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Extending the baptismal welcome to the eucharist

by
07 September 2012

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From the Revd Paul Webb

Sir, - I have read with interest the various letters, as well as your editorial, on baptism ( Letters, Leader, 31 August) and whether it should be included in the "main Sunday service"", whatever that means. Where this happens to be a service of the word, we can truly sing, as you suggest, "Bring 'em all in."

This generous inclusivity does not apply, however, when the service is eucharistic. As fewer and fewer present themselves for confirmation, many of our baptismal parties are excluded from the "bread-and-wine business" as you describe it - hardly an unconditional welcome, no matter how much "honey" we may try to add in other ways.

Should we not be embarrassed by this? I pray for the day when our sacraments may bring people in rather than shut people out; so that the generosity of our (the Lord's) hospitality may lead to belief rather than belief - or confirmation - being a prerequisite for participation.

PAUL WEBB
101 Palace Road, East Molesey
Surrey KT8 9DU

From the Revd Martin Jewitt

Sir, - Requests for "christening" are one of the most common opportunities the Church has for introducing Jesus. I am heartened by the correspondence ( Letters, 31 August) that suggests that the practice is continuing of celebrating baptism at the time when the congregation is assembled.

As a parish priest in three parishes, I have made this a central part of baptism policy, on the basis of the principle that the Church exists primarily for its non-members. There have been many expressions of appreciation from guests on those occasions - and some radical conversions.

It doesn't always have to be a communion service, as your Leader implies - and "dress code" is a bit out of date - and it is always sensible to offer Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child as an alternative, for those who get as far as seriously thinking about the commitment that the baptism service implies. In my last parish, we had as many thanksgivings as we had baptisms.

Let's encourage enquirers to do what baptism represents - to help them to move their longings forward to experience welcome into the family of the Church.

MARTIN JEWITT
12 Abbott Road
Folkestone CT20 1NG

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