Living Water

Today I received a copy of the newly released second edition of Klara Tammany’s book, Living Water: Baptism as a Way of Life. First published in 2002, it had an unusual trim-size and layout that was cost-prohibitive to reprint so it went “out of print” despite numerous backorders. During my last years at Church Publishing, I advocated it be re-published as Klara agreed to update it. Approved for publication (again) in 2019 right before my retirement, it fell to two colleagues – Wendy Claire Barrie and then Milton Brasher-Cunningham – to see to its completion. I give thanks for their passing the baton toward publication. I had been asked to write the foreword, but alas the page count was tight, so it was not included. So I share it here:

Baptismal Font at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Wilton, CT

My first memory of God involves a baptism. I was almost four years old, gathered with family around a font in what seemed like a private room adjacent to the church sanctuary of my childhood. Sunshine streamed through the stained-glass windows, dancing on the concrete baptismal font and red carpet. It was the occasion of my brother’s baptism and I knew that I was present for something important. I experienced warmth, community, the sacred — the important stuff of life that I could not yet articulate. I felt love. That visual and visceral memory has been etched into my being and has sustained me throughout my life.

The Episcopal Church has changed since that day of private baptism in which only family and close friends participated following the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. As a child I did not know what it meant to be a full member of the worshiping community and receive Holy Communion. Baptism was not central to Episcopalians at the time — at least not overtly. Being a Christian and going to church each Sunday was a given. Being formed in faith was not a common phrase; I needed to memorize the Apostles’ Creed, the Ten Commandments, and “My Bounden Duty” before I could be confirmed at age twelve, allowing me to receive communion (once a month). Four generations (the Lost, the Greatest, the Silent, and Baby Boomer) of a single family could fill a church and Sunday School classrooms; Sundays were days for worship and family, with local sports’ fields dormant and stores locked up tight.

A “post-Christian era” was inconceivable, only to become a reality during the teen years of my (church-raised) children thirty-five years later. The religious landscape of the United States continues to change at a rapid clip. While most American adults still consider themselves Christian, most do not regularly attend church. The religiously unaffiliated is growing. Baptized in the same font as my brother (only with the “new” 1979 Book of Common Prayer), my (now adult) children have never experienced a time when they could not receive communion. While they live out their faith in the world with a Christian mindset, the Church does not feed them in their calling as teachers and environmentalists; they rarely attend worship. A generation lost? Do they remember their baptism or that of others?

The late Bishop Theodore “Ted” Eastman first introduced the book [in your hands]: “In Living Water: Baptism as a Way of Life, Klara Tammany helps us bridge the gap between being an occasional observer of baptisms and being a conscious and steady participant in a style of living that is infused with baptismal meaning. Committed to making connections between abstract belief and faithful action, the author invites us into a ‘contemplative process of reflecting on life through the lens of the Baptismal Covenant.”

Originally published in 2002, Klara named what she saw happening in the Church and named it: “… we as Christians, are only a generation away from extinction.” She saw the disconnect between our worship on Sundays and our way of life the other six days of the week. She understood the centrality of baptism in this “new” twenty- year-old BCP as well as the need to move from an understanding of education (schooling) to formation (full integration of lifelong learning through head, heart, and body). Her vision of the future and how to embrace our Baptismal Covenant are within these pages; her concepts and practices as valid today as they were when she first put pen to paper.

Today Presiding Bishop Michael B. Curry is calling the Episcopal Church to follow the Way of Jesus. He names this as the Way of Love, the kind of love that has the power to change lives and change the world. The Way of Love invites individuals and communities to adopt a Rule of Life, following seven ancient practices as part of one’s daily life. It is no coincidence that these practices match up perfectly with our Baptismal Covenant:

  • Turn: Will you persevere in resisting evil, and whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
  • Pray, Learn, and Worship: Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?
  • Bless: Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
  • Go: Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ? Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
  • Rest: Receive the gift of God’s grace, peace, and restoration.

As much as the world (and the role of the Church in the lives of a majority of Christians) has changed, the fundamental human hopes and yearnings that draw us to faith many not be so different. Bishop Curry claims that we seek love, we seek freedom, we seek abundant life, and we seek Jesus, calling us to join the Jesus Movement that is loving, liberating, and life-giving.

To all of you who are formation leaders of a new generation — there is wisdom here that stands the test of time. Klara easily unpacks Maria Harris’ explanation of the church’s curriculum: Koinonia (community), Leiturgia (worship), Didache (teaching), Kerygma (proclamation), and Diakonia (service and mission). A solid understanding of Christian formation was established by her colleagues and mentors in lifelong formation in the Episcopal Church. They are the shoulders on which we now stand. I am grateful to have been among those colleagues; I was encouraged and supported by her during my first years on the church-wide “stage” and you will be nurtured by her also.

Remember your baptism. Drink deeply, for this living water is for you.

2 thoughts on “Living Water

  1. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to attend your Catechism class, but it looks like I am unable to meet the deadline. I was counting on having access through today (Friday) to complete the asdignments but have discovered access has ended. But I still learned an incredible amount about the Catechumenate, and about teaching a course in your class. I do have to work today so that would have made it difficult to wrap things up in any case. Please let me know if you offer the course again in the future.

    Kevin Sanford

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    1. Thanks Kevin – access to the class ended last Friday. I will be offering it again next Spring and will let you know when registration was open. In the meantime – I think you will find “Living Water” very helpful and informative and it will be on my syllabus for the course moving forward; I had hoped it would be available for your cohort, but alas it was just published. Blessings! Sharon

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