Something I learned from a child
My first congregation was called a “mission start up,” which means when I arrived there were 13 people.
I was 29 and pretty much knew nothing about starting a congregation, but I was committed to people, and I seemed to like some of the things the Bible had to say so the Bishop asked me to serve as the pastor until “things could be sorted out for these people who seemed to want a congregation in their community.”
I served there for over 12 years.
We mostly attracted younger people and some people who wanted a church of our denomination.
Young families, single people, and couples were everywhere…which means we had a lot of infant baptisms… a lot!
Because we were a start-up, we got to create our traditions.
I tried to be thoughtful about what traditions would be valuable.
I remember thinking “in 50 years, what will the people refuse to let go of that is important? That’s where I want to put my energy.”
It was hard.
I was easily distracted by, well, everything.
Except in worship.
I was hyper focused on welcoming those who didn’t understand the liturgy, the gospel, the sacraments.
I knew that my work was to take down every barrier that would keep people from feeling welcome and beloved.
Children were very much included in worship, in leadership, in song, in whatever ways we could engage them.
I began to involve the children in every baptism…using the baptism as a time to teach the children about baptism.
And it was magical, delightful and surprising.
One Sunday when we were baptizing an infant I was conversing with a group of children – there were probably 20 of them sitting on the floor as we spoke.
I asked them if they thought the baby would ever have a bath after she was baptized.
They all agreed she would.
I asked them what would happen to the water, the blessing when she had her bath.
They were quiet, pondering this.
“Will her blessing go away,” I asked them.
Megan, aged 8, was very serious and then her whole face got bright with knowing.
“No!” She stated emphatically.
“It’s a sticky water blessing.”
“Say more, honey,” I coaxed her.
“Well, she is going to have a bath. And she is going to grow up but that blessing, that water blessing is going to stay forever. Because God loves her that much. God will always stay.”
Yes, God will always stay.
It’s twenty-five years later and I still teach children around the baptismal font, and I quote Megan EVERY TIME.
I quote Megan because I need to be reminded that God will always stay.
God will stay through the death of my father, and my husband, and when my own children question their belief in this God whose blessing rests on their heads.
God will stay when ministry is hard, earth shakingly hard, when we divide ourselves in half over public health crises, and politics, and when we say the meanest things to each other.
God could throw up God’s hands and say “I’m done” but God gave me a sticky water blessing and that means when I question what God is up to, when I doubt what God is choosing, when I judge others for their actions or inactions, when I speak unkind words about and to those who believe and act differently that I do, God stays, because God promises.
It might seem like a simple lesson but this 56 year old is so very grateful that a child taught her this and the words continue to ring out and remind – God loves me that much.
God will always stay.
Rev. Meredith Wilkins
Meredith is a United Methodist pastor serving at Arnolia UMC in Baltimore, MD. She began her ministry career as an ordained pastor in the ELCA. Her passions are preaching, relationship building, and her family. She is the mother of four children (ages 13, 19, 19, 27). She is a Life Coach and the co-owner of Sacred Scones.