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Baptised Into Christ

Baptism in a Two­Church Family

During the first five years of our marriage. the fact that one of us is a member of the United Reformed Church, the other a Roman Catholic, did not have a great impact. Despite the commitment we feel to our respective churches. it was quite possible to work a compromise. with attendance alternating between the two.

But the arrival of our daughter Ruth changed all that. No longer was compromise a workable solution. Baptism would require a commitment to one church at the expense of the other. The sacrament of baptism is recognised by both churches, but would inevitably create a bond with one particular church.

In the event. Ruth was baptised in the United Reformed Church. Our dual church attendance continued. As Ruth grew older (she is now six) she did not seem to find the ambiguity a problem.

And then our son John arrived. What should we do this time? Ensure both children belonged to the same denomination? Recognise the other parent's feeling, and baptise John in the Roman Catholic Church? Whichever, another difficult decision would have to be made.

However, two quite separate visits to our home by the URC minister and Catholic priest suggested- quite independently of each other-the same thing: do both! Baptise John in a joint service in one church and at the same time admit him into the other church. One of the most heartening and genuinely ecumenical experiences we have ever had was the willingness of both our clergy to co­conduct a baptism in the other church, if it helped to resolve the problem.

This solution was the answer to our hopes and prayers, but one we felt was so unrealistic that we had simply not discussed it with either church. John was baptised in a joint URC/RC service in the Catholic church. He was then blessed in the UR church, and admitted to their Cradle­Roll.

And our daughter Ruth? She was anointed in the Roman Catholic Church at the same time, so is now joint denominational with her brother.

We have written this article, because we earnestly hope that other couples will be encouraged by this experience. We hope that you will work and pray to a workable solution. Discuss it with each other: Discuss it with your clergy.

And what will we do as our children become older? We hope and believe that time and trust in God's grace will continue to show the way forward. Of one thing we are sure-that true christian unity will be achieved by churches, clergy, and families working together to resolve just these types of problems. 

Anne and John Neugebauer

A lovely service for us, our families, churches and friends

Peter was baptised in the Anglican parish church by the Catholic priest. It was a lovely service for us, our families. churches and friends. We all said together:

We welcome you into the Lord's Family.

We are members together of the body of Christ:

We are children of the same heavenly Father:

We are inheritors together of the kingdom of Cod. We welcome you.

Peter entertained us all through the service and helpfully slept through the tea afterwards! Gervase and Susan Vernon

Maybe we helped in a small way

We are arranging Kirstyn's baptism-it will be in the Catholic church, but the priest has reluctantly agreed that the Anglican priest can do the readings and prayers before the actual rite. We had felt this was a very minor thing, but when we got back to the Anglican clergy they thought it was great-apparently ecumenism with the Catholic priest has been a total non­starter. so maybe we have helped in a small way. We would like to present him with a common baptismal certificate to fill in.

Caryl and Damien MacRandal

Surprised but delighted

Our daughter Sarah, now two and a half, was baptised in our local RC church with our Anglican curate participating in the service. We decided that for Mark we would like the service to take place in the Anglican church and decided to ask our local Catholic priest to be present. We were very surprised but highly delighted when he agreed without hesitation. He not only attended but took a very active part in the service. It was a very happy occasion for all concerned.

Lynne and Bernard Ashton

Can you use a photo?

Your remarks about photographs prompted us to think of the photos of Anna's christening and we wondered whether you could make use of the enclosed? The picture shows the Anglican priest holding Anna while the RC priest pours the water! Some of our prayers were inspired by the account of the ecumenical baptism in the newsletter, while the others were adapted from a part of the discussion paper which accompanied Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry a few years ago. The baptism included parts of the Anglican rite and was within a Catholic eucharist.

Perhaps our experience of what is possible will encourage others to achieve the same (given truly understanding clergy with which we are blessed).

Sarah and Jim Sikorski

Difficult to believe

My husband is an Anglican and I am a Roman Catholic. When we met, he had strong views about not marrying a Catholic, because he knew Catholics usually want to bring their children up as Catholics, and he would not want that for his children. Early on in our relationship this question had to be tackled and after a lot of heart­searching he decided that if we did marry, he could accept his children being brought up as Catholics. During this time we both made great efforts to understand the faith of the other, attending each other's churches in particular. We came to appreciate each other's churches. The Catholic mass is filled with reverence, and an appreciation of the majesty of God, whereas the less formal Anglican services we attended had more emphasis on personal relationship with God. Thus each complemented the other. We both found that having to explain our faith to the other helped us to understand our own faith better.

Shortly before our marriage, we encountered AIF. From our discussions with members of the Association, we learned how it is possible to bring up children in both churches. We had not considered this before. We intended after our marriage to continue to attend both churches together so this did seem a logical way to approach the religious upbringing of possible children.

We were encouraged by an AIF meeting at which a number of children of interchurch families spoke about their two­church upbringing and felt it had made them look more deeply into their faith. We discussed the question of baptism and found that it is sometimes possible to obtain dual registration when a baptism is performed in an Anglican church by a Catholic priest We strongly felt we would like baptism of that kind for our children.

Shortly after the birth of our daughter we explained this to our Catholic parish priest. The answer was 'no'. and after long discussion the answer was still 'no'. It seemed that if my husband had been a vicar or the son of an Archbishop of Canterbury, it might have been different. But he is neither. We were made to feel very strongly that because we had no ecclesiastical connections our case was hopeless! We were therefore quite indignant when a few Sundays later, the bishop's pastoral letter on church unity talked about 'common baptismal faith'.

We also approached my husband's vicar. After expressing surprise at our request, he eventually said we could use the church but he wanted no part in the baptism. This was obviously unsatisfactory, but not unexpected. as we knew of his anti­Catholic views. For some time we had been considering a move to another, more spiritually alive, Anglican church and this refusal helped us to make the move.

On the Catholic side no further progress was made for a while. Time went on. We discussed our problem with other couples and clergy. We were very surprised but pleased when another priest said he would be prepared to help us, and discuss the baptism with ourselves and our vicar, who agreed. As the birth of our second child was imminent. we decided to postpone the discussion until after the birth, hoping that the two children could be baptised together. Our son was born two years after our daughter. We talked with the clergy separately, and then together. The discussion with both clergy present started with a decision as to the date of the baptism. It was very difficult to believe that, after all this time, the baptism was actually going to happen.

A deacon friend helped to write the liturgy, based on the Catholic baptism service and the ASB service. We chose some of our favourite hymns and choruses, trying to express praise of God, and thanks that the baptism was taking place. 'Bind us together' seemed particularly relevant. The godparents (two Catholics, an Anglican and a Methodist) were each asked to say short prayers. written by themselves, for the children, for us as parents, and for both of the church communities.

Happily the service very much reflected the unity we wanted to show in our marriage and family. We had invited about one hundred relatives, friends and members of both churches. The whole service was a wonderful celebration of our common Christian faith. We now have two baptismal certificates for each child, and dual registration in the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches. Hopefully our experiences and those of other Interchurch families may bring about. eventually, changes in some of the rules, particularly with regard to baptism and intercommunion.

Christine and Laurie Miles

Published by the Association of Interchurch Families, England



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