Today is my anniversary!
No, not my wedding anniversary (that's July 21st). Not my ordination anniversary (Nov. 2) and not the anniversary of when I started my pastoral relationship with the good people of Trinity (Sept. 1st).
Forty eight years ago today, I was baptized at the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd in Lancaster, CA. My aunt Janet and my Uncle Dickie were/are my godparents. This was the beginning of my relationship with God within the community of faith. This particular congregation was the closest Lutheran church to Edwards AFB where we lived (about a half hour drive from the base). Michael and I went to the building when we were in California a few years ago (alas, it wasn't a Sunday and nobody was there).
While my relationship with a community of faith began there, it did not stay there. While my parents had a relationship with folks there for the short time they lived there, it did not continue there. It moved to a variety of places as we moved, settling for longer periods at some more than others, but always moving. We gathered with the faithful in places as far apart as First English in Austin, TX and St. Timothy's in North Greenbush, NY.
I've been a part of a variety of worshipping communities as I have moved out on my own. From the FOCUS churches in Albany with 5 different denominations working together with the poor in that city, to the church and college partnership on internship with Christ Lutheran and Ohio University in Athens, OH to the congregations that I have served as pastor across NY state in Elma (St. John's), Cobleskill (Zion) and now in Brewster (Trinity).
While the anniversary of my baptism is - on the one hand - about an event in my own life, as I have reflected upon this day, I find myself thinking more about each of these communities of faith. It was within each of them that I was introduced to God, nurtured in faith and understanding, where I experienced what Christ's love and forgiveness is like, and where I have been blessed to "celebrate the life that God has given me".
Baptism is about the gift of God's grace. It is about the ways in which that grace is lived and shared within the family of Christ. It is the ways in which we learn to live and share it within all of our relationships from childhood to adulthood, within the congregation as well as in the wider world. It is about our relationship with God and how that is expressed with others.
I may not know much about the current congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd (though I can google them). My relationships with other congregations that I have participated with may have changed. Yet, this day I am thankful for each of those places who revealed the gift of baptism to me. While this may be "my" baptismal anniversary, it is really about all communities of faith and the ways in which they live out this gift of faith.
Thanks be to God for all of them!