Goldfields God Talk Baptisms

From the Goldfields

God-Talk: Baptisms

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The Revd Dr Elizabeth J Smith AM, Mission Priest, Parish of The Goldfields

It is a more than usually dynamic Sunday morning at St John’s Kalgoorlie. One of the boys to be baptised is still young enough to snuggle in his mother’s arms. The other is two-and-a-half. He lives in a small unit, with little room for burning off excess energy. It is universally recognised that such children cannot be required to sit still for long, so his delight in exploring the vast expanses of St John’s Old Cathedral building is entirely understandable.

Furthermore, our other parish children are entranced by these two new brothers-through-the-font. They all want to cuddle little Michael, and they are keen to entertain bigger Jayden. Every new gathering around the font is a chance to remind these children of their own baptism, its meaning, means, and how they are responsible, along with the rest of the congregation, for living as the friends and followers of Jesus Christ in ways that will help Jayden and Michael grow into a living faith of their own.

Ours is a multi-racial, multi-lingual congregation. Highly skilled migrants come to the Goldfields with just a single suitcase, an experience of being Anglican somewhere else around the Communion, and high hopes for the adventure of a new life here. Our version of Anglican Sunday morning must be almost unrecognisable to most of them: different languages, different music styles, different ways of interacting and moving in prayer, a much smaller congregation. Still recognisable, though, will be the gift of the Bible read and preached, and the blessing of the body and blood of Christ offered and received.

Imagine the astonishment, theirs and mine, when the fathers of two recently-arrived families discovered that they are uncle and nephew! They had never met, and did not know about each other, back in their home country. Yet far away, in this parish, they have found actual family.

The mothers of the two boys we are baptising this day have already become friends. They will support each other through the practical and spiritual challenges of immigration. They are being embraced by the other, more experienced, mothers and fathers of the congregation who have also come to Australia and found a home here.

It seems that the Holy Spirit is hard at work here, connecting people, changing the church in ways that I could hardly dream of. I have a prayer that goes: ‘Dear God, make us ready to receive the people you want to belong with us.’ When people come, and stay, it tells me that our general health as a congregation is good enough for God to trust us with these precious people who are looking for a spiritual home. An important part of my role as a priest is tending to the spiritual health of the community so that God will trust us more and more with babies and toddlers, immigrants and locals, questioning seekers and staunch believers.

After the baptism, one of the mothers says to me: ‘We belong here!’ My heart overflows with joy and gratitude.

Published in Messenger July 2023

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