AN: I don't own the texts used in the Service. I got those off .org/pages/1991_. Hope you enjoy!
Faith Means Everything
After about an hour of pacing up and down, trying to work out how best to go about this, I finally decided just to bite the bullet and put my head around the door of the kitchen. As I had hoped, Amy was in there, making the sandwiches for our drive out to Bloemfontein, "Mama? Can I have a word?"
"Of course, Carolina. What is it?"
"I…I…I don't know how to put this." To my horror, the words came out stumbling out and embarrassed.
"Well, you're not going to get anywhere by being that tongue-tied," she laughed, "Come in here and give me a hand with the lunch. Maybe you'll relax a bit if you do."
Grateful for the distraction, I slipped in, firmly shutting the door behind me against any intruders and took up my place beside her. The two of us worked in silence for a while, and, as Amy had said I would, I began to relax. Why on Earth was I so worried about this? I was eighteen. Surely it was my own choice?
I knew why I was so worried, though. I had always been taught that faith in God was everything. Changing denominations was the final sign that I was no longer a Greenwood, but rather an O'Brady. I needed Amy's reassurance if I was ever to follow my heart and be rebaptised as a Reformed Protestant.
"Mama, you know I was born a Catholic? You know I was baptised in that faith?"
"Yes. Of course I do. I was your second Godmother. Your mother's brother Richard was your Godfather, and the one who fulfilled the Catholic part of the requirements," Amy chuckled.
"You're a Reformed Protestant, really, right?"
"Yes. That's the faith we had Marie and Saoirse baptised into. I don't know if you remember, but we took you to the church here a couple of times when you were little."
I smiled, "I do remember. In fact, I've gone since. All that time I spent with Robbie? Do you honestly think I'd get away without going to his church at least a couple of times?"
"Not really," Amy laughed again, "But why do you ask about all this all of a sudden?
"Well, the thing is…Mama, I've been thinking. I don't want to be a Catholic anymore. I want to convert. I want to be baptised a Protestant. Please."
"Carolina! What's brought this on? Your faith used to be so important to you. When you were about fourteen, you were so rigid about it. Not around us, it has to be said, but I heard the stories. You used to do the readings every single Mass. You've been Confirmed and everything. Why are you suddenly saying that you want to be a Protestant?"
"Mama, please. Can't you understand? My faith is important to me. That's why I want to be a Protestant. I want to be like you. I'm the odd one out. I haven't been baptised a Protestant, and I want to be."
"If that's really what you want, I'm sure we can organise it."
"It is," I assured her. Suddenly, the last of my defences broke and I confessed, "I won't feel like your daughter until I am. I might call you Mama, but I won't ever be your daughter. Not 110%. Not until I've thrown off the Catholic faith and become Reformed instead."
"Carolina, that is the worst load of rubbish I have ever heard! You know it's ridiculous! I love you like my own little girl! I always have done! You know that! You know religion doesn't matter to me! You don't have to be a Protestant, not to be my daughter! If that's the only reason you want to do this, then get it out of your head and stay a Catholic! It doesn't matter what faith you are!"
"It matters to me!" I screamed, tears starting to my eyes. "It matters to me! You know how much my faith means to me! Retaking the Sacrament would make me feel so much more comfortable! Please, Mama, please! I'll do it without your blessing if I have to, but I'd rather do it with your blessing. Just let me do it. Please."
Amy threw up her hands, "You're eighteen, Carolina. Whatever you decide, I can't stop you. I've taught you the rudiments of both faiths. If you want to become a Protestant, then fine. We'll organise it. But please, calm down."
Laying aside the bread she was cutting, she held out her arms to me, "Come here. Come here, Princess."
Exhaling slowly, I stepped forward and let her wrap her arms around me, relaxing into her embrace.
"I've got you, I've got you," she whispered. "I've got you. And I'll always be here for you. No matter what."
Then, releasing me, she tilted my head up so that I was looking her in the eye, "When do you want the ceremony?"
"Before I go to Uni," I said decidedly. I'd thought all this through ages ago. I knew exactly how I wanted my Baptism to be. All we had to do was talk to the vicar and invite our South African friends.
Three months later, I found myself in the Reformed church in Heiloo, preparing to retake the baptismal sacrament. I was dressed in a long white gown, which had been cut down from my sister's old BAC dress. Speaking of my sister, she was on the lectern herself, reading the second reading, which, by luck, was one of my favourite passages, Ephesians, Chapter 1: verse 3-15.
As she finished, our pastor thanked her and then beckoned to me to come forward to the baptismal font. Smoothing down my skirts, I rose and Amanda, David's mother, rose with me. It wasn't necessary; we didn't need sponsors, but I'd asked for her to be at the altar with me as I took the Sacrament.
I knelt down before the font and our vicar began to intone the first passages of the rite,
"Our gracious God has always desired
to hold his people in a covenant embrace.
He declares over and over,
"I will be their God, and they shall be my people."
