Normally I feel about as comfortable in a church as George Bush would in a fourth-grade reading class. It's just way over my head. But for the baptism of Cameron M. Foliglio (son of the preeminent poet, M. Patrick Foliglio), Alex and I had to make the trip up to Euclid. Besides, I was already feeling crummy about missing his older brothers' dunking.
Well, the first thing I noticed was how confoundedly rainy it was. I mean, it was coming down in sheets. An ill portent? You bet! Sure as shit, all the parking spots were taken, the last siezed by a diabolically grinning, moustachioed Stephen Foliglio, the balding grandfather with a surgically repaired knee. Quickly I flipped the bird and found a place to park, ten blocks away.
But the foul climate was not to spoil the proceedings, God be praised! And we made it in inside with moments to spare. Greetings and hugs ensued. The whole famdamnly was there, well-scrubbed and dressed to the nines.
The last time I visited this church, I was in the wedding that would eventually spawn the child in question. Like then, I found it a remarkably clean place of worship. Cleanliness is close to godliness they say, and, by gum, God must've been mighty close on this blessed Sunday morn.
And like the last time I was there, I was feeling nervous. Nervous then for my friend's wedding. Nervous now for the kid. What if he screwed up? What if he cried a lot? What if he messed up his lines? Did he have any lines? I mean the kid is only ten, for crying out loud. Months that is.
A service preceded the big plunge. My ears perked up. The pastor of the church is a lovely woman with an equally lovely voice and I was really pleased that she delivered a homily about Joseph, who in my opinion pretty much gets the shaft in the grand scheme of things. I mean, sure, you see him in those old paintings and usually he even has a little golden halo around his head. But almost always he's sort of off to the side and his halo pales next to baby Jesus' way bigger halo.
Well, not this time. Joseph was the star, and it was all about how he didn't freak out when Mary turned up all pregnant without him having done the honors. He didn't have her stoned, as commanded in the O.T., and in fact protected her by getting the hell out of Dodge.
The pastor had a great, soothing voice, and used it to urge us to take a broader interpretation of things, as Joseph did, despite being a devout Hebrew. So refreshing in these days when the fundamentalists are drowning out the ones with real wisdom.
I also appreciated how she walked up and down the aisle during her homily. That made it feel less like preaching and more like discussion. Although I did have to keep moving my head back and forth, kind of like watching the world's slowest tennis match.
One of the things I really like about the few church services I've attended (and this includes the creepy Johnny Cash's sister thing) is when everyone is instructed to turn to their neighbors and shake hands in the name of peace. That always makes me feel good about humanity. It's like a great neighborly gesture in times when we are less and less inclined to love our neighbors.
There was also a lot of singing but I didn't know the lyrics so I just listened. All I can say about the choir is that these were no spring chickens.
Then came the moment. I half expected the floor to open up and reveal a great, deep baptismal. Was I disappointed when they wheeled out a pedestal with a little basin in the top? I confess that I was a little, but that all evaporated when the ceremony commenced. Remember, I'm skeptical to the bone about his kind of thing and an atheist for crying out loud, but the pastor was there with her wise voice and she was making jokes with the new godparents, Cliff and Amber, and the parents, Mike and Heather, and brother Matthew, and I remembered how I'm a godfather and how much I like it and how this is about bringing a child into a community of worshippers, and how worshipping something as a community brings about a feeling of solidarity, and I felt all good inside, like when I drink just enough but not too much, but this was alcohol free, except for communion, of course, but is that really wine?
Well, the kid didn't wanna bend over, so the pastor drizzled some water on his forehead and lo, he was baptized. Everyone was happy and smiling and for one day I could put my cynicism aside and get it, if only for a while, why people go to church. Yeah, there's the god reason, but there's also this connection that people make with each other, which, for an observer like me, seems equally important.
All went according to plan, no need to be nervous.
Special thanks to Bob and Kathy Kinison for brunch afterward.
I confess: I stole a pencil from the church.