Ady's Baptism Weekend

Last weekend we celebrated little Baby Adyson's baptism.  It was a very special few days of family, nature, community, and love.  The journey that led us to this celebration actually began several months ago, before Ady was even born, and involved many discussions about our roots and values.

I grew up Catholic, sang in the church choir, served as a lector and Eucharistic minister, and got confirmed and married in the Catholic church.  While I have never agreed 100% with the teachings of Catholicism, I appreciated the community that the church offers and the traditions that connect people throughout time and around the world.  I am not a religious person, but I believe that going to church cultivates good habits; I thought I would always belong to a church to some extent, and that it would always be a Catholic church.  

Jaycob and I sustained many frustrations during our marriage preparation four years ago as we dutifully fulfilled the requirements of the church to plan our wedding, complete the premarital inventory, meet with our sponsor couple, select Biblical readings for our ceremony, and reflect on our relationship, while also attempting to reconcile the church's teachings with our own beliefs and values as a couple.  There were many hoops to jump through, but we made it work and our wedding was beautiful.  

A few years later, while we began to plan for our first baby's baptism, we anticipated more hurdles and expectations, but this time the requirements of the church were no longer realistic for us.  We were no longer able to find common ground between our priorities and those of the Catholic church.  I was frustrated and overwhelmed as I realized the hypocrisy of the church's expectations and what I perceived as its complete neglect of the true purpose of Baptism.  Through its outdated traditions and rigid expectations, the church seemed to have lost sight of the importance of keeping its devoted members and welcoming newly born babies into its community, and I knew it was time for a change.  As this point, with a baby on the way, it was time to find a new church: one that would be accepting, welcoming, open-minded, and supportive of our own values as a family.  I discovered the United Church of Santa Fe and decided to make this our new home.

We have felt so welcomed by our new church community.  We see eye-to-eye with the members of the congregation, and the leaders of the church have been invaluable in supporting their members during the turbulent and uneasy times since the Presidential election.  Our new church openly welcomes immigrants and refugees, invites all people to share in Holy Communion each week, regardless of background or lifestyle, and recognizes our commitment to being stewards of the earth and taking steps against climate change.  While we will probably never be the type of family that attends church every week, it was important for me to have a community that would help us in raising Baby Adyson and be there for her, in recognition that "it takes a village."  I hope to be able to expose our child to many different types of spirituality, teach her the awe of life and of nature, and inspire a belief in a higher power or the strength of a greater community outside of herself, and I hope that a church community can be one piece of this puzzle for our baby as she grows.

In planning Ady's weekend, we discussed and pondered the meaning of baptism.  I have a hard time with church's history of "forced baptisms" and the concept of baptism to erase original sin or as something that is necessary for "salvation," and I was relieved to know that our new church family does not view it this way.  The United Church recognizes baptism as a commitment of the parents to raise her consistently with Jesus' teachings, a commitment of the Godparents to support us in our efforts, and a commitment of the community to be there for her as she grows.  Baptism is an immersion into a life of acceptance and unconditional love, and a dedication of life in solidarity with fellow human beings.  I also considered baptism to be sort of like prayer (whatever that means to individual people) in that we are expressing awe and thanksgiving for this beautiful, perfect, flawless baby's life, and asking for help from a community or higher power to keep her safe.

Ady's baptism weekend actually consisted of two separate ceremonies in an attempt to set a foundation for practicing lots of different forms of spirituality, reflection, and worship.  On Saturday morning, Ady, Jaycob and I, along with Ady's Godparents, Matt and Audrey, hiked the Borrego Bear Wallows trail to Tesuque Creek, where we had an informal yet intimate service of reflecting on the water element, recognizing our connection to nature, and making a commitment to raising Ady in the best way we can.  I recited a poem I wrote about water as a cleansing, healing, invigorating, and nourishing force that connects plants, animals, and humans to the Earth.  Ady's Godparents read a list of quotes from Harry Potter with advice for Baby Ady as she learns and grows.  Jaycob then read an Ayurvedic reflection about the water element and the source of life.  Here are a few excerpts from our readings:

Reflection on Water:  
"Let this water cleanse us of past grievances and regrets
Renew and purify our lives and perspectives
Provide energy to face each new day and the obstacles that present themselves
Bring together people of different walks of life."

Advice from Harry Potter:
"It does not do well to dwell on dreams and forget to live."
"Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light."
"It is our choices that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
"Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open."

Contemplation of Water Element:  
"Water element is the principle of cohesion.  In the body, this emerges as nourishment, growth, and connection.  When we express free-flowing water element we connect easily to others.  In the cycle of life and death, water represents the years of our learning."

Beautiful wild flowers on the Borrego trail

Santa Fe in bloom

Beautiful blue sky for Ady's weekend

Kua gets into the baptism spirit

Our nature-centered ceremony

Reflecting on water's meaning, Daddy and his girl

Ady, Dad, and the Godparents

On Sunday we celebrated the second part of Ady's baptism weekend with the formal, church-based Baptism ceremony.  It was a beautiful service in which Jaycob and I, Ady's Godparents, Ady's Grandma, and the whole church community made a commitment to raising Ady and setting a good example for her.  The church service that day was actually really fitting for a Baptism with readings from Genesis, a reflection about our connection to nature, and a Navajo peace song that the children like to sing.  It was a beautiful and memorable morning as we celebrated our girl.

Happy Baptism to our girl

Family of Three

Ady and her Godparents, Matt and Audrey

Ady and "Nana Patty"

After months of discussion and contemplation, I feel at peace with our decision to baptize Ady and to do it in a way that makes sense for us and that is consistent with our values.  While the official Baptism was only one weekend, our commitment to raising her the best we can is never-ending.  I hope to always surround Ady with strong role-models, guide her in a life of acceptance and kindness, and, as she gets older, allow her to make her own choices when it comes to religious and spiritual practice.


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