Pursuing this deep desire,
God called Abraham and Sarah to trust in him
and gave a covenant sign to show that they belonged to him.
In baptism God now claims us in Christ
marks us as his own people,
and seals our membership in God's covenant community, the church.
Baptism is the covenant sign that God frees us
from the power of sin and death,
uniting us with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection.
By water and the Holy Spirit we are washed clean from sin.
God's grace in baptism calls us to give ourselves to him
in trust, love, and obedience. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God."
Then, stretching out his hands to me, he clasped mine and said, "Carolina Francesca Aisling,how does baptism remind you and assure you that Christ's one sacrifice on the cross is for you personally?"
I knew what I had to say. I had rehearsed it a million times, so, secure in the confidence given to me both by my faith and by Amanda's presence behind me, I spoke out clearly, my voice ringing as I answered,
"In this way. Christ instituted this outward washing and with it gave the promise that, as surely as water washes away dirt from the body, so certainly his blood and his Spirit wash away my soul's impurity in other words, all my sins.
"What does it mean to be washed with Christ's blood and Spirit?"
"To be washed with Christ's blood means that God, by grace, has forgiven my sins because of Christ's blood poured out for me in his sacrifice on the cross. To be washed by Christ's Spirit means that the Holy Spirit has renewed me and set me apart to be a member of Christ so that more and more I become dead to sin and increasingly live a holy and blameless life."
Satisfied with my response, the Vicar turned to the rest of the Congregation and, releasing me, spread his hands, "Let us now remember our baptism and give thanks to God as we celebrate this sacrament of grace today."
The words were no sooner out of his mouth thanAmanda began to recite the creed. One by one, we all joined in, so that, soon, the church was ringing with our voices as we all recited, "We thank you, O God,
for our baptism into Christ's death and resurrection.
In the beginning your Spirit moved over the waters,
and you created everything that is, seen and unseen.
In the time of Noah,
you destroyed evil in the water of the flood;
and by your saving ark, you gave a new beginning.
In the night of trouble
you led Israel through the sea,
out of slavery into the freedom of the promised land.
In the water of the Jordan,
our Lord was baptized by John and anointed by your Spirit.
In the baptism of Christ's death and resurrection,
you have set us free from sin and death
and opened up the way to eternal life.
May Christ, who sank deep into death
and was raised Lord of life,
keep us and our little ones in the grip of his hand.
May your Spirit separate us from sin
and mark us with a faith
that can stand the light of day and endure the dark of night.
To you be all honor and glory, dominion and power,
now and forever,
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Then they all fell silent and I fixed my attention upon the minister once more as he spoke openly to me.
"Since you have responded by God's grace
to the call of the gospel to believe and be baptized,
we ask you, before God and his people,
to reject sin
and to profess your faith in Jesus Christ.
Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of evil
that rebel against God?"
I nodded, "I renounce them!"
"Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?"
"I renounce them!"
"Do you turn to Jesus Christ?"
"Yes! I trust in him as my Lord and Saviour."
"Do you intend to be Christ's faithful disciple,
trusting his promises,
obeying his word,
honouring his church,
and showing his love,
as long as you live?"
"Yes! God helping me. "
It was enough. Dipping a jug into the holy water of the font, our parson poured a gush of water over my head and made the Sign of the Cross on my forehead as he whispered, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
"Amen," I responded and he smiled slightly at the fervour in my soft voice. Then, moment of levity over, he returned to his role of minister and continued with the service,
"Carolina Francesca Aisling, child of the covenant,
in baptism you are sealed with the Holy Spirit
and marked as Christ's own. Amen."
Then, looking first at Amanda and then at the rest of the congregation, he informed them of their vital duty towards me.
"Brothers and sisters,
We now receive Carolina Francesca Aisling into Christ's church.
I charge you to nurture and love them
and to assist them to be Christ's faithful disciple."
Although it was against convention, I rose to my feet and spun round, my eyes raking those gathered in the chapel, finding my mother, father and sisters' gazes as they joined in the others and recited, "With joy and thanksgiving,
we now welcome you into Christ's church;
for we are all one in Christ.
We promise to love, encourage, and support you
and to help you know and follow Christ."
At a nod from the chaplain, I walked down off the altar side by side with Amanda and then, all dignity forgotten, raced back to my seat and flung myself into Amy's arms. She caught me and hugged me, even as the others burst into peals of laughter and the pianist started up on our hymn, "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee!"
I was grateful for her silent understanding, for under the cover of the music, I was sobbing, crying with relief that the final barrier to my being her daughter had finally been broken down; crying "Mama! Mama! My Mama!"
I stayed in her arms, relishing the feel of her tight hold on my waist. Saoirse put her hand on my shoulder, "There now, milady. You have God's blessing. You can think of yourself as a true O'Brady. Happy?"
"The Most Happy," I murmured back, quoting my favourite Queen of England's motto and making her smile as we joined hands and stepped out from our seats to go forward, hand in hand, to take the Communion. Our first Communion as sisters in Christ.