Recently, I was reminded of an episode we recorded on January 6, 2004. In this episode, called Christenings, The Gray family is preparing for baptism with a “Methodist” minister. The dialogue centers around the Baptismal Covenant from the United Methodist Hymnal (also in the United Methodist Book of Worship).
The scene begins with the Methodist pastor meeting with the family in their home. Peter and Gillian are the parents of the child to be baptized. Amy (Amy Brenneman) is Peter’s brother and Maxine (Tyne Daly) is their mother. The dialogue in this scene goes like this …
Reverend: “At that point, little Walt will be presented, and I will address the family by saying, ‘Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?’”
Maxine: “Wow (laughter, then pause). That’s quite dramatic.”
Maxine: “I’m just surprised. I always thought the Methodists were more, uh, understated.”
Reverend: “We have our moments.”
Gillian: “Please continue, Reverend.”
Reverend: “At the end of that passage, you will say in unison, ‘I do.’”
Family (except Maxine, who takes a sip of coffee instead): “I do.”
Reverend: “And then I will ask, ‘Will you nurture Walt in Christ’s holy Church, that by your teaching and example, he may be guided to accept God’s grace for himself. To profess his faith openly …
Maxine: “Could I just stop you right there?”
Peter: “Mother. This is the ceremony that Gillian and I have chosen.”
Maxine: “I understand that Peter. But wouldn’t it better if we pledged to help Walt become a kind person? A tolerant person? Something that we might actually be able to do?
Reverend: “Well, I’m afraid it doesn’t work that way, Mrs. Gray.”
Amy (leading mother aside): “Mom, can I talk to you for a minute.”
Maxine: “We’ll be right back.”
Amy: “What are you doing? Just suck it up and say the thing?”
Maxine: “It’s hypocritical.”
Amy: “Who cares? You’re upsetting Gillian, which is upsetting Peter. And, by the way, we did this little number at Ned’s christening and you didn’t say a word.
Maxine: “The world has become a little more real to me since then. There is power in ritual. I would like to get the ritual right. Wickedness and evil. I feel as if I’m at an exorcism.”
Gillian (interrupting): I know what this is about, Maxine. This has nothing to do with the wording of the ceremony. You’re punishing me because I left your son.
Maxine: “Gillian, no one …”
Gillian (to the Reverend): “I apologize. I will see you at the church on Friday night, whether or not the Gray family chooses to participate.” (Gilliam leaves)
Peter: “Thanks so much, mother.” (Peter leaves)
Amy (to mother): “Why couldn’t you just say what she wanted you to say. It’s all meaningless crapola anyway.”
Reverend (overhearing and interrupting): Hm-hm.
Amy (patronizingly): “But very, very moving.”
First, the word “baptism” would have been more appropriate that “christening” in a United Methodist context. They also seem to be preparing for a private, family service of baptism; in the United Methodist tradition, baptism is conducted in a worship setting with the congregation, rather than in a private ceremony.
But mostly it’s interesting that the faith struggle of the Gray family took place in a United Methodist context and featured United Methodist baptismal liturgy.