In preparation for the Pentecost baptisms, we spent some time in Children’s Chapel a few weeks back looking at the Baptismal Covenant. Because so many of our kiddos were baptized as babies, these occasions for renewal and recommitment feel especially rich. For each of us, even as adults, new depths of understanding come each time we make these promises. But especially for our children, the covenant has the potential to serve as an awakening. When they hear us speak these words, children are invited into a relationship with God, and with all of us in Christ. And when they begin not just to hear but to speak these words themselves, they set out on their own path towards God. They begin to grasp how behavior shapes belief. They become Christian not because we are, but because God is calling them into the practice of Christianity.
And so I offered our children only the questions of the covenant, and gave them space as a community to craft their own answers instead of teaching them our collective, scripted responses. They were delightfully thoughtful and engaged with one another throughout this process. Their answers – which I copied verbatim once they’d settled on language they all more or less agreed with – are endearing and witty, and not at all surprising given the vibrant community of children we have here at St. Luke’s. But they are also largely theologically sound, and have the potential – if we read beyond or perhaps into the many amusing barnyard references – to help us deepen our own understanding of this piece of our tradition.
To me, that’s the highest potential payoff of intergenerational spiritual practice: the opportunity that arises again and again to learn from one another. To be, from our birth to our death, at once students and teachers. So as we head into a summer of more shared intergenerational worship, I offer these covenant responses as an invitation. May we tune carefully in to the fruitful truth that our children have as much to teach us as we have to teach them. And may the promises we make to God be both illuminated by and illuminating for those of any age on this path alongside us.
Do you believe in God the Father?
I believe in God, who created us, pigs, chickens, and blankets.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God?
I believe in Jesus the son of God, who lived and died and lived again. He heals people.
Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
I believe in God the Holy Spirit, who comes like wind or like fire to help us understand the Word of God.
Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
I will keep doing prayers, receiving the body of God, and doing the chicken dance.
Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
I will return to God.
Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?
I will proclaim that God is happy and loves us.
Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
I will eat chickens with others and try to see good in them.
Will you strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every human being?
I will be nice and a good listener, sharing what I have and doing the pig dance.