Baptism is death and birth. In the water and by the Holy Spirit, we die with Jesus to be reborn into eternal life. We’ve all heard the theology. And most of us have been “marked as Christ’s own forever.” But maybe the way that works out in our daily lives is a bit unclear – at least some of the time. How do you live as one who is baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection? What does it mean to say you have died and been born again? Easy and pat answers won’t go very far here. It really just takes our daily experience. It’s not something we can describe so much as it is something we live and pray.
This September we are one of a handful of congregations in the Episcopal Church to receive a special grant from the Lilly Grant folks that will allow us to explore what it really means for us to be Baptized for Life as individuals and as a congregation and as part of Wabingston (the three parishes of Ware, Abingdon, and Kingston). Beginning September 16, we will take part in filling out a questionnaire about our spiritual lives. I ask that each of you take the 20 minutes or so to fill out the online questions. (There will be hard copy and a way to do this online at the parish house for those who don’t usually do computers at home.) It will be important to hear from everyone – our oldest members and our youngest, those who attend three times a year and those who are here like they hold the walls up. If you come to Kingston at all, please fill one out! This is not a questionnaire to see if you like the way we do things. It is a questionnaire that seeks to explore with us what it means to be baptized for life. Needless to say, you need not fear that you are going to write the “wrong” answers because the questions will be too big for there to be wrong answers.
The information we receive from these questionnaires (anonymously, by the way) will be used by us, with the help of folks from Renewal Works at Forward Movement (the people who give us our Forward Day by Day prayer booklets) and a few people at Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. With the answers, we will seek to understand who we are as baptized people. What are our strengths in God? What are our weaknesses? What might we be called to do in the years ahead as we live into our baptisms? A wonderful group of folks from the breadth of our congregation has volunteered to help with the work of sharing with us the results of the questionnaire and working with us to make sense of what to do next – more on that in October! Then we will spend about three years, working with Wabingston and on our own, to find ways to live into our baptism with special intention.
This is a huge gift to our congregation and a beautiful opportunity for us to give to God as we seek out a deeper experience of our baptisms using this program. It will also be, especially for us as a part of Wabingston, a gift to the larger church as we show the church ways we (three smaller congregations) work together to build up the Body of Christ.
This will be a special journey deeper into Christ for us as the people of God at Kingston Parish. I feel very blessed to be with you all on this journey. In the days ahead, let’s all take the first step and see where God is leading!
The Very Rev. Gary Barker