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Jack baptised himself

  • 16 July 2019


The first time Jack came to the church he baptised himself. The font was new, the water inviting, and he dunked his ten-year-old head right in. The sea-blue glass font had recently been installed in the foyer on a sculpted piece of redgum. The brief for the designers was to make it accessible to all ages — they were delighted to hear of its instant appeal.

Jack's mother Fi followed him around at a short distance as he stepped, heavy-footed through the space. He held his hands in front of him as a kind of bumper. Jack was wearing headphones, a precaution against the too-much that so many people and such loud singing might be. But on this first visit he was relaxed and roving. Occasionally he made loud sounds that broke into the silences between the words of worship, but there was a gladness in them, no signals of distress. Jack liked the lectern at the front and came right up and stood before the person speaking. His tall-boy presence registered curiosity and that's not a bad thing in church.

Over the next five years Jack made semi-regular appearances at Sunday morning worship. He also liked church camp. A bush camper from early in life, he was content around campfires and among the tall trees of the campsite. Jack's dad was not a church-man but he too was relaxed at camp. Jack's parents took turns to tag-team in watching over him.

After these early introductions Jack's mother started asking him, 'Do you want to go to church?' He made a clear nod time and time again. And so Fi would bring him and follow him or sit on the floor with him or lie down with him on the cushions at the front. There are many possible aisles and pathways and places to sit inside and around this inner-city neo-Gothic church building. The minister and congregation wanted the spaces to be inhabited. Jack made his home in them.

When he was 15 Jack's parents requested he be baptised. They'd asked themselves: If Jack could tell them, would he want to be baptised? His gladness to be amidst people was telling in itself, was in-part his answer.

In the weeks before his baptism, Fi read Jack a baptism story. She talked to him, touching his forehead where the sign of the cross would be marked. They watched videos of people being baptised. As the day