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Notes And News


by The Reverend Peter Thompson on November 04, 2022

The Gospels tell us that, after Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove and a voice came from heaven saying, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well-pleased.” Later, when Jesus was transfigured—as he dazzled in front of his disciples—the same voice came again, expressing the same sentiment: “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well-pleased.” Twice in Jesus’ life God made a clear point of expressing love for him and satisfaction in the person he had become.

God displays that same love and happiness for every single child—no matter what age—when they are presented for their baptism. As it was for Jesus, so it is for us. Baptism is God’s way of declaring complete and unconditional love for us and supreme pleasure in all that we have become. As we are drenched with water, we are also clothed with the free gift of God’s boundless grace.

This coming Sunday, before we baptize four children of God (two under 18 and two above 18!), St. Bart’s will also dedicate a new baptismal font. Our gorgeous building already contains a marble masterpiece of a baptismal font in our small baptistery and a simple stone font in our children’s chapel. But these fonts were created for a different time in which baptisms tended to be private ceremonies for family members and close friends only.

Over the past few decades, the Church has made a concerted effort to move baptisms to the principal Sunday service so that the whole community of the parish church can welcome new members of the family of God. Because it isn’t practical to move our two existing fonts into the main Church space, in recent years we have used a small glass or silver bowl for most baptisms at St. Bart’s. While these bowls have served a practical purpose well, they have not imparted upon baptism the same sense of importance that, say, our majestic pulpit provides to preaching or our stunning altar gives to the sacrament of the Eucharist.

Artist Mel Ahlborn, of Illumination Studio in Northern California, has designed an exquisite font worthy of the sacrament of baptism and of our monumental space. While the new font is portable—allowing us to safely transport it to a variety of locations—it is also substantial, demonstrating just how central and essential baptism is in the Christian story and the Christian life. The font’s wood base complements our carefully crafted choir stalls, while its mosaic countertop nods at the famous Hildreth Meiére mosaics in the narthex and the apse. Around the striking bronze bowl are the words God proclaims at Jesus’ baptism and his transfiguration (the latter represented in the iconic mosaic above the High Altar): “You are my Child, my Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Assurances of belovedness will surround children of every age who are baptized in this work of art.

Our new font is the result of a gift from the family and friends of Frances Gardephe, a young member of St. Bart’s who died at the age of 2 in 2013 and whose remains were laid to rest in our columbarium. We are immensely grateful to Frances’ parents, Chris Gardephe and Yana Wagg, and all those who gave to St. Bart’s in her memory so those who are baptized at St. Bart’s in the years to come can be so beautifully reminded of how loved they are.

We initially planned on dedicating the new font earlier this year at the Easter Vigil, but circumstances required us moving the dedication to All Saints Sunday. Unbeknownst to us when we made that change, it turns out that Frances, in whose memory the font has been given, was herself baptized at St. Bart’s on All Saints Sunday. On Frances' first baptism anniversary, one she shared with her sister, Madeleine, Wendy Claire Barrie (then the Director of Children, Youth & Family Ministries at St. Bart’s) offered for them the following prayer. Like our new font, it invokes God’s proclamations of love at Jesus’ baptism and transfiguration to remind us of how beloved we truly are.

Tonight we remember the baptism of Frances and Madeleine. You were baptized with water in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and you were marked with the sign of the cross as Christ’s own forever. You were given a candle as a sign that Jesus is the light of the world. In baptism we hear the voice of God saying to each of us, “You are my beloved child. I am so happy with you.” May we remember that we belong to God forever, may we share the light of Christ with everyone we meet, and may we walk in love now and with the saints and angels and all the company of heaven in the life to come. Amen.


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