We pass the baptistry font on the way in and out of the church we've been visiting. The kids view it with curiosity and love to touch the smooth sides and peek in to see if there's water. Maryn wonders how she will fit in it as she has been considering baptism recently, after watching me baptize her brother two years ago. We try to explain how people don't get immersed in Episcopal churches, but our explanation falls a little flat as we're not sure ourselves exactly how it works.
We love this church--the beauty of the architecture, the people we know who attend and minister there, and the loveliness of the liturgy and music. We appreciate the Sunday evening service that leaves most of our day free for a family Sabbath. Even the kids have been excited about returning to church again, which has been a happy change. I was still caught off guard when Maryn saw a drawing of the church and referred to it offhand as "our church". We've just visited four times and although it feels right, I'm reluctant to commit.
I still feel guilty about leaving our former church and yet I'm relieved not to feel the anger and negativity I was beginning to feel each time I thought about church in general. Old scars are easily reopened. I miss old friends, but feel that those relationships will continue in new spaces. I worry about the message it sends to our kids and what it means that they have left their Sunday School classes and children's choir. As usual, though, I seem to be the only one concerned as they are quick to move on to what is new. But how long will it take before this becomes "old" to them? On our way home tonight, Brady asked how long we had been at our previous church, and I answered, "Since Maryn was born...six and a half years." And he responded, "Then we can stay at this one six years, too, and then find a new church." They are quick to pick up on what we don't want to teach them.
I've been Baptist all of my life, but I never felt that it was an integral part of my identity. I have attended Baptist churches, went to a Baptist seminary, and worked at the Virginia Baptist Children's Home for eight years. But I've often been more frustrated by Baptist stereotypes than inspired by Baptist freedoms. I get tired of always having to qualify that I'm not "that type" of [judgmental, closed-minded] Baptist. But seeing the baptistry font instead of a baptismal pool seems like a marker of all we would be sacrificing. I would not have the joy of holding my girl under the symbolic waters and raising her to new life in Christ. I'm sure I could be convinced by the meaning and symbolism in the Episcopalian ordinance, but it is truly a departure from an identity I didn't know my soul had claimed.
It doesn't feel like a crisis of faith, but it is one of identity. What does my Baptist tradition truly mean to me? Am I Baptist only because of the tradition I was born into and the prevalence of it where I live? What does it mean to be called elsewhere? How is my current (Episcopal) seminary reshaping my theological leanings?
As I continue to fumble through the service, learning when to stand, kneel, cross, and bow, I fumble, too, with the tradition that has shaped me, scars and joys alike. And the memories plunge me back into the waters of baptism where I was joined with a Church family I hoped to never leave, where my small son made a commitment in innocent trust and childlike faith, where we were both joined into the family of God that goes beyond denomination and finds common ground in the Spirit that connects us all.
Perhaps that same water fills the small font in the Episcopal church.
Perhaps it is enough.