“I renounce them.”

If you don’t spend a lot of time going to Episcopal church services, I’d be willing to bet that you don’t have that many opportunities to say or hear the words, “I renounce them.”  For example, Red Sox fans don’t say, “The New York Yankees?  I renounce them.”  They say, “Yankees suck.”  At the dinner table, people don’t say “Sweetbreads?  I renounce them.”  They might say, “Yuck” or, if they’re well-mannered, they might say, “No thank you.”

When my long-time friend Patricia asked me 15 years ago to be one of her firstborn’s godparents, I enthusiastically agreed before having any clue what I was committing myself to.  This was well before I became partnered with and then married to an Episcopal priest, well before I developed my various methods of getting through the sexism, the formality, and what then felt like the narrow gate of an Episcopal service.  When I got to church on the day of the baptism, the priest walked us through the liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer and I broke out into a sweat when I read the first four questions:

Minister: Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is brought up in a Christian faith and life?

Parents and Godparents: We will with God’s help.

Minister:  Do you renounce Satan and all of the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?

Parents and Godparents:  I renounce them.

Minister: Do you renounce the evil powers of the world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?

Parents and Godparents:  I renounce them.

Minister:  Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?

Parents and Godparents:  I renounce them.

It’s not that I am a big fan of any of the things I was asked to renounce.  I was overwhelmed by the bold, personal nature of the last three vows.  These aren’t “We” vows like the first one is, where you can take some comfort in having the company, or cover, of others who are saying it. When you’re in a group that’s saying “We,” the “we” could be everyone BUT you.  And the “we” could conceivably be an entire group of people who are all feeling that way.  “I” vows are intense.  It’s like the difference between, “We shall overcome” and “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.”  The latter is a much more personal commitment than the former.

I made it through my goddaughter’s baptism without bursting into flame, or having my head explode.  In fact, I felt pretty good about those two accomplishments as I drove away from the church that afternoon.  I haven’t been as present a godmama as I would like, but I think about my goddaughter and that first experience of making those vows every time I’m at an Episcopal baptism service, which happens a lot more frequently now that I’m a regular at PW’s parish.

A baby girl was baptised this past Sunday, and when we got to the renouncing part of the baptismal vows, I couldn’t help but wonder if either of the godparents was having the Joysian moment of trying not to have their head explode.  With each passing baptism, I feel an increasing kinship with the godparents.  I find myself privately rooting, “Come on, come on, you can renounce them… YESSSSS!”  I haven’t high-fived any godparents yet.  I do have a modicum of self-control.  But don’t think it hasn’t occurred to me.

Since Sunday I’ve been thinking a lot about what else is worth renouncing that’s not already covered in those vows.  I wonder if I could find one thing a day to renounce, either by adapting the language above or something else I might make up.  When I was reflecting on this, I went searching on the Internet for the text of the vows and I found a site that listed them out in big bold letters, with the minister’s questions in huge red type and the responses in much smaller black type.  And there, in living color, was this:

Minister: Do you renounce Satin and all of the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?

PARENTS & GOD PARENTS: I renounce them.

Who knew Satin was such a bad seed!?  But, hey, I’m down with it.  I renounce Satin and all of the other synthetic fabric sheets that are yucky to sleep on.

Shawn Colvin sings “Satin Sheets” from her album “Cover Girl”

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3 responses to ““I renounce them.”

  1. you captured exactly how i felt at both my godmother ceremonies. right down to the bursting into flames. good thing no one asked me to renounce “satin” or i’d have been in big trouble. now, if you could help me explain to my ten year-old niece (devout Lutheran goddaughter), how i can believe in god without going to church every sunday, well, extra credit points for you, mon ami.

    i’ve missed your blog. life has been wedging into all my fun.
    i hereby renounce life’s insistent crummy wedging ways.

    hope all is well. hugs to grace. (if she receives hugs willfully.) that girl is delightful.

    • Kyle Hodgkins

      But Joy, the Yankees, I do renounce them. Also Qiana, but that may just be a 70’s thing.
      Just meandered over to your blog. Wish I’d done so sooner!

      • Kyle, I renounce Qiana, too! Oh man, I was workin’ some nasty Qiana outfits back in the day.

        Also, I’m glad to hear you renounce the Yankees. Dare you to try to get that cheer going the next time you’re at Fenway. (:

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