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The Reverend Superior

I was once asked to be on a small committee (two ministers, two elders and the convener) to have talks with a particular minister whose congregation and office- bearers had fallen out of love with him.

He was always right and they (particularly his elders) were wrong.

One bone of contention was that he would ignore members of his church and pass them in the street without acknowledging them. Same if he met them in one of the local shops or supermarket or post office.

Another problem was his refusal to allow the spouse of a church member to stand with his/her wife/husband at a baptism service. Only the member was there by the font, while her/his partner was banished to the pews. The non member, in other words, was not allowed to make the baptismal promises with his/her partner.

This, of course, led to murmurs of discontent and rebellion amongst the good folks of that congregation.

So, it’s Showtime or Showdown time with meeting number one – the little committee, the elders and the Reverend Superior.

Our convener went for the gentle approach, explaining that we weren’t there with them to take sides or to be judgmental; rather, to help, guide and support and to find some resolution.

After this introduction, she said something along the lines of “Now what would solve this situation?”

An old Elder creakingly got to his feet, looked long and hard at his Minister, pointed to the latter and in a voice full of emotion: “Get rid of HIM!!!! ”

Thereafter, it was chaotic, with accusations flying backwards and forwards, the convener in tears at one point and nobody willing to budge an inch.

What was it that Gandhi said: “I like your Christ but not your Christians”

Yup, now let’s all join in singing “bind us together” followed by “they’ll know we’re Christians by our love”

He left about a year later

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3 Baptismal Tales

Baptismal Tales

THE LOST CHILD

It was a glorious sunny Sunday and, at the small village church, we awaited the arrival of the baptismal party.

Father arrived first, followed a few minutes later by Mum.

“Where’s the baby?” I asked them.

Mother turned to Dad and said, “You were supposed to bring him while I finished getting dressed”

And he replied, “You said that you would bring him, once you were ready!”

Jokingly (never make jokes that folk with a humour by-pass don’t get), I said “Why don’t we just go ahead with the service and I’ll baptize  the wee fellow in absentia?”

“Oh, can you do that?”    (duh!)

Luckily, a few minutes later, the godmother appeared with the infant – explaining, “It was such a lovely day and I thought that we’d be too early – so I took Tyrone for a wee walk in his buggy”

–ooOOoo–

KYLIE

A pre-baptism visit to the happy couple……

“And the baby’s name is?”

Big Izzy, the mother of the infant: “Kylie”

“Ah”, says I ‘ she ‘should be so lucky””

Father, wee Hughie, interrupts “That’s no her name!”

Big Izzy: “That’s whit’s on her birth certificate!”

Hughie: “Aye, ‘cos you registered her!  You know that I wanted her tae hae ma Ma’s name”

Izzy: “Yer Ma’s a horrible wee wummin”

Me:”What is your Mother’s name, Mr Torrance?”

Hughie: “Unity Nicola”

Izzy: “Unity?  Jeeze, that one would cause a fight in an empty room”

Hughie: “You know full well that she was cried Nicola or Nikki – she didnae like Unity”

Me: “OK, Mr and Mrs Torrance, you’ve got to come to a decision.  “You’ve ‘Got to be certainabout what we call Kylie”

Izzy: “to keep the peace, we’ll have his Mam’s names as middle names. ‘Cos, Hughie, I luv ya – but yer mother’s still an auld besom”.

So it was to be Kylie Unity Nicola Torrance

I left, my head ‘spinning around

It was only when I got home that I realised the full horror of what little Kylie was to be named: Kylie Unity Nicola Torrance – work it out yourselves from the initials

(verily I say unto you – the above story is true, apart from the large chunks that are pure fabrication!)

-ooOOoo–

THE TWO AMIGOS

The Two Amigos (see below: post “Crichton Church Services” 13 July 2013) were the best of friends, but sometimes they would fall out…. and on this particular occasion, big time!

