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In his book, “Thames, Sacred River” where Peter Ackroyd explores the various elements of the river, he makes the point that the amount of water on or contained within our planet remains exactly the same, sometimes the molecules are in rivers, sometimes in the sea, at other times in clouds or underground in invisible streams or aquifers. The mystery of water being in a river, flowing to the sea and then returning to the river again is a deep one. The first century Roman philosopher Seneca declared, “When you come to understand the true origin of rivers, you will realise that have no further questions.”
In the early days of the church, there was a discussion between learned men about which water was suitable for baptism. One side favoured “living water,” that is to say water that was moving; in a fast flowing river or a waterfall they argued the spirit of God was manifest. Others, predating Peter Ackroyd’s point by more than two thousand years, quoted from the book of Genesis:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep and the Spirit (or breath) of God was hovering over the waters.”
And so they said that as God’s breath was over water from the beginning then all water, wherever it was, contained God’s Spirit. Theirs was the argument that prevailed and it is especially pleasing for Catherine that this was so firstly, because I do not know where the nearest waterfall is and secondly, January may not be a great time to find out.
Water itself then both scientifically and theologically represents the beginning of every living thing and so Catherine begins her journey of faith as Jesus began his ministry by being baptised. I often point out that the story of Jesus’ baptism is the only time we see and hear all three of the Holy Trinity all at once.
“And just as he was coming up out of the water he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him and a voice came from heaven ‘You are my son, the beloved with you I am well pleased.’”
From this we know that baptism is important and blessed and also that it is right that the family of the church are together to welcome Catherine into our fellowship and into the church; a church where she will be welcome for the rest of her life whatever she does and wherever she goes.