Lydia's baptism makes history at Norfolk church
By Sandie Shirley
2009: At just seven years old Lydia Menary has made history at her 14th century church in Long Stratton in south Norfolk. The little girl, with a strong faith in Jesus, is the first person to be baptised by full immersion at St Mary’s.
The ceremony also marked a first for Church of England minister, Rev James Nash who stepped into the children’s paddling pool at the back of church to perform the ceremony together with Lydia’s father.
“Lydia approached me at the end of last year asking if she could be baptised. I immediately said yes, because it was already clear that she has her own faith,” said James. Her parents, Helen and Martin, opted for a blessing instead of the customary Church of England infant baptism to allow Lydia to make a personal choice when she was older.
Lydia gave her testimony last month in front of a packed church that included her three younger siblings. “Because my mum and dad are Christians I wanted to be one like them and find out more about God. When I was a baby I did not know about God but now I want to follow God and be part of his family. I know he is always looking down on me. He will always love me and I will try and do what he wants me to do,” she said.
James took up his appointment at St Mary’s nearly eight years ago. His arrival coincided with a new influx of young families. He tailored activities to changing needs, while enlarging work with existing church groups. He has seen encouraging growth. A church with few children now has a diverse and thriving ministry for mums and toddlers to growing adolescents using creativity, worship and teaching. It has also become a launch pad for others into leadership.
With its finger on the pulse of a changing society, St Mary’s has networked with successful missions across the region to extend the boundaries. “There are fresh expressions and people‘s lives are being changed and set on fire,” said James who has since seen four church members chosen to train for ministry.
“The church needs to be relevant to today’s society. It must emerge where the people are at,” says the man who encourages his flock to engage with life outside the church and is hoping to improve the interior of the church building to make it user-friendly for the wider community.
James was 38 when he joined the ministry, having turned his back on his previous life, including a farm manager’s job that left him dissatisfied and in debt. He was on the fast-track to a new vocation after a dramatic dream and subsequent conversion, following the prayers of a group of women that included his wife Linda.
He studied theology and ministry at Bible College despite a young, growing family to support. Three years later he became a curate with the ‘Trunch Team’ near Mundesley on the Norfolk coast.
Ordination came later in life but it has had its advantages. “It has helped break down any pre-conceived ideas about the clergy and now, during the credit crunch, I can relate to those who lose their job and are under financial pressure,” said James.
Pictured top is Lydia Menary being baptised by Rev James Nash and, above, St Mary's church at Long Stratton.