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Rosemary is Baptised

Following the inspiring accounts of interchurch baptisms which appeared in the Centrepiece of the last issue of Interchurch Families, we should like to describe our own experience of the baptism of our daughter, Rosemary, last Sunday, 24th January 1988. Our two sons, Christopher and David, had been baptized as Catholics before we had grown into our interchurch vocation and met AIF, so we very much wanted Rosemary's baptism to be an expression of our family s Christian unity.

The East Midlands is not an area in which ecumenism has been very developed, and our Anglican parish in particular has traditionally been a rather conservative and insulated community in which Christian unity has generally received only passing mention. But both our Catholic priest ( a university chaplain and AIF member) and our Anglican vicar (himself the child of a Catholic­Anglican marriage) were very sympathetic to our wishes even though neither had performed an ecumenical baptism before.

We agreed to hold the baptism in our Anglican church, following the ASB service but with the participation of both clergy and registration of the baptism in both churches. We originally hoped that both clergy could participate fully in jointly pouring the water and saying the words of baptism, but after some consultation it was decided that this might not be the appropriate action to take. However, in every respect Rosemary's baptism, held on the Sunday at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, was a truly interchurch and very moving service. Our vicar's opening welcome drew special attention to the interchurch nature of the baptism and the Introductory Sentence (from Ephesians 4:4­6) was taken from the ASB's suggested readings for the Unity of the Church (p.904). We ourselves were able to make a short statement of our commitment to bring Rosemary up within the community of our two churches as an addition to the response ''I am willing'' early in the service.

Although our vicar alone said the actual words of baptism and poured the water, both clergy said the remainder of the baptismal prayers together and simultaneously made the sign of the cross on Rosemary's forehead. Our priest performed the anointing with chrism, specially added from the Catholic service, and gave a homily based on the beautiful sermon 'Water into Wine' given at the interchurch wedding in Manchester which had appeared on the front page of Interchurch Families only a few days earlier. We felt that this sermon had been intended by God for Rosemary's baptism and our deep thanks go to those who had made it available to us through the pages of Interchurch Families.

Perhaps the most spiritually memorable aspect of Rosemary's baptism was the powerful effect it had on our congregation of forty relatives, friends and local Anglican community. The special atmosphere was reflected in the heartfelt unaccompanied singing of 'The Lord's My Shepherd' and 'Alleluia, Sing to Jesus' during the service. Afterwards many people told us that the ecumenical celebration had moved them deeply and was an experience they would never forget. Rosemary's godparents/expressed to us how their understanding of the unity of Christians had been deepened by their new role. We praise God that Rosemary's baptism, which was referred to in both the Catholic and Anglican Sunday services and will soon be featured in the Anglican parish magazine, has made a small but tangible contribution to the unity of our Churches.

Steve and Hilary Hodkinson

Published by the Association of Interchurch Families, England