Changing Communities

Post Author: Suzanne Miller

bath timeEvery time I bathe my one-year-old son, I think of baptism. Baptism leads my mind to community. Each time the water runs down his hair, I’m reminded of my changing community. 

When I was finishing Seminary, we had to write a 30 Page “CREDO” statement of our beliefs as a culmination to our years of studying and working.  Though I had dreaded writing it because 30 pages seemed so long (though it really wasn’t since I regularly wrote 20 page papers), I found it was actually difficult to write because it was too short.  How can one person possibly sum up everything she believes in only 30 pages (and not one more!)?  I focused on community created in Christ and spent 30 pages talking about how important I felt community is in the life of the believer and the Church, how the Sacraments bring us together as community, and so on. I had always been a person that had a church community, youth group, small group Bible study, and so on that I belonged to.  I only knew how to believe as one who is a part of a faith community.  My faith and belief have always been so strongly tied to my community that they are hard for me to separate in my mind.

One of the first things I started thinking about when I found out I was pregnant in 2011 was the community of faith that my child would be raised in.  My denomination practices infant baptism, and I believe that a large part of baptism is about the parents and community committing to raise the child in the faith and child being introduced and formally included into the life of the church.  Baptism calls the child into a life of faith and gives him his vocation as a follower of Christ.  It is an important Sacrament. When would we have him baptized?  How were we going to get all of our family (in two different states) in the same place at the same time to allow them to participate in this special event in my son’s life and also the life of the Church?

Then I left the ministry.  I announced I was pregnant one Sunday.  The following Sunday it was announced my call was coming to an end in the congregation.  I was four months pregnant when I left the church.  We visited churches in the area for a while, and tried visiting after he was born too, but found it challenging given napping, routines, and an uneasiness with unknown childcare workers in unknown congregations’ nurseries. 

I struggled with this sudden lack of community.  This was the first time in my life I could recall not having a community surrounding me, especially at this special and sacred time in our family’s life.  I spent many hours contemplating what to do about his baptism.  Where should we have it done?  When would make sense?  What community would we join in order to surround him with his Christian community?  Who were we asking to help us raise him in the faith and nurture his calling from Christ through baptism?

As my son’s first year came and went, his baptism did not happen.  Many hours of contemplation later, my husband and I have decided to have him baptized in the church I served in as a Seminary Intern.  It is the place we both feel at home, and we return there two or three times a year when we are in town (It’s 500 miles and 3 states away).  When we walk in the doors, we know we are home and we are loved.  It is a very special community and we treasure our time with them!  We’ve spoken with the Pastor, who is also my mentor, and she has agreed to it.  Now we just need to find a time that works for the church, our families, and our travel schedule. He’s already one now, so my sense of urgency is less.  He will not sleep peacefully through it and will instead wiggle, squirm, and make noise, and it will be ok.  It will happen when it happens, and we will all celebrate.  It will be good.

At his first birthday party this past November, we all gathered around to sing “Happy Birthday” and have him blow out the candle on his cake.  It was in that moment, as I looked around at all the friends and family who had gathered to celebrate his birthday, that I realized something.  THIS is our community.  These are the people we love and who love us.  They are here to celebrate our son and his first year with us.  THIS IS OUR Community.  Grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends from playgroup, neighbors, friends from middle school through college. It was beautiful chaos as the kids played and ate. We are truly blessed to have so many wonderful people in our lives.  This community had been there all along. I was just so focused on one particular community that was missing in our lives that I completely missed the greater community that we belong to.  

We still don’t have a local church family.  I don’t know when we will find the one that we fit into and will be the local community that helps us raise him in the faith.  We have a lot of church baggage that needs to be emptied before this process will likely happen.  Until then, we will keep singing “Jesus Loves Me” and “Jesus Loves The Little Children” before naps and bed.  We will keep reading to him the stories of our faith.  We will keep teaching him about how he is called to live a life of faith in this world.  And I will keep remembering his baptism yet-to-be each time I give him a bath.  The water running down his hair and over his face will continually remind me that we are loved.  He is loved.  We have a community that surrounds us and loves us.    And I look forward to the day that we can formalize his baptism.  Until then, lather, rinse, repeat. 

Suzanne Miller is a stay-at-home rock star of a one-year-old son.  She and her family live in Raleigh, NC.  When she's not chasing her son around the house, she's a consultant for Celadon Road, a green direct sales company (www.myceladonroad.com/smiller).  She is looking forward to the day they can visit and celebrate with her friends at The Barn, a faith community in Allentown, PA (www.thebarnlv.org).

Image by: Suzanne Miller
Used with permission
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