This past Sunday I baptized my first grandchild, Graham Owen Hinshaw, 4 ½ months old, during the 11 o’clock service at the Mulberry Street United Methodist Church, Macon, a congregation I once served for 12 fulfilling years. I had selfishly hoped and prayed our son and daughter in-law would invite me to baptize our grandchild and confess to an overabundance of grandfatherly pride, especially since I was also able to baptize, with Senior Pastor Tommy Mason, my daughter-in-law at the same service.
Every baptism over the decades has been special: baptisms of babies, youth and adults. I have wept at baptisms, mostly for joy and but once in grief, baptizing people in emergency rooms, nursing homes, swimming pools, lakes and churches. But last Sunday was the first time that I baptized a family member and when I walked Graham Owen down the center aisle of the Mulberry Street UMC to introduce him to some of God’s finest people, I found myself levitating, precious child in my arms.
I find myself, as a grandparent, treasuring the words from Psalm 145:4, “One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare their mighty acts.” (KJV) Although the primary task of instructing children in the faith is reserved for parents, my wife and I have the opportunity, privilege and responsibility to share with Graham what it means to know, love and serve this Trinitarian God who loved the world enough to send his only son, Jesus, to spread the love and mercy of the Lord.
Earlier that Sunday morning, sitting at the breakfast table with a cup of coffee, I began reading in the AARP magazine (I never thought I’d be a member!) the stories of four sets of Newtown grandparents whose 6- and 7-year-old grandchildren were massacred last year in the Sandy Hook Elementary School. They told how the tragedy affected them, how they experienced the pain and suffering of their adult children and how they are trying to come to terms with the deaths of their grandchildren.
I began crying. The contrast between the carnage in that elementary school and the pending baptism of my grandson, almost exactly one year later, was too overwhelming. I closed the magazine.
The church will not soon be of one heart about so many issues that maim and destroy our children: gun control, teen pregnancy, abortion, children in poverty, wellness care for babies, and dozens of other issues that could allow every child in this nation to thrive.
We church people can’t even agree about baptism. But perhaps one thing on which we can agree is that – at whatever age baptism takes place – a child raised in the church has a better chance to be a fulfilled, whole person, abundantly embracing life. In this season of childlike joy may we adults – parents, grandparents, foster parents, extended family – give the children of our city, nation and world the opportunity to become the children God has intended for them.
Creede Hinshaw, of Macon, is a retired Methodist minister.