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Messy baptism misconceptions

Posted by Jane Leadbetter on 27 Jun 2017

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In 2016, at St Mary’s Church Grassendale L19 Messy Church in South Liverpool, I overheard a conversation between two Messy Church mothers at the kitchen hatch. One mother exclaimed to another, ‘We won’t ever be able to get our children christened because we aren’t married!’ The other mother responded with, ‘Neither will we as we can’t do Sundays!’

My jaw dropped! I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. How could these mothers have got things so wrong? Since that moment, I have heard of other baptism misconceptions from Messy Church families, such as:

‘I googled it and I can’t baptise the kids without consent from my ex.’

‘It’s too late for me to be christened. I missed the boat as a child.’

‘We chose not to have our children christened because it would cause more conflict in our already torn family relationships.’

‘I can’t think of anyone to be godparents so we can’t have our son baptised.’

‘It’s not worth having a christening. Too much money and too much fuss.’

The split-family situation seems to put people off baptisms a lot too. But as I approached our vicar, Rev Paul, to have gentle and reassuring conversations with these families, we discovered lots of interest and we had seven baptisms at one of our Messy Church sessions. Looking at the baptismal promises, I created some Messy activities for a Messy preparation hour. The families met together for this during a L19 Who Let The Dads Out? session on a Saturday morning in an annexe room. This meant we could provide good coffee and bacon rolls too. Rev Paul’s eyes were glistening with delight as he came into the kitchen afterwards to share the good news of how the Messy activities had produced really good conversations. The families enjoyed their time together so much that, as Rev Paul asked which family wanted to be baptised first, all the families agreed that they all wanted to be together at the front with no particular order – a really Messy extended family! Since that session, one of the mothers has joined the L19 Who Let The Dads Out? kitchen team!

We made baptingles and kept to our usual Saturday afternoon Messy Church themed activities, but the short Celebration time became the baptism time. We had shorter liturgy and no sheets. We had oils and a song about families. We made actions to the creed and ended with the Messy Grace with actions. We all enjoyed a Messy meal, party style, and each baptism family brought a baptism cake. One family brought just a small part of their large family plus godparents. Another family just brought a grandparent. The other family just brought themselves. They were all so pleased that we had arranged it for them. One mother cried, saying she never believed it would ever happen. ‘I thought my children would never be allowed in heaven.’

This year we have six more baptisms. We are going with a John the Baptist theme and lots of stories which different leaders can tell during the Celebration time. We will be focusing on water in the Bible, with Messy activities including making boats, fish and water containers. The Messy congregation will fill a large paddling pool with water to float boats, and hang fish in a large net trailing down from the pulpit. Two of the children are delighted that their mother is also being baptised.

The worldwide Messy Church network shares everything! We have heard about many Messy baptisms with lots of creativity. We loved hearing about the church in Wigan where the knit-and-natter group knits prayer shawls for all Messy baptism families. They are cherished and at home are brought out when families are feeling sad about things, when anyone is ill and to share concerns among themselves. One boy was having nightmares and not sleeping, yet after giving him the prayer shawl at bedtime he was relieved of his sleepless nights.

The most momentous Messy baptism misconception for me was when one mother cried because she had truly believed that her children would never be allowed in heaven as they weren’t baptised as babies. Her tears were large enough to fill that paddling pool twice over!