I have my picture taken a lot.
Most of this picture taking is in connection with weddings and baptisms. (In more than 30 years of parish ministry I’ve never seen picture taking at a funeral, though I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens too.)
People take lots of pictures. Usually we pose after the service – with me standing alongside bride and groom or else me holding the baby near the front of the church – but increasingly the pictures are being taken during the service. I’ve served churches where “no flash photography” was printed in the wedding bulletin, but that was mainly to discourage Aunt Millie from standing up and snapping pictures with her noisy Instamatic. Today everyone with a Smart Phone is a photographer, and it’s not unusual at a wedding to see everyone on their feet during a processional aiming a phone at the bride.
The thing is, I almost never get to see any of these pictures. Not that I’m dying to remember what the bride wore, but I’m curious to know how things turned out.
And then this week – out of the blue – two families sent me pictures of me holding their baby at a recent baptism. I almost cried each time (see The Crybaby for more on that). I looked at those pictures and thought, “I live for this!”
And it’s true. While I’m not wild about the wedding industry in this country and think many weddings today are way over the top – don’t get me started – I love it that I get to be part of an important moment in the lives of the bride and groom. And of course I love it that I get to hold babies and let everyone know that God loves them and has claimed them for himself.
One of my prized possessions is a photograph of me standing with an 80 year old woman I had just baptized. I’m smiling, and she’s smiling, but there’s a great deal more going on in the picture. The woman I baptized is Jewish, and when we met to talk about her baptism, I learned a great deal about her family history and why her parents would have been proud of her, even though they were Jewish too. With this baptism we were bridging two worlds. She told me she would always be Jewish, but now – with her hair still damp from where I poured the water – she had been raised with Christ to new life.
I think the look on my face – behind the smile – was one of satisfaction. I can’t believe I get to do this with my life.