Newsletter for Sunday 28 January 2024

26 Jan

The new Baptistery

Many of you will have noticed we have a newly installed octagonal stone Baptismal Font in the side chapel (at one time the sacristy) by the Sacred Heart altar. Feel free to have a look. The font itself is not new. It is Victorian and has been lying in the garage for almost thirty years. Moving its five parts from the garage to the church, even with machinery, was a herculean task. It is unbelievably heavy! The font was obtained by Fr Chris Fuse from Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Loughborough when it ceased functioning as a church in 1996. The font was damaged in places but has been repaired and cleaned, and a new oak lid made for it. The project and redecoration of the chapel has been financed by funds left specifically for this purpose by our well-known late parishioner, Vera Hurry. The chapel will still be used for the Altar of Repose during Holy Week.

The original Baptistery in St Mary’s was at the back of the church where the Repository now stands. I’m not sure what happened to the font, but you can see its shape marked clearly on the floor behind the kiosk. For several years I have been keen to have a permanent font in the church, and it is fitting that a Parish Church like St Mary’s should have one. I shall be doing the first Baptism in it this Sunday afternoon. Since the 1970s we have been using a wooden portable font made in memory of Eric and Elsie Hammond, dated December 21st 1976. We will be hanging on to this font for historical reasons, and it may even be appropriate to retain its use on certain occasions, and many of you would have been baptised in it.

A Baptistery is traditionally placed near the entrance to the church, since it is through the Sacrament of Baptism that we enter the Church and become members of Christ’s Mystical Body. While it obviously wasn’t possible to position the new font at the entrance to the church as it is today, it is, however, at the entrance of what was the original St Mary’s Church. The outside doors in the new Baptistery would have been the main entrance to the church when it was first built in 1834, and what is now the Sanctuary area was basically the entire church. It was enlarged to what it is today in 1925. So next year we will celebrate the centenary of the present church.

Do you know the date of your Baptism? If you don’t, try and find out, and then celebrate it. Most people don’t know when they were baptised, but we ought to, because it’s far more important than your birthday, because the day you were baptised was the moment you were born to eternity. You were born to eternal life by becoming a child of God.

So let us thank God for our own Baptism through which we became His adopted sons and daughters, and through which the gates of Heaven were opened to us, and we became heirs of Heaven. And let us pray for all those who in the future will be born of God through our new font at St Mary’s.

Fr Paul Gillham, IC

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