I can just imagine him doing it!
At a recent synod in Cuba, Bishop Miguel Tamayo told this story. Having finished the Sunday liturgy, he was greeting people. A young couple spoke to him, saying they wanted to have their baby baptized.
They belonged to another congregation within the parish. Their little church, St. Mary the Virgin in Perera, had fallen on hard times and was in an awful state of disrepair. It was no longer able to be used for worship.
The parish priest knew the deep faith of this family. He also knew the deep desire of the congregation to restore their church. After a brief conversation, the bishop said “Well, we will go to the Church of St. Mary the Virgin and have a baptism!”
Along the way, someone picked up a large bowl, and someone else a good supply of water. When everybody had gathered in front of the church, the bishop baptized the baby and prayed that she would continue forever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Then to everyone’s surprise, the bishop requested the church doors be unlocked. He picked up the bowl of water, climbed the steps and stood in the open doorway where he threw the water as far as he could into the church. Then he prayed that as that child had been born again, so this congregation would be born again. News of this extraordinary gesture spread quickly throughout the entire community.
A few months later, the priest was at a meeting with the bishop and explained that he would have to leave early. He was returning to Perera to celebrate with the people the arrival of materials for the new roof of the church.
St. Mary the Virgin will soon be ready for re-dedication to the glory of God and the service of Christ.
Here is a beautiful story of a child and a congregation, water and re-birth, prayers and labour, resurrection and new life.
At its heart is that bold act on the part of the bishop. If asked about it he’d probably say, “Well, the Spirit moved me.” Ω
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.