For those who don’t like sentiment, throw this down and go on to something else. Today I want to share with all my folks what’s happening in my church. Most of you already know that I lived for years in Damariscotta on the Biscay Road. My partner at the time, Erik Nord, and I fixed up the beat-up old house on the corner of Biscay and Standpipe.
Folks referred to us as the odd couple at the time. Nevertheless, we were racy and interesting enough to attract the neighborhood kids bored blind with Back Meadow life. One of those kids so many years ago was Nancy Sidelinger. We became fast friends and attached in a parent-child-buddy relationship. We lost touch when I moved home to Whitefield. She married and raised her own family of gorgeous girls.
She recently decided to come back to church and has begun to drive up for Sunday services. Out of the blue she asked me about getting her daughters and grandchildren baptized. I couldn’t let that go by and said yes, of course I would.
Now everybody knows you get the kid baptized as soon as possible after birth in case something happens to them. However, pastoral directives advise that when an older person asks to be baptized, it can happen only after a period of adult instruction in the faith.
Well, that is the way it is supposed to be. Too bad. I am the bishop and Nancy isn’t going to assemble this group from all over New England just for instruction. I waived it and we set the date for Holy Saturday. This is the one day of the whole year when there can be no Eucharistic service because, after all, our Lord is still lying in the grave until sunup Easter morning. I decided that since baptism is a symbolic joining of Jesus in the grave, it was appropriate to celebrate this holy service of baptism.
Now remember, I’m supposed to instruct this batch. When everyone gathered for the service, I sat them all down and went and sat in the bishop’s chair and gave them the plan of salvation. All you Baptist preachers would have smiled in contentment as I went through the whole nine yards: conviction, repentance, forgiveness through the Blood of Christ. Remember, folks, I used to be Protestant and I used to play gospel piano for revival meetings.
This group of lovely young people got the whole picture and we proceeded, with each person coming to the bare altar with only a candle and bowl of water and having water poured over their forehead while the priest says: name “is baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” pouring three times while the godparent keeps his or her hand on the child.
It is simple. It is plain water, not specially blessed. And yes, the old, preferred, early church way was by total immersion. We are having several folks get baptized later this summer in our lovely Sheepscott River. You and yours are welcome to do the same by joining us.
This alone made for a wonderful day here at the monastery. There was a special joy in writing new names into the parish register, which is recognized throughout the world. Seven folks washed clean with a brand-new, fresh start.
That is what I emphasized in my talk: a fresh start. That also is what happens when one chooses to confess to the priest and ask for absolution: it is also a fresh start after facing up to things.
That is what makes the next thing so very interesting to those who are open to spiritual prompting. We had to go the Yellowfront in Damariscotta, my favorite store on earth where everyone speaks and smiles and most know my name.
Getting ready to leave, I said to Robin, “I want to stop in the sacristy and get my black habit.” “Oh, just wear your cross.” “No, I’ve got this urge to wear the habit.” I did indeed put it on and wore it to town as I often do. “I need to stop at Rite-Aid, please.” We did, I went in, and voila, no medicine, a stop for nothing until I turned around to leave and a very handsome older woman stopped me and asked to speak after ascertaining what kind of priest I was.
We stepped around the corner in Rite-Aid and out of the blue she asked me to hear her confession. I looked around. No one was paying us any attention. I listened to a burden dragged around for years and years cast off into the arms of a loving, forgiving God. I invited her to Easter Mass and she asked where. I said up over Head Tide Hill in Whitefield. She came back with “Oh! You are Doug Wright!” And yes, she attended Easter Liturgy with us. I am happy as can possibly be!
(Doug Wright lives over Head Tide Hill in Whitefield. He welcomes feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.)