Sunday, 1 March 2015 was the occasion of the Church of England Christian Baptism of Martha-Rose the cousin of my daughter Jilly. We had been excited about her big date since we received the invitation to the ceremony at the Anglican Cathedral of St Thomas at Portsmouth.
Jilly's granny, Judy, is a Christian and she can be counted as one of those truly 'real and genuine' Christians. She goes to church almost every Sunday and she also does many voluntary jobs for the Cathedral and is a good friend to everyone. Hence, it seems to be very reasonable that her grandchildren should be baptised and blessed as this will give her much pleasure and satisfaction. On the other hand my husband Ben and I both feel that Jilly should decide her own religion once she is old enough to fully understand the implications and so although she has been blessed she has not yet been baptised into the Christian religion.
I was brought up in a quite complex family, where we used to have a mixture of Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism and pure science all together in bthe same house. As a consequence I have learned to have an understanding of and a belief in all gods and religions and treat all of them with the same level of respect. I also believe that in any emergency, if any one of them is available to help then they will do so. Consequently, we very politely declined the proposal to baptise Jilly when she was too young to understand.
Kate, my sister-in-law, is probably a much more considerate daughter. She understands the importance for granny, and to be honest, she also wants herself to do this for her children. Her first child, Max was baptised when he was around 6 months old. Now Martha is about the same age so last Sunday it was her turn.
Apart from Max's baptism, I have not had many experiences observing baptism, or to be precise, only once. In Taiwan most people believe in Buddhism or Taoism and only 3% are Christians or Roman Catholics. My grandfather was a Christian. He started to go to church, meeting church friends when he was quite old, so when he decided to be baptised, the priest decided to come to our house to deliver the service. In a way, you can see the flexibility of Taiwanese culture, in another sense, it is a very weird experience because it took place in a normal household.
Baptism in England seems to be more formal yet at the same time it can be very personalised with the baby's name being introduced frequently into the service. The whole ceremony lasted about 30 minutes. Invited friends and family arrived on time and on his arrival the priest greeted everyone briefly and then began the service straight away.
The Cathedral had prepared an 'order of service', a pamphlet of the words of the service, for those present. I always feel that the printed sheet is to remind the priest of the exact procedures whilst on the other hand, it enables the friends and families attending to be able to follow the ceremony.
Basically, the priest read from the first word to the last word of the order of service; those present followed the words and said aloud various of the responses such as Amen, and so on. The priest started by explainning the meaning of baptism within the church. Then he gave his blessing to Martha, and a good friend (Claire) also read a bible passage for Martha. After the reading, the priest blessed the water, and then sprayed the holy water on Matha's head three times, wiped her head and wrapped her with a pre-prepared blanket or shawl signifying that she had now been accepted into the Christian church. Finally, with the lighting of a candle. The ceremony finished with a final Blessing.
Baptism is a big event. Friends and family who attend the ceremony should be proud. Everyone took pictures with Martha, gave her a cuddle, and also expressed their best wishes. I also hope that Martha enjoys her life, that she will be happy, and lives a long and healthy life.
Since this is a food blog, I have to say something about the amazing food that my mom in law and sister in law prepared. Both of them are excellent cooks, so I am very lucky to enjoy good food all the time. My mom in law lived in France for more than 15 years, so she is very good with French cuisine. Very often when there is a party she is very happy to prepare some of the dishes she knows.
My sister-in-law has inherited the skill, so we can find even better and more innovative dishes on the dinner table. Being a gourmet, I am very lucky!
After having those nice savouries, quiches and canapés, it is time for raspberry and cream sponge cake and good strong coffee.
Finally, I have to say something about the goodie bag. Granny said French people give sugared almonds when someone is baptised, and since Kate loves them, we had to prepare them. I don't know where Jay and Richard found those nice boxes, they just matched perfectly with the coloured almond sweets. We spent all Saturday evening making the boxes, putting the sweets in the boxes and tying the pretty bows.