On religion and marathons and little bugs

April 21, 2008 at 9:13 am | Posted in little bug, Massholes | Leave a comment
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Look-alikes looking very serious at the christening

We had Little Bug baptised yesterday — excuse me, christened. Tim and I went back and forth about doing a christening from day one (calling it a “christening” and not a “baptism” being one of my concessions.) Tim and I are both very, very lapsed Catholics. Indeed, we were married by someone we found on www.justiceofthepeace.com or its equivalent. I felt strongly, however, about our baby having godparents and marking her arrival with some sort of celebration (my grandmother always believed in “marking occasions,” and I have tried to continue that in my own life.) Whether or not our daughter ultimately chooses to be a Christian or even to be religious will be up to her, but I do think that establishing a moral touchstone is important. Tim argues that you can do so without interjecting religion. And it’s not because he doesn’t believe religion is important — he even thinks we could take the approach of bringing our children to a different service every weekend: temples, mosques, churches, the beach, whatever. But he doesn’t necessarily think subscribing to any sort of organized religion is the best way to teach kindness and compassion. An arguable point. Nevertheless, it was important to me, and so we compromised: Little Bug would not be baptised in the Catholic church, but we would have a ceremony.

I did some research into where: I wanted the church to be in our neighborhood, to be open and accepting, and to be some place that I might actually want to attend. We decided on Old South Church in Copley Square, a United Church of Christ (congregational) church — and it was perfect, for so many reasons. First, as far as religion goes, my grandmother also apparently believed that being a congregationalist was as close to being non-religious as you could get. Great! That was just what we wanted. Moreover, Tim’s mother, once a pretty good Catholic herself (obviously) now attends a congregational church. And the ceremony itself couldn’t have been more beautiful: a crisp spring day with the magnolias in full bloom along Comm. Ave. The Women’s Olympic Marathon trials were crossing the finish line at Copley just as we arrived, and the church’s bells clanged to greet the winner. Not only were two other little girls being baptised, but the church had its annual “Blessing of the Athletes,” in which 50 or so runners stood to be, quite literally, blessed by the outstretched palms of the congregation.

For the baptism, Tim and I, and the baby’s godparents — Uncle Rich and Aunt Erin — stood up on the altar, along with the children of the congregation, who had been invited to participate. After the blessing, the deacons walked the babies around the church to be introduced to the congregation. As the kind deacon paraded my baby around, and the choir sang the children’s hymn, “Jesus Loves Me,” I have to admit that my eyes welled up — and so did Tim’s.

The rest of the service was joyous: gospel songs, hand bells, drums, and ribboned flags being twirled by teenagers for the recessional. Our normally non-vocal baby babbled, laughed, and sang throughout the whole service, clapping her hands with the rest of the church. This church made a point of expressing its acceptance of everyone and its sense of community — and I think to the extent that organized religion currently does or ever will play a large role in my life, the idea of a church as “community” is what will keep me open-minded and perhaps even participatory. And I have always loved the UCC’s tagline, “God is still speaking.” I am still buoyed by the spirit of the day: by the baptism, the service, and the whole experience — from the marathon finishers, to celebrating the baby, to yes, even the church.

This morning Little Bug and I were up and out early: after a visit to Starbucks, we walked down Boylston and across the  marathon finish line. Already people were camped out in folding chairs (at 7:20 a.m.!) and police, tourists, and workers were buzzing about. As I write this, I can look up my street to Boylston, where the crowds are a bit thicker now. This whole weekend has been exciting — with the Red Sox playing (and pulling out consistent late-game wins!) down the street, the Charles River dotted with white sails out one window, and marathon runners out another window — and makes me happy that I live in the city. This city. Happy Patriot’s Day!

                                                                                      Little Bug and her godmother


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