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by the Rev. David M. Crosby, Associate Rector, October 8, 2015

In Zabriskie Chapel, how many have noticed the little white pedestal with wooden octagonal font holding a glass bowl insert with water in the Narthex? Do you remember seeing it? Have you ever used it? It is a baptismal font, found last year in the church attic over the parish hall and restored to be used.

From John N. Wall’s A Dictionary for Episcopalians: The font is “a large, free standing basin for the water of baptism. In traditionally arranged churches the font is near the west end of the building, near the entrance, to remind us that baptism is the rite of full entry into the church. The term may also be used for a holy water receptacle fixed to the wall at the entrance of
the church.”

In the Episcopal Church, Holy Baptism is a public part of our regular Sunday worship in every season but Lent. There are a number of times when baptism is especially appropriate: the Great Vigil of Easter, Pentecost, The Sunday of All Saints, and the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. Earlier this year, we celebrated three baptisms at the Easter Vigil and during Eastertide. Recently, we welcomed Abigail Hsieh DeVight (granddaughter of Gary and Mei-Lung DeVight) into the household of God in a Baptism at our Wednesday night 6:30 p.m. Eucharist.

A taller ceremonial baptismal font with crystal bowl stands up front in Zabriskie Chapel to the right by the organ. And now that we have returned to The Holy Hill at Virginia Theological Seminary, Immanuel Chapel has a prominent wrought-iron stand with broad glass font filled with blessed water in the main processional aisle. Those fonts, used for baptisms (and sometimes at Confirmations), are oriented in relation to the pulpit/ambo (to the left in Zabriskie; to the right in Immanuel), and the Altar which is front and center. The three pieces of furniture represent our liturgical values in the waters of Baptism, The Holy Word of God (which is read and preached), and the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist, when we gather as The Body of Christ to be fed.

We use one font for ritual cleansing and symbolic dying to be raised in a new life with Christ at Baptism. If a second font is available in the narthex containing blessed water, it reminds of us of that cleansing, renewal, and being set apart in this life in Christ. We hope you’ve seen it, understand it, and will use it.