preparing the church for baptism

Veni Sancte Spiritus is often sung at liturgies of ordination, though it can be sung at other times and certainly isn’t out of place at a baptism.  When Bishop Rodman was ordained and consecrated this summer, bishops sang Veni Sancte Spiritus as they gathered around and laid hands on him, praying together to invite the Holy Spirit to move through them all, and to make Sam a bishop.  So, too, when the freshest priests in the diocese were ordained in the week before Christmas, dozens of us gathered around them, and as Bishop Sam laid his hands on their heads we sang Veni Sancte Spiritus and prayed for the Holy Spirit to bestow upon them the gift of ordination to the priesthood.

I’m trying to describe a special kind of prayer that is a part of a special kind of spiritual gift. It isn’t magic. It isn’t “The Force” (which is very much on my mind, as my children and my family have a bad case of Star Wars fever). It isn’t an incantation or charm or spell designed to make God do what we ask. Rather, it’s an act of prayer that honors the fullness of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the sacraments of the church, a presence that draws everyone in the space into a lively encounter with God – even the people who aren’t being made Bishops or Priests on that particular day.

This kind of prayer isn’t reserved for the clergy: it’s a kind of prayer we devote to all people as they become a part of the Body of Christ through their baptism. I’m writing not just to share stories of ordinations, but to invite you all to join me in prayer this week for Clara Bennett who will be baptized at St. Andrew’s on Sunday.

I know that most of us – me included – grew up with an affection for baptismal days when some cute kid got dipped. And we’ll have that on Sunday, I promise. But we also know that this is so much more than that: baptism is a gift of the spirit, one that empowers us to be the body of Christ and draws us into the lifelong adventure of growing in wonder and faith.

And since it’s such a big deal, let’s not wait until Sunday to begin preparing ourselves and our church. We can prepare the church with our prayers, on Sunday and in the days leading up to it. I hope you’ll join me this week in praying for Clara and celebrating the movement of the Holy Spirit in baptism, and for the the ministry of all the baptized who make up St. Andrew’s church.

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About bernardowens

I am an Episcopal priest who serves St. Andrew's Church in Greensboro, North Carolina.
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