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Qu for Anglicans/Episcopalians... have we committed a faux pas?

(6 Posts)
TotallyUnheardOf Sun 14-Nov-10 05:27:43

Hi. Have been lurking here (I mean, specifically in this section) for the last week or so (am an old-timer but haven't been on MN for a couple of years really... this is an alias) and am hoping someone can set my mind at rest about something which is probably stupid but is worrying me - probably for reasons which are not the most obvious ones (if that makes sense confused).

Quick background... grew up in CofE, went to church, was confirmed and was involved in choir (a joke - am tone deaf), bellringing, etc. Gradually stopped going between 16 and 18 and stopped altogether once I went to university. Never entirely stopped believing, but had lots of doubts, didn't feel comforable in church, blah blah... DH is vehemently atheist so no encouragement (in fact, just the opposite) there. BUT I'm currently in the US (with my kids, but without DH) for 6 months (for work) and since we've been here have started going to church again. I started partly for very cynical/shallow reasons (for practical reasons kids are in a Catholic school and I thought they'd find it easier, when questioned on religion, to say 'Oh, we're Episcopalians' than to say 'We don't go to church' or 'We're not religious'), but I was also secretly pleased to have an excuse to go again. And, anyway, something happened - lots of little things really (I'll spare you the details) - that have really affirmed that it was the right thing to do, that I do believe etc. Which is great, and I feel good about it.

Anyway, here's the thing. Last Sunday there was a baptism during the service that we go to, and as part of this members of the congregation were encouraged to process to the font to touch the water and renew their own baptisms. (I haven't been to many baptisms, but haven't seen this done in the UK, so I don't know if it's a general Anglican thing or a US/Episcopalian thing...) Now, the priest had encouraged the kids in the congregation to gather around the font to witness the actual baptism, so my children were not with me when this bit of the service happened, and they just kind of did what they were told and followed everyone else and touched the water. But the thing is that they have never been baptised, so really they should not have been renewing their own baptisms, because they have never happened. Had they been sitting with me at the time I'd have suggested they just stay in their seats, but as it was they just sort of followed everyone else. So... what do you think? Was this really 'wrong'? I feel uncomfortable about it - almost as if they have taken something that didn't belong to them (though I don't believe, of course, that God witholds his love from them just because I failed to get them baptised as babies). I almost feel as if I should apologise to someone. But then when I think about it it sounds a bit ridiculous. (Thank goodness I can write it on here where it's anonymous, eh? I still feel stupid, but at least you don't know me and can't see me.)

Now, I suspect that, at the root of all this is that I am uncomfortable with the fact that the kids are not baptised. I would love for them to be baptised now that I have come back to the church. But they are, I believe, too old now for me to simply make that decision for them (10 and 8) and at the moment they are not ready to make it for themselves (for reasons that vary between 'But I don't believe in God' [daddy's girl...!] to 'It'd be embarrassing'!). They have, however, progressed from staying in their seats during communion to coming for a blessing, and I hope very much that I will continue to attend regularly once I get back to the UK and that they will choose to come with me (though they will have a get-out then, as they could choose to stay at home with DH...). Mind you, I need to find a church I am comfortable with back home, as my local one is not my style at all. But that's another story...

Anyway, can anyone reassure me that I/we haven't done anything deeply offensive. Would it be OTT to contact someone to 'confess' that the kids took part in the baptism thing 'by mistake'? Or can I just be happy that they were, even if inadvertently, involved in this way?

Thank you in advance.

MrsCadwallader Sun 14-Nov-10 06:10:47

You have done nothing that would offfend me!

I appreciate and understand your anxiety - I wasn't baptised as a child (completely non-religious upbringing) and used to get very anxious if we ever visited a church with school as I was sure I had been told that there are certain areas of the church that you were not supposed to go into if you were not baptised. I was terrified that I was somehow trespassing / doing something offensive if I got it 'wrong'.

I don't know what the 'rules' are around Anglican / Episcopalian baptism (despite being an Anglican myself confused) but I think the fact that there are so many forms of baptism across the denominations ought to reassure you that there is no 'right' way in Gods eyes in terms of what you have to physically do. The only 'right' way for God is in baptism with a willing commitment and desire (either first hand or on behalf of an infant).

Your children touched the water in complete innocence and because everyone else was and, presumably, because they wanted to. Only good can come out of that IMO - and no harm at all.

Someone else might come along later with a more theologically / doctrinally correct answer but as far as I am concerned, while I do not think you are stupid to be worrying, I honestly do not see that you need to worry about anything

Good luck with the rest of your journey - I hope you'll come back here if you need to talk

MmeOrangeBlackandBlueberry Sun 14-Nov-10 06:48:07

Well, they won't have baptised themselves by what they did, so I don't think you need to worry about that.

If they want to be baptised, then they can take themselves to baptism and make the promises for themselves. 8 is probably a bit young, but your older child may be ready within the next few years.

When you return to the UK, find a supportive church family and see what happens.

MaryBS Sun 14-Nov-10 08:47:51

Its fine what they did, I wouldn't have a problem with it. Personally, depending on the child, I don't think 8 is too young, but at that age they would need careful preparation to make sure it was what they really wanted.

madhairday Sun 14-Nov-10 13:19:54

Agree with pp, nothing offensive at all or anything to worry about, your dc were enjoying taking part in a service and felt a part of it which is how it should be.

I agree with Mary in that I don't think 8 is too young (in fact I don't have any age limit on it at all) but I do think if children haven't been baptised as babies they need to feel ready themselves to make that decision, which they will in their own time if it is the right thing for them. Don't worry about it at all.

Glad you're finding it such a positive experience to be back in church. I guess you may find it tough when back in the UK if dh is not supportive about it etc, and as you say you want to find a church you can feel at home in. There will be the right one - just a case of having a look around, asking for recommendations etc.

All the best to you

TotallyUnheardOf Sun 14-Nov-10 17:40:01

Thanks everyone. I feel better now. (I didn't worry that they had 'accidentally' baptised themselves - I mean, I know it doesn't work like that - just that they had done something that they shouldn't (and that someone might have noticed, and be thinking badly of us, or something... um... not very well thought-out, I know...).

As things stand they don't want to be baptised, though they are happy to come to church with me here. They say that they don't want to continue to attend church back home, so we'll see what happens. I am determined to find a church where I feel I fit in, and we'll go from there. I would like them to choose to come rather than to feel that I am forcing them to do so. (It's possible I am not helping with them wanting to come with me, as I really want a quite traditional service, whereas I can see that that might not be the most attractive if you're 8...).

Anyway, thanks for your reassurances. I really appreciate it.

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