How many baptisms feature blessings and prayers offered by Jews and Muslims alongside the words of a Christian pastor, godparents, and community? This morning, the twin sons of my friend Thurman -- who was the initial instigator of the Progressive Faith Blog Con, and who co-midwifed the first con into being with me last summer -- got an extra-special welcome into their community, the broader community of faith, and the world.
The baptism was at the Church of Our Saviour, a pretty little Episcopal church in Secaucus, New Jersey. The vicar, Reverend Mark Lewis, led a lovely service -- with a somewhat unusual twist. After the boys were formally named and baptized (on contact with the water, they laughed in apparent delight), I was called to the baptismal font at the back of the church where everyone was crowded around, and I offered this prayer:
Our God and God of our ancestors! Sustain these children through their parents' loving care. May their parents rejoice in their growth of body and soul. May their parents have the privilege of raising them, educating them, and encouraging them to attain hearts of wisdom. And let us say, Amen.
As you are wrapped in the arms of those who love you, so may your lives be wrapped in justice and righteousness. As we embrace you today, so may you embrace your tradition. As you startle to the world around you, so may you remain ever open to the whole world you encounter. As you cry for food and comfort now, so may you one day cry out to correct the world's injustices. As your eyes fill with wonder now, so may you always be filled with wonder at life's everyday miracles.
I closed with the priestly blessing, in Hebrew and in English. Then I stepped back into the throng, and Hussein stepped forward. He whispered the adhan (call to prayer) and sura fatiha (first sura of the Qur'an) into their ears, quietly, and then offered an extemporaneous prayer for the boys, their parents, and their community.
At the time of the blog con, Thurman was anticipating parenthood. (I remember offering a prayer for his wife's safety, and for the twins', at some point during the con.) By the end of the weekend, after we had learned and talked and prayed together, he asked whether Hussein and I would consider playing a part in his boys' naming/welcoming ceremony many months hence. Today that request bore fruit.
Afterwards, nearly everyone present came up to us to thank us for being there, to talk with us about our respective religions (Hussein and I laughed that we had each inadvertently been promoted -- people kept calling him Imam, which he is not, and calling me Rabbi, which I am not yet!) and to express how moving they had found our contributions to the ceremony. I found it moving, too. It was wonderful to witness the welcoming of Thurman's boys into their home church -- and to be able to play a part in welcoming them into a broader religious world.
Connecting with blog-friends in person is always a pleasure, and today's connection was especially sweet. It's not every day I get to walk this kind of ecumenical talk. I believe that our lives are enriched when we can encounter each others' religious practices respectfully, with awareness both of our differences and of our common ground. Today gave me an opportunity to live out that practice, and it was sweet indeed.