Here are some of the thoughts on baptism that jumped out at me in reading Girl Meets God. Oh, by the way, just because I include something here, doesn’t mean I agree with it fully. It is just “food for thought.”
Child-like faith (my heading-jh)
At All Angels’, I teach the 5 and 6 year-old Sunday school class. One day, we sit in a circle on the dusty green rug and talk about the Eucharist. “Then Milind stands up and prays for a long time. He gives a long speech, doesn’t he?” I ask, referring to the consecration of the bread, when the priest tells the story of the Lord’s Supper. “What do you think is in that big goblet?”
“Apple juice,” cries out one student, swayed by months of Sunday school snacks. (She may also think the Eucharist wafer is a graham cracker.)
“I know,” says a boy in a daringly pastel T-shirt, “Milind is giving everyone wine to drink.” That was the correct answer, of course, but I kept calling on students.
“I think,” says a pensive girl with black corkscrew curls circling her face, “that Mister Millind is pouring God into the cup for us to drink.”
That, I think is what Jesus must have meant when He said we need to be like children. He was talking about this very corkscrew-curled little girl, who doesn’t care about transfiguration or consubstantiation or substance and accidents. She just knows that the priest pours God into a communion cup.
Communion and the Body (my heading-jh)
It doesn’t sit well with our modern sensibilities, the idea that you could be excluded from a group, asked to leave, shut out because you didn’t believe something, or hadn’t been doused in the right water. But there is something fitting to the privacy of members-only eucharist. The Eucharist is intimate. Watching it is a little like spying on a couple making love. This may be the place where Christ loves us best.
Holy Communion is another name, and there are good reasons to speak of taking communion. Those words remind us that we are not only drawing near to God, but that we are doing that most basic and social thing, we are eating together, we are drawing near to one another. This has been a long, slow lesson for me. I am just starting to learn that the people I take communion with are the people who count.
I didn’t like most of the people at Clare College chapel. I loved my priest. And, I loved Becky, my godmother; Anna, the ordinand sent over by her seminary to be our priest-in-training; and Helen and Olivia, two short-haired eighteen-year-olds with lively minds and brassy giggles. Other than those few, the people at chapel weren’t people I would have chosen to socialize with. They weren’t up to my standards. I didn’t think them clever enough, entertaining enough, whole enough. Mostly, at the Clare chapel, I met broken people, needy people, people who were in church for a reason.
In fact some of the chapel people repelled me. They were pale and pasty and watery drips of people, inarticulate and shy and nerdy and downright tedious. I had nothing to talk about with any of them, though Lord knows I tried, not even theology, a concept that seemed foreign to these students, students for whom everything about Jesus was perfectly clear-cut. “These are not,” I sniffed to Jo, “people I would invite to a dinner party.”
Jo, in her wisdom, didn’t point out the obvious fact that I was, indeed having a dinner party with them every Sunday morning. She pretended to sympathize. She pretended to be every bit the snob that I was. She said whole days elapsed where she had to speak , hour after pastoral hour, to people she did not like very much or find terribly interesting. “There aren’t too many people around here like you,” she admitted conspiratorially, as though it were just us two charming ans sophisticated Christians pitted against the rest of the sorry, benighted church. Then she sighed and said, “But I realized awhile back that if I built a church filled with my friends, it would be rather small and homogeneous church.” I blinked. “Dull really,” said Jo.
So much for sympathy.
The day before I left Cambridge for good, I saw Paul and Gillian, two of the most annoying Christians, on Clare bridge, and I hugged them. I said I would miss them. I thought I was lying, to be polite. But I wasn’t. I have missed them. No one else I ever meet will have pledged to support me in my life of Christ, which is exactly what Paul and Gillian pledged at my baptism. My Village, the friends with whom I chat about post-structuralism and Derrida–those people didn’t witness my baptism. They didn’t cheer at my confirmation, they didn’t pray with me every Sunday for two years, they didn’t hand me Kleenex when I burst into inexplicable tears in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer. They aren’t my brothers and sisters in Christ. They are merely my friends.