On Children’s Sunday 2012, it was all about baptisms — present, past and perhaps even future.
For Ellie and Luke Gagne, it was for the present. With their large family looking on, Ellie and Luke were baptized by the Rev. Ruth Morrison, welcomed to the church family by lay leader Steve Hill and embraced in spirit by the entire congregation.
While Luke and Ellie’s baptisms were for the present, the remembrances of baptisms past were the focus of Bishop Cliff Ives. Bishop Ives joined our Sunday service to celebrate the 50th anniversary — to the exact date — of the first service he conducted in 1962 at the Cape Elizabeth Methodist Church. He used the occasion to talk about two baptisms in this life — one planned and the other not.
The bishop’s planned baptism was when he was a young child and it was conducted in Maine by his father, a Methodist minister. The unplanned baptism created a life-changing moment.
On the day before Rev. Clifton Ives would conduct his first service at the Cape Elizabeth Methodist Church, he was having a good time with friends at a swimming pool in Sommerville, Massachusetts. After his friends had taken turns diving into the pool, Cliff decided to follow their lead. It didn’t realize he was diving into the shallow end of the pool — until it was too late.
“When I came out of the water,” the bishop recalled, “they told me blood was streaming down my head.”
He spent the next few hours in the emergency room, receiving stitches to close the gash in his head and being told he was fortunate he had not broken his neck.
“I had a stiff neck for about 15 years,” the bishop said, “but I didn’t break it. That was a changing moment in my life. God sometimes works in our lives in strange ways and I think after that day in the pool, God wanted me to know he had other plans for me. That was my second baptism.”
In reflecting on his 50th year anniversary, Bishop Ives quoted the fourth verse of Psalm 100.
“It says ‘Enter into his gates with thanksgiving.’ For me, I entered your doors today with thanks. And when it says, ‘And into his courts with praise,’ I entered your courtyard today with praise for the past 50 years. That’s all I wanted to do today — give thanks to God.”
Bishop Ives said today’s churches are becoming more missionary centers that go out into the community than being known as places of worship. He singled out our church for its many accomplishments over the past few years for its mission work.
“Look at all you have done,” he said. “The ministry outreach you’re involved in, the social justice issues you have taken on, the care you have shown for people, especially children. This is a great church with a wonderful history and a magnificent plan for the future.
“Remember your baptisms,” he concluded, “and give thanks to God.”
To provide a visual sense of how long 50 years is, Carol Hubbard took a unique approach during the Children’s Story of Sunday’s service.
Carol and Rick Fontana lined up a series of rocks, in sizes from very large to very small. The largest rock represented the bishop’s 50 years of serving in the Methodist Church. He placed his rock into the bucket on one end of a balanced scale. On the other end of the scale, each child from the church placed a single rock into another bucket — the more years they have attended our church, the heavier their rock was.
It took more than 10 children placing rocks into the bucket to equal the weight of the one rock in Cliff’s bucket. Eventually, the children’s rocks outweighed the bishop’s, but Carol explained that to be fair, Jane Ives has always been a key part of Cliff’s ministries and she was asked to place another heavy rock into the bishop’s bucket.
From that point, it was clear the weight of 50 years would be the tipping point of the scale.
An interesting piece of trivia from Sunday’s celebration service: