It was bound to happen sooner or later: a baptism fight in the pastor’s meeting.
“Fight” might be too strong a word. I’m blessed to serve on a pastoral staff with a healthy sense of friendship and collegiality. We might grumble a bit, but there’s good give and take, and things tend to get resolved in the light of day before anything festers too often.
In fact, it was the very health of the way we share worship leadership that led to this disagreement. Our head of staff, Carl, insists on sharing the sacraments among the four pastors. Communion responsibilities are varied, and things are arranged on a given Sunday so that there’s never one officiant. One of us might give the invitation, another the Great Thanksgiving, and the other two split the responsibilities for breaking bread and pouring the cup.
On baptism Sundays, even when there’s only one head to get wet, it’s not a foregone conclusion that the head of staff gets to do the baptizing. Whoever baptizes does so with the other pastors standing close by, and uses the words, “We baptize you…” Other pastors share in prayers over the waters, introducing the baptized to the congregation, anointing and blessings.
But then came this particular baby, the third child of a family we all love and are all tied to. Bart baptized their son, Carl was there at the hospital for illness, the mother was a college classmate of mine and served on my calling committee. We all love them dearly, and we all wanted a hand in it. The family wasn’t helping by requesting a particular pastor.
Bart piped up that he’d like this one. Carl looked a little crestfallen, and I pointed out that I’d missed so many baptisms lately that I was wondering if I’d have to have another baby just to get in on the water action.
The usual split was not going to work.
Suddenly, the Trinity became a gift we’d never expected…with our fourth pastor out of town, there were three of us and three parts to the Trinitarian formula.
And so, when the Sunday came, we all grouped in close around this wonderful little one. While her mother held her over the font, we all had a hand in the water.
“We baptize you in the name of the Father,” said Carl.
“And in the name of the Son,” said Bart.
“And in the name of the Holy Spirit,” I said.
Three sets of hands in a baptism that perfectly pictured the idea that baptism takes place in the midst of the people of God.
And three happy pastors, all affirmed in their office and calling, working together to model the Gospel news of reconciliation and unity in Christ.