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More Baptism Stories

CHOICES

Keith Lander was asked to speak on Choices' to a Methodist congregation:

Most couples only have to choose when? and where? We also had to choose the how of our child's baptism.

When? If we followed the current norm, i.e. during morning service or mass it would have been impossible for both clergy to be present. So we chose the traditional time of Sunday afternoon when both Catholic priest and Methodist minister could attend.

Where? To be baptised as a Roman Catholic the ceremony must be conducted by a Catholic priest (except in extraordinary circumstances) and to be baptised a Methodist, it is normally necessary that it is done in a Methodist church. So we chose to have the baptism in the Methodist church with the Catholic priest pouring the water.

How? As. to the choice of form, there is the version in the Methodist Service Book and the one used by the local Catholic church. Neither are mutually exclusive provided all the elements are included. So we chose to combine all seven elements in our own form based on both the Methodist and Catholic service books, with each pan led alternately by priest and minister.

So the baptism was registered in troth churches, and we have three certificates. one RC, one Methodist. one jointly sinned! Our families and members of both congregations attended, complete with Methodist choir and Catholic guitars, almost filling the church. It was a wonderful blessing for our child and as we felt we had made the right choice, we chose similarly for our other two children.

''MISSION IMPOSSIBLE"

Steve and Maureen Mother wrote before their baby was born:

We both feel a strong allegiance to our respective churches, yet feel that each church has something different and equally valuable to contribute. We both attend each other's churches each Sunday... but which church do we baptise our baby in? Although we understand that baptism is not into a denomination but into the family of God, this does not really resolve our dilemma.

Both of us believe in the same things and want to bring up our child as a Christian, not a Catholic or an Anglican, but we feel frustrated and constrained by the actual ecclesiastical practice of the different churches. At the moment I am struggling with a rather dead Catholic local church whereas the Anglican church is lively and spiritual. We do not want to make our decisions on the basis of which church is the best now because should we move, the situation could be reversed.

The decision where to baptise our baby and its future upbringing seem to be inextricably linked, particularly in the eyes of our parents and other people. We always seem to come back to the same point no matter how many times we discuss it-how do we bring up our child as a CHRISTIAN? Sometimes it feels like mission impossible!

AIF was able to supply literature and put the couple in touch with local interchurch famines, and a few months later Maureen wrote:

I'm glad to say that Jonathan was baptised last week in a joint service in the Catholic church with the local Anglican vicar and priest sharing the service. This Sunday he was welcomed into the Anglican church at the regular baptism service. so already we feel that with prayer and loving gestures such as that we have successfully started out on the road of bringing up Jonathan in both churches.

AN "ECUMENICAL" BAPTISM

Stephen and Sarah Mulliner write about the baptism of their fourth child:

Charlotte was born when we had lived here for over two years-longer than we had ever stayed in one place before. We had become involved in our two churches. and also tried to loo to each church on alternate Sundays as a family.

Our twins had been baptised in our then local Catholic church, with the Anglican vicar present to read and say some prayers. Our third child had a purely Catholic baptism as there was no rapport between the Catholic and Anglican churches in that area. Here the rector and parish priest are good friends.

Charlotte's baptism took place on Sunday afternoon in the Catholic church with many from both congregations present. Stephen's brother played the organ, Charlotte s godfather read the Gospel and the service was taken equally by the parish priest and the rector.

Nobody felt left out. We felt Charlotte Was now truly part of the Christian family. She is now well known in both churches' creches and will later attend the children's classes with her brothers and sister. We are very grateful to the parish priest and rector for having made Charlotte's christening such a memorable occasion.

URC in RC

Eileen Finch writes:

Cuthbert's baptism followed the same pattern as with Aidan (see INTERCHURCH FAMILIES Summer 1990). It Was held in the Catholic church, with Cuthbert's grandfather. a United Reformed Church auxiliary minister doing the baptism, while the parish priest followed with the anointing with chrism and the giving of the candle.

Published by the Association of Interchurch Families, England

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

The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Two models

'Grace means gift': charis. God's gift. The angel said to Mary: "hail most favoured (gifted) one.''

Two vastly different 'models' of God's grace have jostled each other throughout the Christian centuries. that of Paul. Augustine and Luther; and that of Aquinas and scholasticism.

