Letter from Amy: Sep 28, 2022

Remember your baptism: kids at Incarnation


Dear Incarnation family,


On Sunday, we baptized Victoria Alicia and Lucy. It was so joyful, so beautiful! I loved hearing the litany prayed in the parents' and godparents' voices. I loved the song of blessing over all who made promises to these children. I loved how Victoria Alicia slept through it all — what a perfect picture of the restful reality that our baptism into God's family is God's work.


I also preached on baptism: what is baptism, what does it mean, why do we baptize babies? You can listen here if you missed it. At the end of my sermon, I talked about how baptism shapes our life together as a church.


Baptism unites us with Christ's descent into the mess and vulnerability of the human condition. Are we willing to go with him there? Are we willing to make space for messiness and vulnerability in our worship?

A broken cross from a Christian tomb in Selçuk, Turkey (mentioned in the sermon)

And baptism of infants, in particular, highlights how our place in the family of God isn't predicated on our behavior, our intellectual understanding, or our rugged individualism. It's God's work on our behalf, a work that is then lived out over a lifetime with the support of our community.


The most obvious way we live out our baptism each week at Incarnation is in our approach to kids. The reason we include the kids in our Sunday worship is not because we can't setup/teardown extra rooms at Randolph or assign extra weekly volunteers (though those are real challenges!). It's because we actually believe that including children helps form us into the people God is calling us to be, the community of the baptized who are trying to live out the cruciform love of Jesus.


How?

  • Including kids reminds us that church is not a performance, but a participation in God's kingdom. While it's great to listen quietly to a sermon (I mean, I work hard on those!) or a beautiful liturgy, that's also one of the least effective ways to grow as Christians, and tempts us to view church through a consumerist lens. Instead, mature faith is formed in us as we actively practice the life of the kingdom and the way of Jesus. And so each baby's cry, each stomping of feet, each twirling in the aisle becomes an invitation to practice self-giving love and sacrificial hospitality toward our children. An invitation to acknowledge our own impatience and irritability and surrender those to God. And a manifestation of the upside-down kingdom where weakness is strength and foolishness is wisdom.

  • Including kids reminds us that God has a real, living relationship with people of all levels of cognitive ability. This includes children as well as people with disabilities. All baptized Christians have a real relationship with God, and all baptized Christians have real gifts to bring to the church. It's important that we practice making space for those gifts so that we learn how to better see and appreciate them. Are you curious to hear more about how God is speaking to even our youngest children? Ask Josie — she's full of stories! Or ask one of our kids what they heard from God in church that day.

  • Including kids connects us to the global church, and makes us hospitable to people who feel like outsiders. Have you ever worshiped in a church in another country or culture? Then you've probably experienced the reality that most Christians in the world worship alongside children. The practice of sending kids away during a portion of the service is relatively recent and Western, and highlights a modern emphasis on the intellect. (There's nothing wrong with that practice, of course, and we appreciate our many sister churches who provide wonderful children's programming using that model!) But welcoming children with their noise and wiggles connects us to a much broader slice of the global church, and helps our worship feel more hospitable to people from different backgrounds. On a slightly different note, I've also heard many times from adults at Incarnation that our children's presence makes our worship feel more hospitable to them, too, particularly when they are going through a difficult time and are coming apart at the seams. They know they can show up just as they are, because they see our children doing that each week. Our kids help form us in patterns of hospitality so that we can welcome people who are struggling, people from different cultures, people from all walks of life.


All that said, there is a word of caution for us in all this. If our church services descend into utter unbridled chaos (which could easily describe my home many times when my kids were young!), then nobody can hear from God and we neglect our primary task of worship. And so we have plans underway to bring more peace, quiet, and order to our Sunday kids' programs, while still keeping the kids with us throughout the service. We will roll out those changes when we kick off the Atrium year on Oct 9, and will likely be making tweaks for a while as we go. As we always say at Incarnation: "try stuff!"


Please reach out to me if you have questions or further thoughts on how we welcome our kids, or if you'd like to be more involved!


Other happenings


  • Fall small groups are open. A meal, catching up on the week, Evening Prayer around the table. What could be more refreshing? Sign up and invite a friend who might be curious.

  • The fall retreat is this weekend and we can't wait! For those who can't come, please note there is NO SERVICE at Randolph this weekend. Why not check out Morgan's church, Corpus Christi Anglican, or simply pray Morning Prayer from your couch?

  • The vestry election will open Sunday and run for one week online. Please read about our candidates and pray about our next vestry!

***


After our staff prayer time today, Josie shared this quote from Joan of Arc: "Go forward bravely. Fear nothing. Trust in God; all will be well." Amen and amen!


With love,

Amy