Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister

Baptism. Or: Why the Mainline Church is in Decline

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baptismA professor asked recently why the mainline church was in decline, and ridiculous ideas abounded from the students including (my favorite)

Do we have to call it “Decline” that sounds negative. Why not “contracting” that’s much nicer.

And that kind of a response to legitimate criticism certainly doesn’t help us. But bemused as I am, I cannot say that is the problem. The reason for decline is, and can only ever be at the font.

For the church to be in decline means that we bury more than we baptize. It really is that simple. And in the PCUSA we seem determined to do everything with the baptismal font apart from baptize.

We are “a sacramental people” we believe in “leading through the water” we want there to be “a baptismal presence” in every service. Just don’t expect any baptisms.

Perhaps during the prayer of confession the pastor could splash in the water representing that we are washed clean.

Perhaps we could buy vestments or sing hymns about baptism and talk about remembering.

Perhaps we could talk to our friends about Jesus and invite them to come and be baptized in fro—
No, No I didn’t think so.

Donnelly.Nancy_FontThe president of my seminary, at a recent Q&A waxed poetic about the big, obtrusive, full, glass baptismal font at the presence of our Seminary chapel which has absolutely, positively never been used for a baptism. He thinks it’s just grand that although we are not a baptizing community, we are a worshiping community and that the font is present among us. About the fact that we all walk past the waters in remembrance as we file into seats. About the debate that raged over the question of including it or not, and about how the right side won.

But I had a different question. One I’m annoyed to be apparently alone in having. Why the hell (pun intended) are we not a baptizing community? Are lives not changed at seminary? Are people not coming to saving knowledge of Christ as a result of this community? Is the good news not being preached?

And if not why not?

If that is not the case should we not rather change it than dress it up and get some other things wet instead?

I’m not saying God can’t do another Abraham and Sarah style miracle and bring a child to a pair of your octogenarian congregants so you can practice one more paedobaptism. I just think he’s more likely to cross the street into the pub. There is a group of millennials there who just started working through Philipians over beer, and they have water there too.


Written by RyanGaffney

May 28, 2015 at 9:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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