Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Sunday Baptism or They Do What With The Water?

                Why is it that whenever a person who fails to frequent church finds themselves standing next to one their nervous energy goes into overdrive?  My wife Charger Gal informs me that my best friend Cowboy Jelly is showing all the signs:  The hands in the pockets…The rigid posture…The tense shifting back and forth…The inability to look any direction but downward.  It’s like a child awaiting punishment.
 I thought this was God’s house.  Now granted, if you take the rationale that every church is a home for the almighty, you’ll quickly realize the big man has a jones for real estate that would put Donald Trump to shame. (And no taxes to boot.)  But that aside, there’s just no reason for Cowboy Jelly to be like this.
And I’m gonna tell him that…just as soon as I’m able to loosen my posture, unglue my hands from my pockets, figure out how to look upward, and stop rocking back and forth like Tom Cruise on Oprah’s couch.  Look, my relationship with God is complicated (We’ll get there in a blog someday…TRUST ME) but this day isn’t about me.  My friend Only Child is having his daughter baptized and I’m here to share in the blessed event. 
So Charger Gal, Cowboy Jelly, his freshly minted fiancée Dorothy Gale (Named for her affinity for the state of Kansas), and myself venture into the church.  Dorothy Gale is the only one amongst us who thinks to go dip in the holy water.  As I consider whether that makes the rest of us heathens, my eyes gaze upon a throne at the front of the church.  It is ginormous and completely looks like something Joel Osteen yearns to conduct a sermon from.   I glance about the church, taking in the other children dressed to the nines.  I also take in their mothers;  it’s clear based on their looks and attire that a couple of them have previously spent time in this church confessing to sins I only wish I had assisted them in committing during my single days.
My impure thoughts are broken by the arrival of the minister.  He’s a regal looking man of the cloth whose appearance is a cross between Father Christmas and Floyd the Barber from the old Andy Griffith Show.  He motions us to head toward the rear of the church, which confuses me.  Every baptism I have ever viewed took place in the front of the church, the better for the minister to do his best impression of John Lithgow in Footloose.  (HE IS TESTING US!)  But despite my discombobulated state, I venture back.
The back of the church has open doors leading to a small white room, the centerpiece of which appears to be a beautiful birdbath.  As I wonder how our feathery friends could make their way inside to use such a lovely watering hole, I overhear others state this will be utilized for the affusion, a process where water is poured over the infants heads to signify the baptism.  E me.  It hits me that this is a far better way to perform the service:  Each entourage can make their way into the small space and observe the baptism without the prying eyes of strangers who have no vested interest in the child in question.  But I’m on a roll with misconstruing each step of this process, thus Father Floyd the Barber Christmas asks all of us to fit into the small room. (Why utilize a room that could house King Kong when everyone can squeeze into a space usually reserved for people with hot plates?  Oh yeah, the birdbath.)
My posse and I stand just outside the room, but with a perfect view of the birdbath, Only Child, his wife The Perfect Teeth (named for her pearly whites that Hollywood stars could only hope to obtain) and our girl of the hour, Mellow.  Not only do mommy and daughter look radiant, but Mellow is so chill in her dad’s arms that she effortlessly twirls her legs in different directions the way John Belushi could maneuver his bee antennas to move in multiple directions.  
Now Father Floyd the Barber Christmas raises his hands and I’m convinced he’s about to refer to me as a friend, Roman, or countrymen and ask me to lend him my ears.  The ceremony begins and Mellow has her moment of affusion that she handles with graceful aplomb.  The conclusion of the affusion is immediately followed by Only Child’s parents breaking for the exit like Usain Bolt in the 100.  They have to do final prep for the post baptism party and as the next child begins to bellow tears normally reserved for the acoustic heart of a Target, I wonder if they need assistance. 
My eyes turn back toward the festivities when they freeze on the sight of Cowboy Jelly checking his phone for football scores with the subtleness of Kobe hiding disdain for Shaq.  I grab his hand; tell him it’s wrong, wonder why he has to be so selfish that he can’t let one Sunday of football pass by for his friend.  Of course, that’s when my eyes catch Charger Gal doing the exact same thing.
Oy Vay.  (Yes, I went Jewish during a Christian ceremony.  Why do you ask?)
I turn back and see Father Floyd passing out candles to each of the parents that each child attempts to grab like they are well lit toys.  I settle in for the rest of the service while silently pondering the odds of the church turning nto the Universal Studios Backdraft exhibit.
At least there’s plenty of water in the birdbath.

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