Fifty Years Ago....

I was baptized on December 17, 1967, at Oak Cliff Presbyterian Church in Dallas.

But it's never that easy, is it?

I'm one of the few Presbyterians I know who can actually remember her baptism -  thanks to parents who were either lazy, overcommitted, or undercommitted to matters of the faith. It may have been all three.

My father was raised Methodist, and from what I can tell through the genealogy work I've done, his family had been Methodist for at least 5 generations. That sixth generation, however! My sixth great-grandfather, the Rev. Joshua Nelms, was a Presbyterian minister in Virginia. There is even record that he gave a portion of his land to start a Presbyterian Church. So far, the record goes silent after that - until, mysteriously, he becomes a Methodist minister. And, equally mysteriously, he was the only one of his seven siblings to be totally left out of his father's will! The imagination reels.

My mother, however, was raised Church of Christ in West Dallas. I don't know how long her family had been members of that denomination, but it can't have been a great long time since the Church of Christ sprang up on the frontier as the States were being settled. It seems to me that the Church of Christ, at least my grandmother's interpretation of it, probably had as many rules as the Methodists had total adherents. My grandmother told me on a routine basis that I was going to hell because I was a Catholic - after all, we confessed every Sunday that we believed in the Holy Catholic Church, so we must have been Papists. There were not many nuanced conversations with that particular grandmother, and so I resigned myself to hell - and one day, told her I would see her there!

My mother had never been baptized. I suspect it had more to do with her lack of enchantment with the Church of Christ than anything else. So when my parents decided to join Oak Cliff Presbyterian in early 1952, Mom was baptized along with my two older sisters. I suspect their choice of church home was less about theology and polity than it was the standing which OCPC enjoyed in the community - which meant it was a great place for my parents to meet folks and for Dad to make business connections for his brand-new drafting company.

My arrival a month early in November 1956 (I'd rather think of it as "promptly") surprised everyone! Which meant that there probably wasn't a lot of thought given to when the baby might be baptized So life went on for awhile, until in 1967 I became "that age" when the lists of those baptized and those not baptized gets double-checked as Communicants Classes are organized. It came to my attention that I would need to be baptized if I wanted to join the church. Which of course I did, because Richard and Kathy and Terri and Steve were all going to do so. "I don't want to be left out" was about as deep as my own commitment to Presbyterian theology and polity ran.

Dr. Currie did his best to get us to memorize the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which I suspect we did as much out of fear as we did commitment. To this day I can't remember much of it at all. But I guess it was enough. And on December 17, 1967, I stood with a bunch of my friends and made my first public profession of faith in Jesus Christ. And then I stood with Richard and Steve, as the three of us were baptized. I still remember the feel of the water from Dr. Currie's large and generous hands pouring down my head, and watching it bead up on my red velvet dress.

Who knew? Who knew what a ride it would be? And who knew how God could take the actions of less-than-committed parents and less-than-engaged children, and make something grand of it? I guarantee you that NO ONE present that day had any idea that I would become one of those clergy-types OR one of those Presbyter types. But, God knew. I'll always be grateful for Dr. Currie, for Richard and Steve, and for my parents following whatever urge it was to join Oak Cliff Prez.


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