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Fall-out from rigorous-baptism neighbour

13 May 2009


From the Revd Andrew Williams

Sir, — How right John Wall is (Diary, 1 May) when he speaks of the damage done by clergy who have a rigorous policy on baptism and who appear to be totally devoid of pastoral sensitivity.

Shortly after I had been instituted to a benefice, I was approached by a couple from a neighbouring parish whose reasons for wishing to have their child baptised in my church seemed to me to be very reasonable.

I said I would gladly do as they asked, but explained that it would be wrong for me to do so without first having obtained permission from the vicar of their parish. I therefore asked them to contact him, and ask him to write a brief note to me, stating that he had no objection.

They came back and told me that he said he had never seen them in his church, that they were not Chris­tians, and he did not understand why they wanted to bother with baptism. He was not prepared to write any notes, but that if the vicar of — was prepared to baptise their child, he supposed it was up to him.

I could hardly believe my ears, but I had the evidence of two very hurt people before my eyes. Needless to say, I baptised their child.

Shortly afterwards, I was approached by another couple from the same parish, with the same request. I was still finding it difficult to believe that any priest could have said such a thing as I had been told, and decided to give him a second chance.

I sent them to see him, but they came back with an identically worded message. I am afraid I then said to myself: “It’s clearly quite futile to try to establish courteous relations with this man. From now on, I shall do as seems right to me without seeking his permission, and, where appropriate, I shall go into his parish to see his parishioners without his permission.”

During my time in that parish, I lost count of the number of pieces I had to pick up which my neighbour had brutally strewn over the floor. I did not worry too much about them, however. What really concerned me was the people there must have been who did not come to see me, or any other priest, whose pieces must have remained strewn over the floor, and perhaps remain there to this day.

4 Lygon Lodge
The Beauchamp Community
Newland, Malvern
Worcs WR13 5AX

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