There are three vitally important features about the vision of Augustine, who towered over the thought of Europe for a thousand years, an achievement which no one else has remotely approached. The first is the priority of heart over head. of love over understanding: the secret of man is that he is driven by the search and longing for the perfection of God. whether he knows it or not: this is what leads to all his specifically human and spiritual experience- passion. love. creativity. life; indeed. one must add. lust. hate. destruction. death. The second Augustinian feature is that he treated grace in terms of moral psychology. not of Elevation of man by God's gift. to a supernatural state: the problem for him was where we get the stuffing and resources to fulfil the good that we see and aspire to. and to overcome our fleshly passions. Only God could provide. The third. and closely allied. feature is that. for Augustine. God's grace is a matter of our experience-the power that replaces 'make me chaste. but not yet'' with the warm hanging to share the holiness of God. (He did construe the go­go element in man which creates and achieves, his libido to use Freud's term. too much in terms of sexual drive and conquest.) This is the romantic tradition in theology.

The classical model is so cold by comparison. and cannot even claim the compensation of beauty. as Bach might against Brahms. The classical tradition puts the emphasis on knowledge, contemplation, the vision of God. Nature of itself lives. chews its cud and dies: it is quite incapable of knowing God and sharing his life. Grace is God's gift that 'elevates' nature from the best it can do (as in the pagan literature and living of Greece and Rome) to a higher level of faith (intellectual vision) and charity (will) able to relate to God, transforming the 'soul' progressively so that it will, in the future and after death, be able to share the life of God (union). These are supernatural virtues (faith and charity, hope a bit of a Cinderella, as there was no third faculty of the soul after understanding and will for hope to elevate). The natural virtues are very admirable. but quite irrelevant to salvation.

Why, oh why, did the systematic theologians cease to listen to the mystics and spiritual writers. and even have the nerve to suspect them of 'systematic' heresies such as pantheism and quietism? The second feature of the classical tradition is that the effect of grace in enabling us to do good. primary in Augustine, is at most secondary: indeed, in some scholastic authors there is nothing weak, corrupt, enfeebled at all about nature and its virtues: it just exists irrelevantly on the ground floor. producing splendid natural virtues no doubt. which have no bearing on supernatural life. The good pagan's failure appears to be a description of the majority of the human race.

And the third contrast with Augustine is that grace. God's gift.. is not something we experience: it is a sort of supernatural electricity, investing our faculties and our actions with relevance to divine life. For it is the grace of Christ which is saving, and that is something nature's best efforts cannot attain.

Thus it came about that grace came to be thought of as an entity, a thing. God's heavenly cupboard was inexhaustibly filled with it by the merits of Christ (his death), and God dispensed it somewhat mysteriously. even arbitrarily in a false interpretation of gratuity. to some and not others. to some 'more than' others. A gift. entity, a thing, which raises us to the supernatural order and shapes, trains, us for eventual union with God.

It would take another Centrepiece to say what this did to sacramental theology. The sacramental 'system' became a grace­dispensing machine. like a soft drinks dispenser: put the right coin in and put a cup under, press button A, B. C .... and you get soup, coffee, lemonade. Similarly, the good works the Lord does in us came to be thought of in external, impersonal and quantitative terms as merits, the celestial bank­balance we can cash after death; and not in the personal terms of interior relationship with God and union with him now in a shared life.

God's gift of himself Salvation and sanity came in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries with the turning of the classical model on its head. That model concentrated on created grace, the effect in us of the saving work of Christ. and put this first: touches of and impulses to our mere nature which 'elevated' it and organised it for union with God: created grace the cause, union the effect. The recovery of patristic theology reversed this. The true catholic tradition is that God's gin of himself. uncreated grace, is primary, and the change in us and of us is the secondary and created effect. Once more moral psychology and spiritual experience were relevant to salvation; once more the loving, unremitting pressure of God was seen to be the whole context of our experience of being human. If only we had stuck to Paul-but that's still another Centrepiece.

So, in the grace­dispensing model it is essential to ensure that the system is correctly wired and connected to source (validity). Otherwise the current doesn't flow. It's all or nothing. It works or it doesn't work. It cannot be a case of more or less. But if God's self­giff is always there, gratuitous and spontaneous. initiating,

offering a relationship. then there can be a more and a less of our response, a more and a less of life in the Spirit. through the Son, with the Father. There simply cannot be a baptised Christian community incapable of celebrating the eucharist. because someone way back unwittingly cut the flex or pulled the plug out. There cannot be a Christian community which is either wholly and perfectly the Body of Christ. or not at all; only communities becoming the Body of Christ.

Families

And that is what marriages and families are. And interchurch families are communities growing in their response to the unquenchable dominating healing life-giving self­giving of Christ's Spirit. allowing themselves to be drawn more and more fully into the eternal life of the Trinity. They are families whose whole dynamism is to heal the wounds and mend the divisions of the Body of Christ: families quite capable of celebrating the eucharist within themselves for their own nourishment. but wishing their special gin to avail for the unity of all God's people: indeed, driven by God s love which they share towards that goal.

