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Reform Magazine | December 15, 2017

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Commitment-Phobe: Taking the plunge

Commitment-Phobe: Taking the plunge

Baptism: Commitment-Phobe takes the plunge

One summer, 12 years ago, I went round to my good friend’s house. As
we got ready to go to a party, she said: “I have something to tell you.”

“Oh no! What’s happened?” I asked.

“Nothing bad… I’ve found God.” Big pause.

“Oh…” I said.

If she had told me she
was pregnant or had developed a dreadful sexually transmitted disease, I would have been more understanding and less shocked. I just did not
get it. But, years later, when I started my spiritual quest (“Commitment-Phobe”, Reform, October 2013), maybe I did. If someone as sinful fun-loving as her could understand all this Christian religious stuff, then maybe this sinner hedonist could do too! So, when I decided to invite as many of my family and friends as possible to witness my baptism, my old friend was top of the list.

Yes, you read that right. I got baptised! To some of my friends and family, my baptism was my “coming out” as a Christian. A couple I know were very surprised when they got the invite; they RSVPed assuming it was my daughter’s baptism. Some friends knew that I went to church these days, and some knew that I wrote about it, but at a full-immersion baptism, there is no way of ignoring that your friend or relative has become a devoted Christian – not a get-your-kid-into-a-good-school kind of Christian, but a happy-clappy, hand-in-the-air-when-praying Christian.

In the build-up to the baptism, I started to get a little jittery about the whole thing; I was feeling like a nervous bride. Getting baptised as an adult is a bit like turning up to church to get married to a groom who is invisible; you think you can sense him and most likely you can, but there is a good chance you will step on his toes and your family and friends will be shaking their heads in worry. So, three weeks before, when I broke the news to one of my Alpha friends, and she said she wished she was doing it too, I said: “Go on then!” And my cowardice, barely disguised as evangelism, got me a companion and the need for a lot more pew space at the church.

The day comes and its standing room only – three infant baptisms and two adult. A large group of us stand in and around the raised stage in front of the altar, by the choir stalls that are never used. A birthing pool has been filled with warm water. The infants take the experience of having their head wetted and being held and talked over by a man they hardly know, very well. The adults have the jitters. We make our vows, and before getting dunked we are asked to testify. My new friend is up first, but she is overcome by emotion, so I come over, put an arm around her and give my testimony, which most of my close friends hear for the first time. I enter my lovely warm bath, and it is then that I feel nervous – I am really doing this!

Three moments really surprise me. The first is being pulled up, from lying in water to standing, facing the congregation; it is a moment that feels both vulnerable and triumphant.

The second is seeing my old friend as I get out of the pool to get my towel. She has arrived late and has been ushered right to the centre of the action – the only place where there is room to sit! She was behind me as I testified and as I was baptised and she, my oldest friend, is the first person I see as a “fully licensed” Christian – divine intervention, we decide. She helps me get dry and changed in the church office, and then we sit in the choir stalls while the vicar leads his sermon.
The final surprise is when the hugeness of this moment hits me. I am overwhelmed – my friend holds me and we weep together.

So when I finally “come out” I receive nothing but warmth, affection and some shows of pride from my loved ones. When I return to my seat, later in the service, my father-in-law says: “You’ve changed.” I think: “Yes! You can see that I have transformed as a person and that I have just died and been resurrected in Christ!” It is only later I realise he was referring to my change of clothes.

Image© Christina Ramos

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This is an extract from the April 2015 edition of Reform.

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