Anonymous Promises

I played hooky from the church my husband pastors one week and worshiped instead at a nearby Episcopal church. It happened to be baptism and confirmation Sunday, and I was pleasantly reminded of a great realization I had several years ago, during the college and post-college church-hopping phase so many people experience (if they go to church at all during those years, that is).

As I bounced around to various Baptist, nondenominational, Episcopal, Disciples, and United Methodist churches across Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Tennessee, I witnessed A LOT of baptisms and baby dedications. I just had a knack for being there when these things happened, even at churches I visited only once. In many of the churches, the congregation vows to help nurture the person in the Christian faith, and though I rarely knew the people being baptized, I repeated this vow as well. At first, it was rote, simply because that was what those in attendance were to do. After a while, though, I began to see these experiences in an "angels unawares" sort of way--wherever I go, there is some small chance that any person I meet could be one of those children I vowed to support in the faith.

What might this mean? In the words of the Apostle Paul, it could mean not placing a "stumbling block" in front of others that would somehow rock their faith. In the words of my most admired college professor, it might mean working for a world in which it is "easier to be good." (The idea being that the more we bring the kingdom of God to earth, the more natural it will feel to be righteous.)

I left the Episcopal service liking our own congregation not more or less, but with a renewed appreciation of the church at large and our role within it. I may only be "in" our local congregation, but I am "of" Christ's church, no matter what.

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