The grace of our Lord Jesus and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit is with you all. These are three ways of saying the same thing.

John Coventry. S.J.

Published by the Association of Interchurch Families, England

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

The Question of Baptism

The shape of the question

Some parents will quite properly decide that in their case the children are going to be brought up entirely in one Church, and without the experience of the other. Even so, they may wish for some recognition of the other Church when it comes to the baptism of their child-a child of both parents. But the question of baptism is only seriously a question for those two­church parents who want to make the attempt to bring their children up somehow within and at home in both their Churches. It is a difficult attempt and they won't be able to see clearly at the outset how it is going to work out. It is obvious to them that, though they mean to be fully united in love. they are two different people going to two different Churches: and the child can't be that. But they want to pass on to their child as fully as possible the Christian unity they are able to develop between themselves. They want this to be the basic Christian experience of their children, embracing and relativising differences that will eventually have to be assimilated. Hence they will want the baptism to bless and be an expression of this endeavour.

It could be argued (it sometimes is) in an ideal or merely theoretical way that baptism and first communion are inextricably linked as elements of Christian initiation; and hence the parents ought first to decide about the child's first communion and then determine the baptism accordingly. But interchurch life isn't like that. It is a whole series of decisions which come out of the developing relationship of man and wife. These decisions cannot be known in advance or planned from the outset by some blueprint which would not allow marriage to be marriage or leave these two people to develop in interaction with each other. Just as an engaged couple should not be pressurised at that point into deciding what they are going to do about the baptism of their children, so when they come to the point of baptism they need to keep their options open, i.e. to be free to develop their own relationship and to hope for developing relationship between their Churches.

It may be well to recall here that the churches tend to look at the interchurch couple from their 'separatist' point of view as not fitting in, while the couple very properly look at the Churches from their own concrete interchurch point of view as a problem for them. After all, it is the Churches which are at fault in being separated, not the couple in being married. Their overriding concern must be for the unity and fullness of their marriage and family life. They have the difficult and challenging task of creating a united christian home in and ????

The question of baptism is not evenly balanced. It is part of Roman Catholic conviction, part of what it means to be a Roman Catholic, to have a sense of obligation to bring up one's children as Roman Catholics. Other Christians would be convinced that they should bring up their children as believing Christians but would not normally have the same sense of obligation about 'denomination'. This imbalance does not stem from a different view of marriage but from a different view of the Church. And marriage of itself cannot dispel it. It just has to be faced, reckoned with, and worked out by each couple in their own way. It is part of the shape of the question of baptism.

Faced with this sort of difficulty, some couples very understandably want to have their children baptised simply·'into Christ' or 'as Christians' so as to overcome and transcend the separation of the Churches and their different convictions, and to avoid any form of choice between them. However, this option rests on an incomplete view of baptism. Baptism is not simply the establishing of a relation between an individual (or family) and the Risen Lord, in his heavenly or glorified state. For many centuries Christian thought regarded the Risen Lord, his Body the Church, and his eucharistic Body, as one mystery, and did not make or allow the distinction we are inclined to make. We are baptised into the Risen Lord by being incorporated in his Body the Church on earth. Baptism involves the believing community which visibly embodies the Lord's gift of himself. And the believing community is both united and divided at the same time. That it is united suggests that one should not be forced to choose between Churches; that it is divided suggests that one has to. Both aspects are inescapably involved when the question of baptism arises. Hence the adequate formula would appear to be; baptism of the child into the Church of Christ as it exists in the two Churches of the parents. This is the formula which found most favour in the AIF questionnaire of October 1978. It adequately represents the actual situation of the parents; they are not Christians in any vague or ill­defined sense, still less in any reductionist sense, but committed members of two specific Churches. And it represents what they want to give to their children.

A few years ago the Ecumenical Commission made a carefully planned effort to get the Roman Catholic bishops to authorise publicly a fairly liberal set of procedures for the baptism of the children of interchurch parents, in a paper which spelled out the theological considerations and the various accepted forms of celebration. The concrete results of this effort were very slender, as some bishops had reservations about the principles involved and their implementation. But the exercise made many people more aware of issues they had not previously faced, and perhaps opened the way here and there to more sympathetic consideration of requests from interchurch families.

