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
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
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
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.”
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
I took a sip of coffee and said, “We would love it.”
[Adam Quine, First Presbyterian Church of Lincoln]