Baptism – 10 January 2022

Five nurse maids, all spick and span, hold five tiny infants by the rail before a font. Each infant is being baptised in turn by an Anglican cleric. To the right benefactors look on. The setting is the Foundling Hospital in London, the infants are new foundlings – all speedily baptised. Behind the cleric is a painting of Christ, welcoming and presenting a little child.

Here the rescue of the foundlings, and the ‘adoption’ into the foundling community, are mirrored by the adoption through baptism of the infants into the family of God. This idealised picture declares the act of social care displayed to be part of the redemptive and eternal work of Christ.

The painting is by Emma Brownlow (1832-1905), daughter of John Brownlow himself a foundling brought up at the hospital. It is one of four paintings depicting the progress of foundlings through the hospital and through Christian life (each has a religious painting in the background). John Brownlow became Director of the Foundling Hospital. A friend of Charles Dickens, he was used by him as a model for the character ‘Mr Brownlow’ who adopted Oliver Twist.

The painting in the background, ‘Christ presenting a little child’, is by American artist Benjamin West (1738-1820) – shown below here. It hangs in the Foundling Hospital. West was himself a Governor of the Foundling Hospital.

 

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Romans 8:14-17

Take me to the water
Take me to the water
Take me to the water
To be baptized

None but the righteous
None but the righteous
None but the righteous
Shall be saved

So take me to the water
Take me to the water
Take me to the water
To be, to be baptized

‘Cause I’m going back home
I tell you I’m going back home now
Going back home
Can you stay here no longer?
For I’m going back home
Going back home now
Going back home
To be (To be)
To be (To be)
To be baptized

Nina Simone/Traditional