He was old enough to have taught high school, completed Theological College, be married and have 4 children. He was disappointed in the morals of the present day culture, ready to believe the worst of those who made up the community in which he found himself. This was his first appointment as a Rector and he was zealous to save this suburb for his Lord. Even the church folk themselves were dealt a stern hand, no soft peddling – pure evangelism was what this city needed and he was the man to give it to them, starting inside the church.
He was young enough to be unimpressed by the history of the church buildings, undaunted by the responsibility placed on him of the large congregation, the maintenance of the historic buildings and the stewardship of the substantial property the church administered. He was young enough to be insensitive to the “in memory” plaques to previous saints who had faithfully worshipped God in this place and honoured their loved ones. Some called him a cavalier …
It was to this minister a young couple came to have their baby son baptized.
The father, not familiar with “religion” came supporting his wife who was keen to have their son baptized. He had consented to the meeting purely to please her. She had been a member of the Sunday School at this church, had been confirmed in her faith at 14 years of age here, along with fifty-something other teenagers in the late sixties. It was important to her, to have their son presented to God.
The mother felt nervous. She didn’t worship God anymore. In fact during her teen years and early 20’s she had strayed from the teaching she had received in this church and the faithful ministry of the previous minister who taught scripture to her along with 1000 other high school students in the school assembly hall each week. She did pray sometimes …
In response to their knock the door opened, they were invited in, led to a study lined with books, seated and asked somewhat abruptly why they had brought their son with them. Uncomprehending, they looked at each other in bewilderment and then at the minister. He was their baby, why wouldn’t they bring him? He was the reason they were here.
He asked their full names, she replied “Fiona Fingle”.
“Middle name?” he asked.
“No,” she replied nervously.
He turned to the father who was irritated by the attitude of this teacher of the church.
“And your name ?” the minister inquired.
“Gary Warren,” he replied, taking it for granted that his surname “Fingle” would be assumed.
The minister advised them of his expectations for their child to be baptized by him:
Attendance at church each week for at least 6 weeks; weekly lessons with him to which they were not to bring the child as he was a distraction to their concentration.
The young mother thought how different this minister was to the kindly, godly one she had known here previously … hadn’t she learned that Jesus said “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect ….”1
She was uncomfortable, she knew Gary had only consented to come for her sake, she could tell he wasn’t happy at the way the meeting was going.
She had been hoping this might be a start to them coming to church regularly as a family. The way Gary was looking and sitting with his arms crossed, she doubted that it would have any appeal to him now. Wasn’t there something about God accepting us as we are, some mention of “Let your conversation be always full of grace …”2 … this man, this representative of God, wasn’t gracious, or kind. There was no smile that lit his eyes. He was just concerned with doing his job, processing them.
As they were leaving the minister dropped the real blooper, “After your son is baptized, perhaps you will consider marriage to one another …”
The young wife blushed. The husband, outraged by this discourteous, insulting man, grabbed his wife’s hand and pulled her out of the study, along the hall into the fresh air. On the way home he asked rather curtly, “Tell me again why you want our son to be baptized and grow up being taught about Jesus.”
1 1 Peter 3.15b
2 Colossians 4.6
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