New life is abounding these days for Echoes. This past Sunday we had two "firsts" - the first baptism, and first baby shower. We are also hopeful of having a regular place to meet on Monday nights.
While recent weather has been quite warm, Sunday brought cold, gray skies that are more typical for mid-May in this region. We could have done a baptism in warmer, more climate-controlled waters, but since we live in this spectacular place, our candidate was willing to go under the waters in our frigid salt waters. The little beach where we gathered isn't super well-known, but it can get busy on warm days. This not being one of those days, we had the area mostly to ourselves. (Except for the game of kayak basketball that was going on when we arrived. If it were me, I'd want kayak basketball going on behind my baptism. Granted, I'm weird that way.)
Baptism connects us with an ancient practice that even predates Jesus. In part, Baptism means that a person is directly connected to a reaaalllly long line of people who have been baptized through millennia. Through this ritual we acknowledge a choice to turn away from the self as the center of one's own world, and instead turn toward a life that is shaped by the life-giving, life-nourishing, values of our Creator. Not that we lose or deny our own self, but that we find it in our identity as the beloved, given as such to love the world.
Ally will be graduating from Western Washington University (WWU) in a few weeks, and regretfully moving further south for work and family (as several Echoites have done in the past few years). She wanted to be baptized because for her, it was the next step in her faith journey, to publicly affirm that she wanted to live a life that reflects the person and work of Christ. We said some words on the beach, Ally told us why she was doing this, John gave us a moving reading from "The Silver Chair" that Ally had picked out, we prayed, and then Ally and I waded into the waters, maneuvering on rocks that shifted beneath our water-shoes clad feet.
A seminary professor of mine wrote on a Facebook comment,
and that is certainly what happened on Sunday. The waters, although very cold and dark (I had lots of seaweed to contend with when changing clothes!), did not seem as cold as they should have. We emerged, laughing and joyous, to the embraces of loved ones, dry clothes, and warm blankets. Snacks were set out, communion was shared, and we experienced the sacredness of time spent together.
Later on Sunday, after the baptism, Echoes experienced another first when we regathered for a baby shower for two Echoites. This will be the first baby that is born into this funky, endearing community, and we are all pretty dang excited about it. We had the opportunity to laugh, eat, and bless these soon-to-be parents. Several people offered commitments to help out however needed when sleep, adult conversations, and appropriate nutrition are lacking. One offer was "to pet the dog for a half hour and give the baby absolutely no attention at all," in recognition of the large-scale change this will be for every creature in the house.
The third "first" is the soon-to-be-announced regular place for Echoes to gather on Monday nights. (Note: it's not completely "official" yet, but a long-term agreement looks good) As awesome as bouncing around has been for supporting various agencies and non-profits, having a more predictable meeting spot certainly has its advantages. It'll be so refreshing to have a good answer for all the times I get asked, "So where do you meet?" My reply of "Well, we kind of move around," often receives nonverbal expressions that I interpret as, "I'm going to check out of this conversation now because you're too complicated." I'd have loved to have been able to meet more regularly at the location we have rented for monthly worship for the past 2 years, but it's not accessible for wheelchairs and we just can't prevent anyone from simply showing up - it's not our way.
In this new space we will also be supporting a fantastic non-profit that is doing excellent work here in Whatcom County. Hopefully it's a win-win for everyone involved.
So, new things are happening here at Echoes. New life is shooting up all around us, in baby birds, flowers, and leafy trees. We are experiencing maturing faith, babies, and some stability. It is always appropriate to be grateful, and yet this spring we seem to be bursting with thanks.
(As always, Echoes is very, very eager to welcome new persons. If you've had a hard time finding a community of faith where you feel like you "fit," feel free to come check us out. We're just weird enough that many people find a home here.)