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How to truly ‘teach, baptize and nurture new believers’?

Social Justice Huron

By Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle

A rich man was looking for a special diamond to add to his collection. A famous dealer in Belgium believed she had such a stone and invited the rich man to come and see.

Upon arrival, the dealer introduced the rich man to her best seller who then explained in detail how the size, cut, clarity and colour of this stone made it such a special gem. When the seller had finished, the rich man decided against making the purchase. The dealer then asked if she could show him the stone again.

When he agreed, she took it in her hand. She didn’t repeat anything the seller had said but rather looked deeply at it and described how the beauty of this stone made it stand out from all others. The rich man was captivated and immediately purchased the stone.

As the seller left, the rich man paused and asked the dealer why it was she could convince him to buy the stone when her seller could not. She replied that her seller knows diamonds more than anyone else, including her. The one thing she wishes the seller could learn, however, is her love for the stones.

The second mark of mission calls us “to teach, baptize and nurture new believers”. Like the four C’s of diamonds (cut, clarity, colour and carat), there are many practical things which can be taught about being Christian.

It certainly is helpful to learn the Lord’s Prayer, The Creeds, the shape of worship, the Great Commandment and about our relationship to the Bible. These are some of the things which are raised in Sunday school and adult programming. Knowing these things, however, does not automatically convey a love for God. That is embodied in how we live.

When we baptize infants and younger children, the parents and sponsors are asked: “Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is nurtured in the faith and life of the Christian community?” and: “Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ?” (BAS p. 153)

The first of these questions encourages participation in the life of the Christian community as a natural way in which to engage in the practice of our faith. The second question challenges us to teach through our behaviour – the ways in which we embody faith beyond the doors of our church buildings. This is our opportunity to move beyond knowledge into the realm of love!

The ways we embody love for God and love for neighbour teach more about the wonder and awe of God than any knowledge we can recite. Actions speak louder than words!

Every time someone is baptized the congregation present is asked: “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?”  (BAS p. 155) When we respond, “we will”, we are making a promise – a promise to teach and nurture these new members of our congregation through the ways we continue to inspire and include them in our acts of worship within and beyond our sanctuaries. Through our response, we promise to be examples of what it means to live the love that is at the heart of our faith.

Our faith isn’t solely what we do in church. It is something that is lived through our choices, through the ways we treat others and the ways we seek to safeguard creation. Faith is embodied not only in thoughts and prayers but in seeking to transform unjust structures. Faith is evidenced in the ways we reflect God’s love into the world.

To truly teach, baptize and nurture new believers, we must always seek to learn, reflect on our baptismal promises and nurture our lives of faith, thus enabling us to embody the best of what it means to be Christian for those who seek to become part of our community.

Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle is the Social Justice Huron chair.