A number of years ago I celebrated a baptism that caused me to think about what happens to a person after they have been baptized. Perhaps you have heard the story, but just in case you haven’t, I want to share it briefly with you now. The baptism took place over fifteen years ago. The baptismal candidate was a thirty plus year old Marine Gunnery Sergeant. Our Unit had been in the field for over a week, and during that week the Gunney and I had talked numerous times about Christianity, faith, and the sacrament of Holy Baptism. He was not baptized because he said he had never felt worthy enough. He told me he had been raised Lutheran but his family had never taken him to church to be baptized as a child. He believed in Jesus Christ as his Savior and he wanted to be baptized, but again – he did not feel worthy. After many conversations, we got beyond his sense of being unworthy and he asked to be baptized. Well, as I said, we were out in the field without access to a church with a baptismal font. But we were along the NC coast, right off of Bogue Sound. So we scheduled his baptism by immersion in the ocean. The Gunney was a big person, and how I managed to baptize him without drowning one of us is beyond me. Yet I did. God works in mysterious ways, right? It was an exciting event, and afterwards he asked me “What comes next?” And that’s the question I think about so often. What does it mean to be a baptized child of God? What changes after a person is baptized? Is it a noticeable change or is it subtle? Do we immediately begin a course of intense study, or do we slowly grow into our identity as Christians and baptized children? Exactly what are the expectations?
And that is a good question to ask ourselves. What are the expectations we have in life, and what are the expectations we think life has of us? Again, exactly what are the expectations?
The expectations we have in life, and what are the expectations we think life has of us? Again, exactly what are the expectations? Earlier this year our Vestry met for a retreat. We do this every year, and a part of the retreat is to establish goals for the coming year. One of the goals established was to consider ‘expectations.’ For instance, when people visit our church, what expectations might they have as they settle into the pew and participate in worship? When we receive new members, what are the expectations they might have of the church as they become a part of the St. John’s church family? While it is true that every person has their own set of expectations, we wondered if there might be some common expectations of members that we could identify. And so we have been working on what our members might expect from St. John’s.
The other side of that question is what does it mean to be a member of the church, or phrased another way, what might be the reasonable expectations the church has of her members? What level of participation might be expected? As you can imagine, these sorts of questions generated some really good conversation.
The hope is that we will create a brochure that speaks about church membership in a way that helps us all answer the question Gunney asked following his baptism – “What comes next?” The brochure can provide us with food for thought as we consider the place of the church in our life and our place in the life of the church. The brochure is a working document at this moment, but the Vestry looks forward to sharing it with you soon. Until then, if you have some thoughts about expectations, please share them with me. I would love to hear your thoughts.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Butler +