of Order]


To her, because of her "situation," she has nowhere to worship.

I sat with that for a second as she continued to tell me her story.

But what stopped me in my tracks; what made me hang that coffee mug just before touching my lips; what made me both excited and sad was this question:

“So, if I want my baby baptized, like, how much does it cost?”

What an interesting question.

This quandary stopped me in my tracks, pondering the meaning and measurable “cost” embedded in this sacred mystery, this sacrament of our faith.


So, what does it cost?

I wanted to say this: it costs everything.

Baptism costs time— not as a repetitive event, but through participation in a community committed both to one another, and perpetuating the reign of God through acts of kindness, mercy, and peace. It costs abandoning the lies society tells us by believing in the good news that in life and in death, we belong entirely to God.

Baptizing your child will cost you the assumption that you are alone in this life, but will give you the security of knowing that you have gained a family, to teach, to love, and to care for your child.

Her question made me wonder how much the church (lowercase ‘c’) twisted this reality for her. It made me wonder when community was replaced by transaction where outsiders to our worship spaces feel like they need to “pay” for the privilege of fitting in.

Baptism, as a “cost,” is shared by the community. When your baby is baptized, we as your sisters and brothers enter into covenant with you, and God, making this promise: “We are here for you. We will always be here for you. Even if it means losing our lives for you!”

That is what I didn’t say.

Instead, I asked her to clarify.

She meant money.

I told her the truth: that most churches don’t charge, but welcome your participation in the life of the community.

She responded with a suspicious, “Oh really.”

She cleaned.

I wrote.

Both sitting in that awkward silence before she thanked me for being so polite and helpful.

As she walked away, she added: “Maybe I’ll come visit you some time.”

I took a sip of coffee and said, “We would love it.”

[Adam Quine, First Presbyterian Church of Lincoln]


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