The Church was open to everyone, patients, staff, those who liked a half-hour early Sunday service  (9.15)

Occasionally, a nursing member of staff – usually from the Infirmary – would ask me to baptise their child or grandchild.

So one Sunday morning, here we all were – the Baptismal party and their family and friends – about 30 of them – sitting on the left hand side of the Church and all dressed in their finery.

I guess that most of the “guests” didn’t realise that this was the Church for the Crichton Royal Hospital which cared for those with mental health problems.

They soon did so!  The side door was violently flung open and in came the two amigos – late as usual.  No smiles nor waves this time; obviously, they had been bickering about something.

The bickering turned into squabbling.  The squabbling turned into pushing then punching.

And the two ended up in the aisle next to where the baptismal visitors were sitting.  They rolled about on the floor, walloping each other, gouging, strangling ……. to the horror of the folks next to them  (no doubt thinking, “What kind of Church is this?”)

We manged to separate them, their ward was phoned, and exeunt stage left by the vestry door.

And, nonplussed, I just carried on as if nothing had happened.

The next Sunday, we were all back to normal.  Crash – the door thrown open – the two pals enter – a wave, a grin and a big “Hello!” to the congregation.

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July 14, 2013 · 03:51

I’m Sorry – I Haven’t a Clue

A particular request for a baptism some years ago: “Could we have the bairn done?”

(so tempting to answer “rare or medium?”)

“Are you a member of the Church?”

A look of pitying amusement.

“Well I’d like you to become a member, before we go ahead”

(on one occasion – not this one – “but the invitations have been sent out and the hotel booked”)

“I’d like you to become a member of the Church”

“What?  You mean like going to services on a Sunday?  I didn’t know that you had to do that!  I thought you just put water on his heid and that was it”

“No, there’s a bit more to it than that”  then tried to explain what the “bit more” was.

“So you put the water on the bairn’s heid?”

“Yes”

“And that makes him a Catholic”…………

–ooOOoo–

Thinking about the word “Catholic”….

This sometimes causes problems.

After a Baptism, it is usual to say something along the lines of “We have done as Christ commanded and now (child’s name) is received into membership of the One,Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church….. and so on”

So often, when the word “Catholic” is uttered, the father of the child – and it’s usually the Dad, many of whom one feels are somewhat reluctant to be there – will suddenly waken up and look in horrific disbelief at his better half, as if to say “You’ve brought us to the wrong place!”

(some ministers now use the word “Universal” but a late minister (one of my preprocessors used to pronounce it cathOLIC).

–ooOOoo–

“The wrong place” – the Church is often perceived as being “the wrong place” for some people, many of whom now have their wedding services in hotels.

One occasion comes to mind…..

Bride-to-be: ” Would you be willing to conduct a wedding in a local hotel, because, you see, we’re not really religious”

I suppose I should have asked, “Then why do you want a Minister?” but didn’t.

“What kind of ceremony would it be?”

“Much the same as in a church – Scripture Readings, Prayers, hymns, vows taken in the Sight of God”

“Oh, I don’t want hymns, and no prayers, though I don’t mind God being mentioned…”

“Well, that’s good of you. I’m sure He’ll be delighted  …. but, you know, from what you’ve told me, do you you not think it would be better to have your ceremony at the Registrar’s Office?”

the punch line…….. “But the Registry Office doesn’t have an aisle for me to walk down!”

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Baptism

Baptism

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April 27, 2013 · 10:16

A Baptismal Request

A middle-aged guy who had emigrated from an African country once approached the minister of the Church where he worshipped diligently every Sunday.

“Rev”, he asked him, “what do I have to do to be baptised?  You see, I’ve never been christened.”

So the Minister explained that they would meet a few times to talk about the meaning and implications of Baptism.

Then, this chap asked, “Is it possible to give me a new Christian name?”

“Why? I think that Mabbawsa is an an honourable and respected name in your country”

“Oh yes,” came the reply, “but not when my surname is Ritchie”

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Have You Been Saved?

