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This article was published in the January 2001 issue of The Journal.

Marc Is Baptised

I, Vincent, am French, a Roman Catholic from a family of active church-goers. My wife Martha is American and a Methodist, from a family very much involved in ministry. Both her grandfathers were pastors, as well as her uncle, who has just retired, while her father is still an active pastor. We live in Cologne, Germany.

We used to experience a great deal of stress when we talked about religion and how we would bring up children in the Christian faith. This was true even before we thought of getting engaged. But we got married in 1997, in a shared wedding ceremony, and two years later were expecting our first child in March 2000. This was when we began to look for more help, and I had no difficulty in finding the interchurch families’ web site.

Learning from other interchurch families

So we were able to obtain a Baptism Pack from the Association of Interchurch Families in London. This pack is very valuable when you have so many questions; the reports in the pack helped us a great deal. It is much easier when you read about real-life scenarios, the questions couples had to answer, the life situations they were in, and the results they got through talking with each other and through the support of the religious communities around them.

We were also put in touch with a wonderful German group of interchurch families, and went to a conference they held in Dornstadt in October 1999, with a Catholic priest and a Methodist pastor. We were struck by how successful these families have been in creating a truly positive way of living out their mixed religious traditions in their homes, in spite of difficulties.

Our son Marc was born on 31st March 2000. Thanks to the ideas and thinking we had gained through our interchurch family friends, we planned a shared celebration of baptism. This was done with the priest of the American church in Bonn, who was very open to our wishes since he had already had experience with ecumenical couples, with the pastor of the American Protestant church in Bonn, and with Martha’s father. The two Catholic and Protestant congregations in Bonn share the same building; it was established in the 1950’s for the American soldiers in Bonn. Now we go to church there together, usually going to mass at 9.30 a.m. on Sunday morning and staying for the Protestant service at 11 a.m.

‘The church at its best’

Marc’s baptism was celebrated on Easter Sunday, 23 April 2000. We decided that Martha’s father would pour the water and thus do the baptism. The other pastor did the welcome, along with the priest, and the benediction. The priest read the gospel (Mark 1:1-11), as well as performing some of the Catholic rites, such as the anointing with chrism. We left out the litany of the saints and the prayer to Mary. Martha’s father gave a short sermon/homily, which was really great. He began by saying: ‘This is the church at its best.’ My twin brother translated what he said into French for my family.

The baptism was celebrated after the church services and our close friends attended it. We had extended an open invitation to both Catholic and Protestant congregations, but it was Easter Sunday and the baptism took place at lunch time … .

The baptism was incredible; both sets of parents were astonished at the way we had been able to organise it, incorporating the main traditions from both churches, and at the overall atmosphere of joy and prayer. We felt we had come such a long way to be able to have a baptism without stress and to have found our own personal solution – another example of the richness of the ecumenical path. Glory be to the Lord!

We found that this shared celebration of baptism was the best way to express the importance of both our traditions to us as a couple and family. We plan that Mark goes mainly to Sunday school at first and we will find a way through local support groups to incorporate as many Catholic traditions as we can, so that he will feel at ease whenever we go to mass. We are aware that this will be a long process, and not all our difficulties are over. But we are very grateful for Marc’s baptism, and for all the support and prayers we have received.

Vincent Randy