Monday, September 8, 2008

Baptismal Inspiration from Meredith

Meredith, A friend of mine from church was published on the front of our church's newsletter and I was inspired. Inspired to hunt down her blog and thank her. Inspired to hunt up my own writing about a baptism in the beautiful marble font at Church of the Holy Family, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Meredith sealed the image of a baptismal story. Read her fine story at:

Here's mine:

Author: George Linney, parent.

It was April 10, 2004, The Great Easter Vigil at Church of the Holy Family, Chapel Hill, NC. On that night, not only would I witness a baptism, but later my wife and I would be received into the Episcopal Church. The candidate for baptism was my oldest son, George Edward Linney, IV. This day marked exactly six months since his birth on October 10, 2003. His parents are George, the author, and Kristen Linney. We were baptized in the Presbyterian and Roman Catholic churches, respectively, both around our 12th birthdays. George’s godparent is my only sibling, Allison Linney of Charlottesville, Virginia. The priest who baptized George was the Reverend Dan Hall, assisting were Timothy Kimbrough (Rector), and Bobbie Armstrong (Deacon). My mother was also present as well as Kristen’s mother, father, and two younger brothers.

The church smelled of Easter lilies and incense. The lilies penetrated my nostrils in an eye-watering reminder of spring. I do not think the lilies were even in the church yet, maybe not until after we went outside for confirmation and receptions, and the church would be re-dressed as we entered through the West door. But if the lilies were not in the Nave, they must have been waiting in the Sacristy, or somewhere nearby, because they were consuming my nose and eyes. In regards to the other smell, the altar had not been incensed in about an hour, right before the scriptures began to be read, and I heard about a mighty chasm with water walls and a damp earthen path trod by the frightened yet unharmed Israelites. Even though an hour had passed, the incense still hovered like a gray cloud. I could not see the cloud through the darkened Nave, but I could smell the fragrant odor.

George was baptized in the middle of eight to ten others, by descending order of age. I knew we were off to a great start when a fifty something year old was baptized by immersion. It all happened so fast. To this day, I have to watch other baptisms to slow it down and celebrate the details of my son’s own initiation. I do remember walking downstairs quickly after he was wrapped in a white towel and placed in his mother’s arms. In the lobby between the Office door and the Daycare, my wife nursed George and tried to bring him back to a more comfortable state after this atrocity had been performed on him—the skinny dipping affair. I remember the amount of oil on his head, wondering if there was any left for the others. Thanks Timothy…for the double portion. His head was anointed, rather covered, and his hair was greasy. He remained that way the next day, and was sad and grumpy on the day of the Resurrection. We have a great greasy picture of the sad over-tired six-month old. His exhaustion and sadness in that photo reminds that baptism comes at a price. Jesus was fasting in the desert and then tempted by the devil immediately after his baptism. What perils await each of us, immediately after we are soaked in the life-giving water in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

What else do I remember?

I remember an old bald guy, who has taught me a thing or two. He tried to single handedly levitate the roof with a heartfelt “Amen.” He always does that. My wife remarked to me, that she can’t wait to hear him yell, Amen. You can always hear him apart from the others. Thank God for that loud voice. That same old curmudgeon once said something to me that I shall not ever forget. In the winter before our eldest son was baptized I confessed some angst over baptizing an infant. I was probably just worried about my father, for I did not have any theology to make this case. I still, to this day, do not hinge a baptismal theology on infant versus adult baptism. The old geyser said to me, “George, I don’t know what the answer is about baptism—infant or adult, but I know this. You should baptize the way your church baptizes.” That sealed the deal. My church encourages infant baptism and our eldest was baptized the following Easter Eve at the ripe old age of a half-dozen moons.
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