Today, May 9th, is the day my life would change forever, only I wouldn’t discover it until years later. On this date in 1971, when I was 11 weeks old, I was baptized on Mother’s Day, but I didn’t know it for 40 years.
My mother was raised in the Evangelical United Brethren Church and this was the church in which my parents were married. I remember having the church pointed out to me as we’d drive around town, across the tracks from the main post office. Near the time of their marriage and my birth, the Evangelical United Brethren Church merged with the Methodist Church to become the United Methodist Church and they built a new building on the south side of town.
My father was raised in the Church of Christ, Scientist. The one in my hometown of Elkhart was downtown, built of limestone. There was also a Christian Science Reading Room downtown. When I became an Anglican, having my Bible and Book of Common Prayer reminded me a little uncomfortably of my dad and grandfather having their Bible and Science & Health with Key to the Scriptures, in nice matching covers.
From this unlikely combination, I was conceived and brought into the world. As a young boy, probably early elementary age, I remember going to both churches for several weeks. In retrospect, I think my parents were searching for common ground. Not surprisingly, none was found and we drifted back into nominal Christianity. We prayed before meals and we occasionally attended Christmas Eve service with my mom’s side of the family. And so the next ten years went, as far as my religious development.
When I was 15, I dated a girl who invited me to church. Her evangelical zeal was probably as pure as my interest in the faith, but I went. In April of 1987, though still skeptical, I finally talked to the youth pastor about my remaining objections to faith in Christ. Before the night was over, I knelt on the yellow shag carpet of his trailer and prayed with him to accept Jesus as my Savior.
I immediately began to clean up my life a bit, most notably my language. I don’t remember putting conscious effort into this so I give the Holy Spirit full credit, but it caught the notice of my parents. I had a Bible and I was reading it. My mom would sneak it out of my room to read it when I was at school. She had never seen a paperback Bible before and she compared it to the dusty one on our shelf.
On Christmas Eve 1987, we went as a family to a Christmas Eve service together, and after that, my parents started attending church with me regularly. In April of 1988, we were baptized together. I did not know then that all three of us were being re-baptized, in good anabaptist fashion.
Fast-forward through the years and now I am a forty-something Anglican priest. In the summer of 2013, while talking with my mother on the phone a few months before she died from a degenerative brain condition, she mentioned that I was baptized as an infant. If I had ever known that, it had been long forgotten.
I eventually decided to track down my baptismal date. My dad looked through old family Bibles and papers, but found nothing. I researched online to discover that the United Methodist Church I remembered from childhood had consolidated with another church. I sent an email inquiring if there were any records and a few weeks later I received a reply. There were records and my name was in them, so they graciously mailed me photocopies.
Two things surprised me as I looked at the old church ledger page. First, my dad was baptized in August of 1971. Second, I was baptized on the day my wife was born.