February 17, 2009

PK's Baptism

Before PK was born, I had already decided that she would not be baptized. I am, after all, an atheist. Although the hubby is religious (though non-church-going), having PK baptized didn't seem to be a big deal to him, so that was an easy sell. The way I look at it, we would still expose her to Christianity, and if it tickled her fancy one day, she could join the church. No biggie.

When PK was about a month old, my grandmother had mailed a care package full of clothes for PK, all the way from Brazil. Among these clothes was a white dress, intended to be used at PK's baptism. When I first got it, I was a tad bit annoyed that my grandmother had bought such a dress for PK, since I'd already told her that I didn't plan on having PK baptized. Everything changed when my grandmother died in October of 2008. My whole world crumbled. My grandmother meant a lot to me. I cried a lot over her death. I still do. I try not to think about it too much, because otherwise, it just makes me sad.

My grandmother's greatest wish was to have PK baptized, so I vowed after my grandmother's death, that I would have PK baptized. I didn't know how I'd ever go about it, but I would get it done, and PK would wear the lovely white dress that my grandmother had gotten her.

Finding a church to baptize PK proved to be a bit difficult. I was brought up in the Catholic Church, but I knew that it would be almost impossible to baptize her as a Catholic. For one thing, the hubby and I were married in the Presbyterian Church. Also, I never did the sacrament of confirmation. Knowing how nit-picky the Catholic Church is when it comes to these things, I knew how utterly impossible it would be. No loss there, really. The Catholic church in my parents' neighborhood is positively snotty and uptight, and I certainly had no plans to join a Catholic parish in my own neighborhood. (Atheist, remember?)

The first thing I tried was the chapel where the hubby and I got married. We were married at a Presbyterian chapel at the University. The minister who married us wasn't affiliated with the the chapel per se, but he was a Presbyterian minister. In fact, he was the minister at my in-laws' church. I was hoping that perhaps we could swing a baptism at that same chapel, performed by the same minister. I called up the church, and after playing phone tag for several weeks, found out that they don't do baptisms at that chapel. A baptism is typically done as part of a Sunday church service, the point being to welcome the child into the congregation. Arrgh...so many rules! According to chapel officials, they ONLY do weddings at that chapel. They won't even make exceptions to do baptisms sans church service. Though apparently I wasn't the only one who had inquired about such a service, they would do no such thing.

Honestly, all I wanted was a quickie, drive-through-style baptism. A few words here, some water there, and then done. Clearly, that wasn't to be.

The next thing I tried was another Presbyterian church that I knew of, that was in my neighborhood. I figured that the Presbyterian Church would be a bit less restrictive than the Catholic Church in terms of pre-requisites. Plus the hubby is loosely-affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, so I figured, what the heck. So that didn't quite pan out either. After playing phone tag with this church, I found out that in order to be baptized at the church, we needed to be members of the congregation, or at least have parents who were part of that congregation. Otherwise, we would have to take some course and be officially made part of the congregation. Holy complicated, Batman!

Onto Plan C. Really, I should've just tried this in the first place. I contacted the minister who married us directly. Unlike the other places, I did NOT have to play phone tag in order to get a hold of him! He actually remembered me, and was extremely warm and receptive on the phone. In fact, he was absolutely delighted that I was asking him to perform PK's baptism. He took down our address and mailed us a pamphlet with baptism FAQs. We also made arrangements for him to come to our house to discuss details of the service and to meet PK.

He came to our house on a day where we'd had a HUGE snowstorm, all the way from the suburbs. He had parked his car at Finch station and subwayed down. Still, that is by no means an easy journey on a snowy winter day. Our meeting lasted about an hour. We got to discuss details of the service, and he got to meet PK. He was very good with her.

I have to say that initially, the hubby wasn't fully on-board with the whole baptism thing. To him, it was a nice-to-have, but he didn't fully comprehend why an atheist, of all people, was so adamant about having a baptism for our daughter.

The funny thing is, I think the hubby really got into it as he started explaining to the minister just why we were having PK baptized. He even told the minister about the baptism gown that my grandmother had sent over from Brazil. The minister loved hearing about these details, and said that he would try to incorporate these facts into the service.

PK was baptized on Sunday, February 15th, 2009 in the Presbyterian Church. That day also coincided with the one-year anniversary of my great-aunt, my maternal grandmother's sister. She was a very special person in my life, and was like having another grandmother around. The service was quite lovely. The minister made special mention of my grandmother and my great-aunt, and even threw in the part about the significance of the dress that PK was wearing.

Although the Presbyterian Church doesn't recognize god-parents per se, you can still technically have them. I asked my sister and her husband to be PK's god-parents. My sister is a pretty devout Catholic, and my brother-in-law is Jewish. It's a very interesting combination, but they respect each other's religious beliefs. I told the minister beforehand that my brother-in-law is Jewish, but he had no issues with that. In fact, he said more or less that Christians and Jews are part of the same extended family.

PK was extremely well-behaved through it all. When we got called up to the podium, the hubby was holding her, standing beside the minister. She kept on grabbing at the minister's notes as he read them out. When he took her in his arms to pour water over her forehead, she didn't even flinch. I guess those swimming lessons are paying off! Afterwards, a member of the congregation walked PK around, which PK seemed to enjoy very much. Everyone in the congregation was absolutely smitten with her. She was positively angelic.

Afterwards, she was returned to me, and by the time we returned to our seats, she was fast asleep. She remained asleep for the rest of the service. I'd never been to a Presbyterian service before, but I have to tell you that it was MUCH less drone-ish than a Catholic mass. Catholic masses are absolutely BORING. They basically consist of sitting down, standing up, sitting down, listening to the preist saying some God-fearing homily, standing up, kneeling, blindly reciting passages, standing up, sitting down, kneeling some more, going for communion, kneeling, standing up, sitting down...you get the picture.

At the end of the service, the entire congregation gathered together for some coffee, cookies, and banana bread. It was a small congregation turnout that day, but it had this wonderful sense of family. After this entire experience, I would hate for us to just disappear from a congregation that was so welcoming. It would seem like we were using them. I suggested to the hubby that we show up for Sunday service every once in a while. For me, I still remain an atheist, but I loved the sense of community that this congregation fostered. Popping in once in a while will give PK exposure to her dad's religion, which is only fair. Besides, I think it's nice for PK to be exposed to such a nice environment when we live in such a cruel and cold world.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear the baptism was such a nice service. :)

If you *REALLY* wanted a drive-through baptism, what I learned in Catholic school is that any baptised Catholic can perform a baptism. All you need is water, make the sign of the cross on the person with the water, and say, "I baptise you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." LOL In my eyes, a baptism is more about being welcomed into the church community, though, so that wouldn't quite cut it for us, either. :)

Here, I found a reference: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02258b.htm (under "Extraordinary Minister") for your geeky reference. ;)