My niece Nora decided, at the age of 14, that she wanted to be baptized. Her older brother had been baptized as an infant, but somehow, for various reasons, Nora had missed out. Visiting her grandfather, my dad, a minister, this summer, we thought it might be a good occasion for the ceremony, though it rapidly became apparent that the old man would not be able to preside over it. His moments of mental coherence were just not long enough for that. Enter the Reverend Paul Zahl, an old friend, who came to visit us, and my dad, while we were in North Carolina.
Paul cheerfully volunteered to perform the ceremony, which we held for my dad's convenience in the living room of my sister Anna's house. Paul used the service in the 1928 version of the Anglican Book Of Common Prayer, most of which which dates back to the 17th Century and contains some of the most beautiful prose in the English language. Paul wore one of my dad's old stoles while conducting the service.
There were mostly unchurched people present but everyone seemed moved by the service. When it came time for the “congregation” to recite the Lord's Prayer together, we all noticed that Dad was saying it, too, word for word. Some things stick.
I was supposed to read the Gospel lesson for the day but a short way into it I choked up and had to pass the Bible over to my nephew Harry, Nora's brother, who read it admirably. This is what I was supposed to read, from the Gospel Of Mark:
And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rebuked those that brought them. But when Jesus saw it,
he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children
to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein. And he took them up in his arms, put his hands upon them, and blessed them.