At First Presbyterian Church in Beacon, we have a ritual with our children around the baptismal font. Right before the prayer of confession, they are invited to come to the front of the sanctuary and gather in a circle around the baptismal font. We pray the prayer of confession, and then the congregation sings. While we are singing one of the children carries a tray of water cups, offering them to each child, hopefully, saying to them, “Remember God’s love for you.” Another child follows with a pitcher, and the children pour their cups of water into the pitcher, and then finally, the child with the pitcher, pours the water into the baptismal font.
At it’s best it is a beautiful ritual–a moment when the call to love and cherish each other is made real. At it’s worst, it might make us parents wonder why we even bother bringing our rambunctious children to church. One time, I set out sit-upons, to help the kids know where the circle was. It was a total disaster! It led to a game of leap frog in the middle of the service. Those sit-upons didn’t make an appearance again.
When they are invited down, the kids sometimes coming running, and are giddy with enthusiasm to see their friends. Sometimes, they are laying spread out on the ground like they are anxious, or bored as all get out. All the time, they come down curious as to who gets to do the tray and who gets to do the pitcher–something that we figure out on the spot, and haven’t yet settled into something more organized. They love to be the ones to carry the tray and the pitcher!
Often, the children stand up and peer over the font to look at the water–sometimes touching it. I’ve witnessed one of my own children, dip her hands in and rub her face and lick her fingers, and then do it again. I have to admit that I felt, well, a bit mortified, at that moment. This ritual always keeps us on our toes. But it is clear that our children love to be a part of it. They come running down to be there. And for that I give great thanks.
The Rev. Gretchen Larsen-Wolbrink is a Parish Associate at the First Presbyterian Church of Beacon