by Phil McNeish
Not long ago, I sang first tenor in the St. John’s choir for the better part of two years. Each Sunday the choir processed into the nave side by side. As we passed through the door coming into the church, we first encountered the baptismal font situated in middle of the center aisle. We moved around it, one line passing to the left, the other line passing to the right. It always called to my mind a rock jutting out of a river with the water flowing around it on either side.
Each time I processed by the font, I reached my free hand out and ran it around the base of the font. You see the baptismal font--this particular baptismal font--is precious to me.
One Sunday years ago as several infants were baptized in the Episcopal tradition, I stood by, a full-grown adult, waiting for my turn to be baptized. It was on that day that I completed my journey from a Fundamentalist Christian to an open-minded lover of people from all denominations.
I came from a place where spirituality was a black and white affair--a list of do’s and don’ts, haves and have nots, good and evil. The Episcopal Church taught me that God and Christ are not beholden to a certain set of manmade sectarian beliefs.
It has made me more bending, more accepting, less judgmental--more like Christ. My baptism at the font was a gateway to the freedom that comes from accepting that there are many alternate views of scriptural interpretation. Although I still struggle at times with letting go of long held religious beliefs, that day at the font I began a life of love and acceptance that I had never known before.
To this day when I enter the church and pass by the font, I reach out a hand and touch it. It is still the symbol of that turning point in my spiritual journey through life. To me, it isn’t just another baptismal font. It is a reminder of God’s patience with me. It is a reminder of how far God has brought me and of how far I have yet to travel. It is a reminder of how much God loves all who walk past that font and take a seat in the pews to kneel in worship.