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Anglican Futures: “Recycle and Be Baptised Every One of You”

“Recycle and Be Baptised Every One Of You”

Poppy was baptised in her family’s parish church when she was four months old, just as her late grandmother expected.

Neither parents nor godparents pretended that they had any Christian faith or that bringing Poppy to baptism was anything other than the continuance of a long-standing family tradition. A good lunch was had.

After a couple of years attending meetings of her school Christian group, 15 year old Poppy has come to a lively Christian faith and has embarked on a life of discipleship to Christ. To her parents and godparents this remains a total mystery but they aren’t unhappy – Poppy’s Christian friends seem delightful. The mystery deepens, however, when, having read Acts 2:38, she decides that her repentance should be followed by baptism. Not knowing what to do Poppy’s parents suggest she ask their local vicar in Oxfordshire.

Having explained an Anglican view of baptism that vicar is eager to tell her how welcome she would be to be confirmed. Although slightly disappointed she won’t be getting wet, Poppy can see that a service conducted by a bishop must be pretty special and so with two older candidates she embarks enthusiastically, on a short course of confirmation classes.

At the final class the vicar explains that part of the service is for everyone to make certain affirmations like,

“Those who are baptised are called to worship and serve God. Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking or bread, and in the prayers?”

This is the sort of thing Poppy was looking for – to declare to her friends and family- that she, “With the help of God” she will do Acts 2.

The vicar goes on to explain that he is rather excited about the upcoming Confirmation Service because it is the first one in the centuries long history of the church that a new affirmation would be sought,

“Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth?

One of the other candidates asks what this means – and the incumbent is delighted to take-up the teaching opportunity – this is just what the bishop had told him to pray for.

The vicar explains that the bishop has said very clearly what it means – that for over 100 years humankind has shaped the earth in harmful ways, “…pollution in the oceans; in the invisible blanket of greenhouse gases which is the cause of global warming; in pollution in cities which causes thousands of premature deaths each year; in the extinction of whole species; in the rise of zoonotic diseases, which transfer from animals to humans and cause devastating pandemics.”[1]

The bishop has taught his Diocesan Synod (the candidates are becoming familiar with Anglican jargon), that in the UK climate change is causing more extreme weather events, that it will be so difficult and costly to maintain the country’s way of life that everyone must commit to limiting “global warming to 1.5 degrees” in the next 10 years or at least by 2035. 

Turning to Poppy, the vicar said that for her this meant being one of “tens of thousands of climate ambassadors in Oxfordshire’s schools and churches”. He claimed no less than the authority of Pope Francis for this. This confused Poppy as she didn’t know the Church of England had Popes who believed all this, “…to be an integral part of the discipleship of every Christian” and she hadn’t read about it in the Acts of the Apostles.

More worrying was how her family would react – she hadn’t explained to them that becoming a Christian meant personally embracing all aspects of what they dismissively called the “climate agenda”. Explaining that the Holy Spirit lived in her had been bad enough but explaining that she was now to be a “climate ambassador” was all but impossible. She didn’t think they were “climate deniers” more, perhaps, sceptics who didn’t like being told what to think. When she finally mentioned it, the word “woke” was used and her parents muttered  about things  she didn’t really understand- “acid rain” and “YK2”.

Poppy wasn’t sure about her school friends either – she’d learnt as a Christian to respect others’ views and not be pushy about her own. No one liked the Climate Extinction fanatics, with all their talk of “mother earth” and their “Gaia” tattoos, as if the earth itself had a life and soul.  She was not about to spend her time glued to a road. 

Poppy explained her dilemma to the vicar – her parents could cope with her becoming a Christian but not joining, in their words, “a hippy cult”. Reluctant to lose a teenage confirmation candidate he wondered if Poppy could just “mumble and cross her fingers” at that last bit. Poppy felt this was a bit odd if the bishop was going to then pray for her to receive the Holy Spirit. Wasn’t he the Spirit of Truth?

Poppy had also read that she should “honour her father and mother” so she decided to do that here. Perhaps one day, when she was older, she would eventually find a church who would rebaptise her as she’d always wanted.