The Meenister’s Log

At University, I would often attend services at Hope Park Church in St.Andrews.

Every Sunday morning, there would be this particular lady who would try to buttonhole worshippers as they went in to the church – with a question “Have you been saved?”

Not appearing to be rude, on the first time this happened to me, I replied “I think so”

Wrong!

“But you’ve got to KNOW so”

One Sunday, one of my fellow divinity students was stopped and asked the usual question, “Have you been saved?”

To which Gary answered, “Indeed, I have!”

“Where and When?”  (such folk have a day and date and time fixed in their memory when they found Christ)

Gary: “At  Calvary around about 33 A.D, Madam”  and then proceeded to enter the kirk building.

–ooOOoo–

An old joke:  a tramp is wandering along a riverbank, when he encounters some Baptists carrying on full immersion in the waters.

The Pastor stopped our “Gentleman of the Road” and asked him “Have you found Jesus?”

“I don’t know” came the reply.

“Well come with me” – and with that he was dooked in the river by two Deacons.

(this was the first time he had encountered any water for years!)

Spluttering, he came back to the surface.

“Well, have you found Him?”

“No, sorry”

In he went again under the water and again, when he came up was asked the same question, “Have you found Jesus?”

Again a third time and the same question, “Have you found Jesus?”

With a large degree of indignation, our friend answered, “No!  Are you sure that this is the place he fell in?!”

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Baptism (with or without water?)

The Meenister’s Log

Church of Scotland candidates for the Ministry have to undergo what is known as Trials for Licence.  This happens usually after the academic side of things has been completed and before full Ordination – the time spent in between (usually a year) is as a sort of apprentice or curate – known as a Probationer or Licentiate.

There’s a service to be conducted and wise men and women from Presbytery come to listen to see if the candidate is “up to it”; there is also a longish interview to discover if he/she knows Church Law etc.

At my interview for Trials for Licence (in 1973) , I was asked, simply enough, what is the element used in Baptism……..obviously, water
 Then the minister who asked the question, said “what if you’re in a desert – what would the Desert Fathers have done?”
 Cheekily, I answered “pee on the candidate”
I wonder how 39 years later, I’m still an ordained Minister of Word and Sacrament!

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Water

The Meenister’s Log

Here’s a serious question to minister friends – at my interview for Trials for Licence, I was asked, simply enough, what is the element used in Baptism…obviously, water

Then the minister who asked the question, said “what if you’re in a desert – what would the Desert Fathers have done?”

Cheekily, I answered “pee on the candidate”

But…seriously, what?  saliva if not urine? some of the limited supply of drinking water they might have had with them?  wine?

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Names

The Meenister’s Log

At one particular baptism, I took the infant in my arms and said, as I sprinkled the water, “John William (or whatever), I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”   At this point, the father hissed at me “That’s not his full name”….. to which I whispered back something like,”Don’t worry, we’ll get it sorted out (how?!!)

Now that’s a bit worrying – not as bad, of course, as giving the WRONG names, but not giving ALL the names the little fellow was entitled to.

After the baptismal part of the Service, I accompanied the Baptismal party into the vestry, and was profuse in my apologies to the parents.

“I’m terribly sorry” I said “but you told me his names are John and William”

“Aye, they are” answered the father, “but you forgot to christen him with his surname -it should have been John William Taylor!”

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An Adult Baptism

The Meenister’s Log

James was a lad in his early thirties and was a bit “slow”.  However, he was desperate to be baptised.

We went through a course of instruction and he seemed to understand what was involved.

However, when  it came time for his Christening, he seemed very ill at ease; it transpired that he felt nervous about standing in front of the congregation in public view.

We arranged a compromise: the Sacrament would be administered AFTER the service and we would have two or three elders present, as well as some members of his family.

“James, I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit Amen”

And then as is my custom, I placed my right hand on his head and said “May the blessing of Almighty God descend upon you and dwell in your heart forevermore”

To which James loudly interrupted, “I bloody well hope so!”

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