The Revd Joy Ludlow, Priest-in-charge, United Benefice of Thornbury and Oldbury with Shepperdine blogs about how the pandemic has changed their approach to baptism.
“Like many of our communities, in this past year, we have been collecting waiting lists of families for these celebrations, with all the uncertainty of how to make these services joyful and welcoming amid a global pandemic. At first, we moved outside so that more of us could gather, church and families. But, as October started with our third outdoor baptism, we have begun to realise this new service will stay with us for the future…
“On 10 October we gathered outside on our school field; strengthening links with our local church school and allowing the children freedom to run around in a familiar and safe space. We had more than 150 adults and 30 children gathered, from the three families, their guests, and the churches across the benefice.
“Our theme for the service was ‘Noah’s Ark’, with readings and prayers shared by one of our young families, and Archdeacon Hilary sharing a message about the love of God that keeps us safe. Godparents and sponsors went away with origami boats to put on their fridges, as a reminder of the safe space they provide for these children. With songs sung unaccompanied, it could have been interesting, but everybody joined in joyfully, particularly with a resounding chorus of ‘Arky, arky’…
“To make it extra special each of the families brought along a cup, bowl or jug from home that meant something to them. (Two of the little ones were baptised with water from their mum’s christening cups!)
“The children all went home at the end with their candle and certificate, children’s bible, a knitted blanket or animal provided by our church knitting team, and a really warm welcome! I am particularly thankful for our knitting team, with gifts that really show that we are welcoming each newcomer into a loving family.
“Although we are moving inside again in November to escape the cold, plans have already begun for 2022, with many of our families now requesting outdoor services. I am particularly looking forward to June baptisms at Shepperdine, on the banks of the river. I think we will be sticking with cups and bowls for the baptism, but we already have bookings for a couple of babies waiting to be born!”