Friday, July 9, 2010

The Best Present for a 4-year-old: Baptismal Font

In the parish we have a relatively new family of five from a Presbyterian background. Their eldest, Jack, just turned four a few weeks ago. Now Jack is not your typical four-year-old. Simply put Jack loves church. When his family first came to the parish, Jack would cry when the candles on the Holy Table were extinguished at the conclusion of the service. He didn't want the service to end! He and his father often will come to the Wednesday 7:00 AM service of Holy Communion; he is always quiet and devout in a charming and very moving way.

Since the family first joined, he has really taken to 'playing' church at home: conducting processions with his home-made processional cross, 'singing' hymns, making the sign of the cross over various members of the family, even doing what I'm told is a remarkable imitation of Fr. Petley, a fellow-priest on staff. In an older child, this could all of course be done sardonically and with a bit of cynicism, but not for Jack. The ritual of Anglican worship, even all liturgical worship really, in its non-verbal aspects communicates the faith even to the youngest minds. This is part of its power, that it can both appeal to children who sense its reverence and power, and that to the those who have heard the Prayer Book services over a lifetime, its riches are never exhausted.

Jack's birthday party was held at the Oklahoma Train Museum complete with a concluding train ride. As I mulled over what to give him for a present, I thought The Little Prince would be entirely fitting for this special young man who is kind of a little prince in his own right. When I spoke to his father to confirm that he did not already own the book, I learned that Jack had told a mutual friend that what he really wanted for his birthday was a baptismal font. I decided while still on the phone that I needed to make Jack a miniature font. So, I went home that night--the party was the following morning--and turned this baptismal font.

It's a bit modern in style--probably more 1979 Prayer Book that I'd like to admit--but it was the best I could do as far as design with the time constraints. I used the left-over mulberry wood from this project. I finished it off with an IHS on the outside of the bowl. This is an ancient contraction for Jesus' name used often on church fixtures and vestments.

I'm told that various members of the family have now been baptized. On multiple occasions in some cases. And a bonus: he is now using it as a chalice. I don't take all this as conclusive evidence of a priestly vocation, but it certainly does make one ponder what our Lord's intention for his life might be.

Update: we just received an thank-you letter in the mail from Jack telling us that, "the baptismal font is my favorite. I use it almost every day. Claire and Lily like to be baptized." Here is the accompanying photograph: