I met my sister outside church this morning and, having read the daily notices online, said "Guess what, another baptism"
St James, King Street is the oldest church in Sydney and was consecrated in 1824 (not old by world standards but Sydney was first settled by the English in 1788).
Consequently it is seen by many as the place to have your child 'done'.
In the 4 weeks after Easter we had six baptisms over 3 Sundays. I guess there was a backlog from Lent. We have had 2 or 3 since and there are also baptisms at the later service.
On any other Sunday the majority of worshippers are well past child bearing. Our Sunday School, known as Kids@Church, process out after a blessing which follows the Collect for the Day and usually return in time for communion. We are pleasantly surprised if the number of children reaches 2 figures. Where are all those who were baptised 4 or more years ago?
Even if I did not read the pew sheet, a baptism is announced by a large number of strangers sitting at the front of the church who are so obviously lost in the liturgy. This is most obvious during the Gospel procession when they all begin to realise that they should have turned around to face the centre of the church.
I was pleased today to see that many of them, including the Godparents, did go up to take communion. Quite often only 1 or 2 do so.
The problem today was the large number of babies among the group. The sermon could hardly be heard and there was a titter through the congregation as about the 4th parent took a child out of the church. My sister whose hearing is declining told me she just gave up.
The Guest of Honour today was very good and our Assistant Priest Fr John has a real way with kids and always processes around the church to display the child after the baptism. There was a lot of crying during the baptism and I, not having a good view, thought it was the child. It is winter and I am not sure if the water is warmed. However I was told the crying came from some of the others, not the child of the day.
I do like singing Laudate Dominum as they process from the sanctuary to the font.
We leave out the Creed which, of course, is covered by the liturgy of baptism but also the Prayers of the Faithful which I feel is a shame.
A few weeks ago I met a person who used to be a parishioner at St James. She told me at least she restated her baptismal vows on a regular basis while attending St James.
I am not sure if I am being a curmudgeon. Perhaps we should rejoice that parents still want their child baptised. I have no idea what preparation is provided by the priests.
At least it helps the offertories.
On this topic, last year offertories were down and we have had several pleas to increase them. I was glad to read in our July Newsletter that offerings for the half year are 9% over the first 6 months of 2008 and 4% above the budget. I do not know if this is due to increased giving or increased attendance but certainly this 'liberal' parish is not declining.
However to cheer me up, we had one of my favourite hymns for the Offertory.
Dear Lord and Father of mankind.
When the organ leads the congregation to belt out "Speak through the earthquake wind and fire" and then quieten for "Oh still small voice of calm"
the tears stream down my face.
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