Before considering alternative patterns of shared baptism, it may be as well for us to stand back and look at things in perspective. There may not be an ideal form of shared baptism, even if some forms are found more satisfactory than others. What matters is the degree to which different forms fulfil the needs of specific and different parents. It does not make any difference to an infant how he is baptised: what matters to him is how he is brought up. The needs of the parents at this point, however, are very serious. When the baptism has been conducted solely by the Church of one partner, to the total exclusion of the other, the distress of the latter can be very deep: he may feel he has lost his child, that the other Church has taken the child away from him; the distress and resentment may linger on and sour, or at any rate weaken, the couple's effort and hope to construct a united Christian life together. At the other end of the scale, a happily shared baptism (as many letters attest) can be an occasion of immense joy to both, a life­long memory, exceeding in its depth anything that can normally be experienced in a one-church family, and enormously encouraging the parents in their united Christian life. The interchurch couple need to know that their child is accepted by both their Churches; they need to experience that they themselves are accepted by both their Churches; they need to receive the blessing and encouragement of both their Churches on what they are trying to do in their marriage and in their family. However, if they do run into obstacles and are disappointed about what they would like to achieve for a baptism, it may help them to reflect that the form of ceremony is not of importance to the child, and that the child's future, like their own, is still firmly in their hands.

Forms of Celebration

To avoid complexities of language I propose for the purpose of this section to use 'Catholic' for 'Roman Catholic' and to let 'Anglican' stand for all other Churches to which AIF members normally belong.

Nowadays there is usually no difficulty in arranging for baptism in a Catholic church with full participation of both the vicar and members of both families. Many couples have found the new Catholic rite of baptism very helpful, because it lends itself to varied participation. The Catholic priest will presumably give the initial welcome and do the baptising and anointings. But other parts of the ceremony can be variously shared. so that. even if the central act is done by the priest, everyone experiences the ceremony as belonging to both Churches: there are readings, responsorial psalms, a homily, bidding prayers, a short invocation of the saints (e.g. names of parents, godparents and the child). blessing of the water, renunciation of sin and profession of faith: and after the baptism and anointing with chrism, the white garment, the, lighted candle, the Our Father, the final blessing for father. mother and all present.

It seems a good idea if everyone says together the actual formula of baptising to show that it is the Church who baptises. In one or two cases both Anglican and Catholic priests have poured the water and said the words simultaneously.

Many couples have devised variations on this service of their own. perhaps inserting or substituting favourite prayers from Anglican ritual and prayers for unity.

The question of alternating between baptisms in the Catholic and Anglican churches is bound to arise with successive children. But it may prove difficult to secure the Catholic priest's participation in an Anglican service, on the ground that this would look like official approval of the child's being baptised into the Church of England. He may not want to come, even if he respects the responsible decision of the parents and (of course) acknowledges that it is a true baptism incorporating the child into Christ. Or he may be willing to be present but not to take pan. But there have certainly been a number of cases where a Catholic priest has taken part- sometimes not the parish priest, but another priest with his connivance! Attempts to get the Catholic bishop's overt approval for the child's baptism into the Anglican Church have not been successful.

There have been cases where the Anglican vicar has allowed baptism by a Catholic priest in his church; but he may well be unwilling for this to happen a second time, fairly considering that some form of reciprocity is called for. I know of no cases where there has been baptism by the vicar in the Catholic church. But one couple has written that several priests would have been willing for an Anglican priest relative to baptise their child in his church, if they had not first asked the bishop and been refused.

Permission has now been given in quite a number of cases for baptism in the home. (The first one was very hard won from a reluctant and generally conservative Catholic bishop by a patiently persistent couple, who were prepared to wait until the child could point up the discussion by crawling and spreading biscuit crumbs over the episcopal carpet. It is said that when their second child appeared he capitulated at once). Baptism in the home seems the most desirable solution to many couples: however participatory the ceremony, the church of either parent leans the ceremony in one direction rather than the other; the home is not simply neutral, it is the 'domestic church' of the couple's Christian life and the place of their unity. Baptism in the home, however, is not to be thought of as a private affair: it can involve not only the wider families of the child but also local friends from different Churches and other interchurch couples; it can represent the ecumenical community which seeks constantly to make more visible the God­given unity of the Churches.

Whichever of the above forms of ceremony is used, many two­church couples are very keen that the child's baptism should be recorded in the parish registers of both Churches. It may at first seem puzzling that such importance should be attached to an apparently bureaucratic or canonical act: and it is not clear that, simply by recording the fact of the child's baptism, either Church is canonically regarding the child as a member. But such double registration comes over to the parents as an acceptance and welcome of the child by both Churches and as giving him some kind of dual membership. This is how they regard the child themselves: they are members of different Churches, he is a child of both.

