Kate Soles describes her struggle as she and her partner prepared to stand in front of their congregation at the baptism of their child.
She writes in the Toronto Globe and Mail “I was unsure about baptizing our son:”
Before the birth of my son, Eliot, I thought of baptism solely as a formality, an arcane ceremony that produced a wet, cranky, yet somehow enlightened, baby.
Indeed, my partner and I never formally decided to have Eliot baptized; we neither argued about the subject nor made a list of pros and cons. We both simply assumed we would follow mores and tradition, adding the ritual to our do-list for new parents: fill out paperwork for Vital Statistics, schedule immunizations, open RESP, plan baptism…..
…In my own state of uncertainty, how could I promise to share my faith with Eliot? How would I foster his spirituality and help him celebrate God’s presence when I needed convincing of it myself? I worried that I lacked the conviction to make such vows, that doing so would appear artificial and dishonest.
I broached these misgivings with Gaye when we met in person. In response, she asked me what made me decide to have Eliot baptized. My eyes shifted anxiously around the room. “It seems like the thing to do” felt like a grossly inadequate response, yet I could come up with nothing more profound.
Sensing my disquiet, Gaye said, “If the words make you uncomfortable, you don’t have to say anything; you can simply stand up with Jean in solidarity.”
“No!” I said. The exclamation shot from my throat like dragon’s breath. I absolutely would not choose silence; I wanted my voice to resound with confidence.
And then I realized: I don’t want Eliot to choose silence either. I want him to experience a secular education and to learn the philosophy of the United Church so that he may worship with sensitivity and discernment. I want to foster his curiosity about God so that he asks questions about creation, nature and discipleship.
While my own beliefs may not conform with Jean’s, I hope that unabashedly showing Eliot our individual theologies allows him to carve his own spiritual path. Ultimately, I want to give my son the tools to make independent decisions, to afford him the desire and the courage to choose compromise over violence, compassion over intolerance.
As I verbalized this torrent of thoughts, a smile crept over Gaye’s face. “I think,” she said slowly, “you’re ready to make your vows.”