WALKED OUT OF CHURCH

For only the second time in my life, I just walked out of a church service.

It was a double baptism, two families, two babies.  The church was full – both were large groups.  All the way through, people were lounging, chatting to each other, checking their mobiles.  They were just killing time until they could get out and go to the party.

The vicar asked politely at the beginning of the service that people should not take pictures during the worship.  Everyone could have as many pictures as they liked  afterwards, and he would happily take part in photos round the font.

A young man in the next row insolently raised his mobile phone, ensuring that the vicar could see that it was on, and that he had no intention of switching it off.  There were jokes and comments and snide laughter.

It was like that all the way through.  Our vicar insists (unwisely in my view) to have Communion as well as  baptism in the service.  This was a signal for the assembled company to switch off completely.  They made no further attempt to follow the service in their booklets, or to stand for the hymns, or  to take any part in the prayers.  They continued to smirk, talk and snigger.

There was so much noise that, as he started the Eucharistic prayer, the most important bit of the service, he had to stop and wait until somebody noticed that he was waiting for the noise to die down.  Even though he was wearing a microphone he was hard to hear above the racket.

And yet the parents and godparents have to say – and mean it too – ‘I turn to Christ’.  They promise to pray and to bring their child up in the Christian faith and to bring them to church.  I’ve heard them say it hundreds of times.  And  we never see them again.

It was all a farce.  Do they think God  doesn’t know that they don’t care and don’t mean it?  Mocking the creator of the universe and the redeemer of the human race is not a good idea.

I need to decide whether, by continuing to attend these farces, I am in some way complicit.  It’s almost like I’m committing spiritual perjury, and I’m increasingly uncomfortable with it.

Oh yes, I prayed.  I prayed for them all the way through.  And I’ll continue to do so.  God can reach the hardest of hearts in the most unexpected ways.

What would I do instead?  Offer the much shorter service of Thanksgiving and Blessing to all babies, regardless.  The parents are not making any promises.  They are just wanting to say thank you.  When Jesus said ‘let the little children come to me’ he gave them a blessing, not a baptism.   That’s absolutely relevant and right and I could do that wholeheartedly, and indeed have done it in my own ministry.

Let the families have this service whenever they want.  They are not joining the church, they are simply wanting to give thanks.  If they want it in an evening, or a weekday, or Sunday afternoon – no problem.  Let the children come.

If people want to  continue to baptism, then they need proper teaching as to its real meaning, and some evidence of commitment to Christ.  That’s what baptism is:  it’s a person saying, publicly, that they believe Jesus is the Son of God and that they want to follow him and serve him.

To say it, and not mean it, is lying to God.

(image from godofevolution.com)

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17 thoughts on “WALKED OUT OF CHURCH

  1. Yes we had some of this sort of thing in the little Church i used to teach in so insulting to god, infact i think they themselves look like fools because they are carrying out some thing they obviously don,t really believe in, so why do it what are they doing it for?.

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  2. I am always amazed how disrespectful people are in church, whenever I visit any place of worship I always respect the traditions and abide with them. I don’t blame you for leaving. xxx

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    1. I hate walking out normally – I don’t think it achieves anything and on the whole I think it’s important to stay, if only for the support of other people there. But yesterday was the outside of enough. I know not everyone believes, but surely it’s not expecting too much to ask for a modicum of respect.

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  3. Your distress comes through loud and clear. The event you describe is a representation of other management issues you have been frustrated by in this church.

    A question; why was this church chosen, out of all the others in reach, for the celebration?

    Your thoughts on baptismal variations are interesting. These ideas can be tailored to fit a range of circumstances. However, you have previously discussed the rigidity of your priest in a variety of church management actions. If he chooses to be orthodox, (no criticism implied) and intertwine the celebration of baptism with a full service, he should be clear about what he will do, his orthodoxy and his expectations/ requirements when families come to him to arrange rights of passage. I don’t know if celebration fees are a consideration, however, If there are other more relaxed possibilities, families, (customers) should be pointed in their direction.

    I see you raise integrity as your reason for staying with the church and its management. The comment by ‘OnTheWay’ is a very thoughtful one.

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    1. Thanks for this response. I assume the family went to him as their parish priest. No, there is no charge for baptisms. This is possibly one of the reasons why it’s not valued.
      I constantly wrestle with negative reactions, but it is not all negative, and frankly I don’t like the alternatives much either! I’m also aware that there are people in the regular congregation who are relieved to have us there, and at present I feel an obligation to them. I think and pray on.

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    1. Exactly, Pete. That’s what we always did with baptism families. A short simple lively service leaves people happy and much more ready to consider coming to worship again. But this is not our parish and we don’t have any say, and we are struggling with the status quo here.

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  4. Yes! I sympathise/empathise with you. For a long time I have been an advocate of keeping ‘Baptisms’ apart from ‘Main Church Services’….Sadly, baptisms have often – for a long time – been said to be an occasion for ‘having the child/adult done’…whatever that might mean. Sad!

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  5. In reading your post, I found the baptisms attendees behaviour to be disrespectful, well to be honest down right rude. If they cannot respect where they are, then they should have left. However, are we now in a place where the young adult generation have not bee taught how to behave in such places and therefore go about selfishly blind to those around them.

    Your feelings towards the Church continuing to hold baptisms when those participating are applying lip service has strong merit, there is always hope that one or two may be true to its meaning. Interesting idea the baby blessings, wonder if more would have a blessing rather than a baptism/christening if that were the case.

    As you know I am not a person of faith but I do try my very best to respect the beliefs of believers, after all if I want them to respect me, I have to lead by example, as it were. But I was also taught how to behave.

    (p.s. sorry if this is too much info but I just popped my comment cherry! My first WP comment 😀 )

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    1. Exactly, Anne – I’m more than aware that most people don’t believe, but surely, if they are wanting something from the church like a baptism, there should at least be a modicum of respect.

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  6. Understandable annoyance and reflection on the meaning of making promises but not really believing them… something I struggled with when within church too and part of why I felt I had better not be there anymore.
    Hope that you can find peace in your decision to attend these services or not and that your place within the community of this church continues to be a blessing and not an annoyance. love x

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      1. Your decision has to be what’s best for you, though you (as the wonderful caring person you are) want to support this community, but at the same time if it’s causing you this dissonance maybe ‘thinking about leaving’ is a sensible reflection to have x

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