Baptism and Belonging

Rev Stephen Holmes, Rector of Holy Cross Davidson’s Mains and St Salvador’s Stenhouse, baptising a young child

The first word being focused on in our Faith is a Verb Lent course is belonging. “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another”. (Romans 12:4-5)

As Christians, we belong to the body of Christ and to the Church through our baptism. Here are some thoughts from some members of our diocese who have been baptized, or had their baby baptized recently.

Aagash, a student who was recently baptised at St Peter’s Lutton Place said: “After being baptised and confirmed I felt much closer to Christ. While I realise that every person is ultimately a part of god, I felt that the baptism was the beginning of a journey of understanding Him in greater depth. I also felt much more a part of my church community, who have always been very welcoming.”

One mother who recently had her daughter baptised said : ”Faith, ultimately, is personal. We can’t give our daughter faith, nor can we choose what shape  faith eventually takes for her. To me, then, infant baptism is about community, affirming the bonds between her and the church family, and especially between her and her godparents, saying these are people who have chosen you, and whom we have chosen for you. They will love you and care for you, and, we hope, help you grow up into a kind and caring person”.

Patrick, who also was baptised in St Peter’s, has shared a more detailed account of his baptism, his journey to and in faith, and his sense of belonging to Christ and His Church.

“I have been attending church in one form or another for most of two years now, however my faith in Christ was found three, maybe four years ago. Before that I believe I would have described myself as a fervent atheist. I have been attending St Peter’s for just over a year now, and shall discuss my thoughts on belonging to three things, firstly to Christ, and then to The Church more broadly or institutionalized religion, and then to St Peter’s church specifically.

The interior of St Peter’s Lutton Place

With regards to my sense of belonging before my baptism and confirmation to Christ, I feel that even before attending church regularly, I had a belief in Him and His life. I had an enormous respect for His teachings as overwhelmingly true. The sort of truth that has shaped our society and arguably society all over the globe ever since His words were spoken. A truly remarkable thought. So, for these reasons I realised that He very much was not something to be casually dismissed or to be thought of as some superstition that would have been nice for the simpler folk of times gone by. Thus, at the most basic level, I felt as though I somewhat belonged to Christianity simply because I believed and did my best to follow the teachings of Christ. I think this is surely one of if not the most fundamental ideas which Christians adhere to. However, despite this, I still felt that organised religion was something that was a bit alien to myself. Even when I was attending St Peter’s there was a minor part of me that felt that while the tradition and the procedure was very comforting there was something very different about it all. Something that other organisations in society just don’t have. However, I also felt very much like I belonged because of the regularity of my attendance, the friends that I made and the community that I felt a part of. So, I would say that even before my baptism and confirmation I already felt some sense of belonging to Christ, and to Church in general.

On the 4th of December I was baptised and confirmed. I believe this was a declaration of my faith and a commitment to the tenants of that faith. Baptism marks the beginning of a journey with God which continues for the rest of our lives, the first step in response to God’s love.

A scallop-shaped baptismal font

Hence, I would say that after my baptism I was a bit more committed to the teachings of Christ but much more to the idea of the Church: the “holy catholic and apostolic” church. I feel that taking communion connected me some way to the concept of the Church that has been practicing in one form or another ever since the apostles went out of Judea to teach to the gentiles. I feel I am participating in a tradition that goes back hundreds of years and through countless eras and crosses innumerous cultures. So, for me, it is the receiving of communion that has been the primary shift in my sense of belonging. Particularly to the formal idea of the Church. 

I would also add that declaring my faith in front of a community to which I feel like I belong and also in front of a large group of some of my closest friends felt very much like I have committed more definitely to the teachings of Christ and indeed to St Peter’s as the place of my baptism and confirmation. 

Finally, I would like to say that I don’t believe that one should put too much stock into religion. I think a sense of belonging to Christ should be the foremost belonging in a Christian’s life. Even though I do believe that the Anglican Church gets a lot of things right and I do believe, very much, that I am some small part in it, I think piety is in good deed and in following the teachings of Christ.”