One couple had their first child baptised in their local Catholic church. When the second arrived, they decided to have him baptised in the Anglican church which they frequently attended together, but wrote to the Catholic bishop asking him to give his approval of this and to allow the child to be registered as also a member of the Catholic Church. A long and polite correspondence ensued, but to no avail, so the child was baptised as planned. Then they took the baptised baby along to the parish priest, and asked him to receive the child into the Catholic Church. This threw the diocesan curia into some confusion, as it was hard to see how such a request could possibly be refused, and yet there is no known method of implementing it. Eventually a special and somewhat cumbersome service was devised by the chancellor for the reception of the child. based on the new Rite of Reception of Baptised Christians into Full Communion with the Catholic Church, issued by Rome for the reception of adults. Another couple found a simpler method: the local Catholic priest was quite happy to receive the child by the method of 'completing the ceremonies' used when a child in danger of death has been baptised by a simple pouring with the trinitarian formula.

A little humour may not be out of place even when the issues are deeply serious. Beyond all the triumphs and disappointments it remains true that what matters to the child is, not how he is baptised, but how he is brought up. And many couples have been aware that, even when they are disappointed, they have done their bit to increase awareness of their situation and of their spiritual needs, and in that way to help towards making things easier for others. Much has developed in the last ten years, hardly dreamt of before. Some of the things described above have happened in Northern Ireland. It must be an encouragement to many involved in a sometimes lonely tension to realise that over these years the Churches have not managed to change the couples: rather have the couples done much to change the characteristic attitudes of the Churches.

John Coventry S.J.

Experience since 1980

In reprinting this centrepiece it may be useful to add a note on recent experience. Baptism is a subject on which AIF is constantly being asked for information, and experience on shared baptism is growing all the time.

It is important to realise that church authorities are not expecting interchurch parents to provide them with a new theology of baptism, nor are they usually impressed with a list of precedents. What is much more helpful is to get across in human terms the personal and pastoral weds of this particular couple as they come to celebrate the baptism of their child. There is no need to press any particular understanding of a joint celebration of baptism. which may not he share l hv the church authority concerned There is no need to use terminology which will automatically bring a negative reaction.

Clearly local circumstances differ very greatly, from parish to parish and from diocese to diocese. What is possible in one place is not possible in another.

From the. Roman Catholic point of view, we have not found any serious objection to associating an Anglican or Free Church minister (often taking quite a prominent part) in a baptism ceremony performed by a Catholic priest in a Catholic church. Probably the majority of shared baptisms have taken place in this way, and for many couples the baptism has been a very happy experience. Often members of both congregations have joined in the celebration, and have come a little closer together because of it.

There have been a few officially approved cases of the simultaneous pouring of water and saying the words of baptism (one such was recorded in The Tablet, 8 January 83) but there have been a number of objections to this on the grounds that to have two ministers of the sacrament makes the baptism invalid. What is clear from tradition is that it is invalid for one minister to say the words of baptism while another minister pours the water.

For parents who wish the child's baptism to be registered in both churches it has usually been easiest to ask the Catholic priest to perform the baptism in the Anglican church. (A Free Church minister may be willing to register a baptism at which he has assisted in a Catholic Church, but Anglican clergy do not usually feel able to do this.) Some Catholic priests have done this on their own responsibility, but a number of bishops have also given permission for it. (One has done it himself, assisted by the Anglican bishop, in the case of the child of an Anglican priest father and Catholic wife-see photographs in the Church Times, 2 April 82 and the Universe, 9 April 82!). Other bishops have refused.

We still know of no case in Britain where an Anglican priest has been recognised as the minister of baptism in a Catholic church (though this has been experienced by AIF members abroad). There have been a few cases of a Catholic priest taking part in a baptism performed by an Anglican priest in an Anglican church. There have now been one or two cases of a Catholic bishop expressing his acceptance of an Anglican baptism. What is not clear on these occasions is how far the Roman Catholic Church intends to take responsibility for the child, but there have in fact been cases now where children baptised in an Anglican church have been admitted to Catholic First Communion because they have been brought up within the life of the Catholic parish.

Baptism in the home has not become a common practice, but we know of one recent case in which it was allowed on the grounds that one set of grandparents had never set foot in a Catholic church.

In very many cases persistence has won through. There continue of course to be other couples who have struggled hard to express their commitment in a joint celebration of baptism, but who in their local circumstances have had to be content with much less "duality" than they had hoped for. But few who have passed on their experience to us are bitter or unduly discouraged. The last paragraph of Fr Coventry's original Centrepiece still stands.

Ruth Reardon

Published by the Association of Interchurch Families, England