On Sunday 19 November, in a tent in the churchyard of St Mary’s Kempsford, three young candidates experienced a special baptism service.
During the pandemic restrictions, when people were allowed to meet outdoors, St Mary’s Kempsford began to hold outdoor family services in the churchyard.
The Revd Kim Brown, vicar of St Mary’s, says, “We knew families were looking for ways to be together, be in nature and live a slower pace with their families, so we discussed with them what would help. The new service took on an ‘eco’ theme as we sought ways to love God and care for one another and the world around us. When the pandemic came to an end, everyone wanted the outdoor service to carry on and it has gone from strength to strength.”
The family service at St Mary’s Kempsford meets outdoors all year round and focuses on learning about God and worshipping him in the beauty of creation. A team from St Mary’s, along with the Revd Kim, plan and facilitate the service, with the children and their connection to God and His creation at the forefront of the planning each month.
Kim says, “We build hedgehog houses, sow wildflower seeds, look for bats and insects and lie down on blankets and look at the sky – and in winter, the stars, as we pray.”
In a first for this worshipping community, two families who attend each month asked if they could have their children baptised in the outdoor setting. After some planning, the service took place outdoors at 4pm, in the late-afternoon darkness.
Kim says, “It was a wonderful experience as we thought together about Jesus coming as light in the darkness, and how He is with us through all the ups and downs of life.”
Rory, age 10, was baptised first as he was also going to be godfather to his cousin, Magdalena, age 2. He made the sign of the cross with oil on Magdalena’s head while the Revd Kim gave the blessing, and he and his sister Eden, age 7, also anointed one another. The children came forward to blow bubbles in celebration at the end, before going off to search for bats with their torches and toast marshmallows in the fire. A party tea was held inside the church afterwards, with hot chocolate served to warm everyone up.
Kim adds, “We want the children to be front and centre, to have freedom to plan activities in ways they suggest, so they experience God’s love in their own way. They wanted to make the cross of oil on one another’s heads and so we went with that.”
For most people, this was a new and exciting experience. Rhi, mum to Magdalena, says, “It was very special. So many friends and family have told us it was the best christening they’ve ever been to. I can’t stop thinking about it. It was truly magical. The memory of Rory and Eden putting the crosses on each other’s heads and on Maggie will stay with me forever, as will the whole service. We feel full of love. We couldn’t have asked for more.”