The decision to celebrate Griffin Baum’s baptism by Zoom came down to a race between when it would be safe to join in community at Wellesley Hills Congregational Church in light of the COVID-19 crisis and when the baby would outgrow his great grandmother’s baptismal gown.
But with Griffin born in February at a solid 9 lbs, 14 oz, it became apparent this was going to be no contest. A hybrid digital-and-in-person ceremony it would be.
Baum, a single mom by choice, had big plans for Griffin’s baptism before the pandemic emerged. The mom and her baby were to be joined at the ceremony by family, friends, and the congregation. The family included Baum’s parents and 2-year-old son Parran as well as the Godparents—a cousin who is a resident at Washington University, his wife, and Baum’s sister, who lives in Virginia. Plus 5 kids between them.
“About two or three weeks ago it was clear that the day wouldn’t happen as planned. But I wanted to have Griffin baptized in his great grandmother’s baptismal gown,” Baum says. “Because we are a unique family I wanted to make sure that Griffin feels that he is part of a great family from the start. Many family members have been baptized in the gown.”
Baum’s parents moved to Wellesley in 1990, when she was in 8th grade. She went to college and lived elsewhere for years, but moved back in December of 2015 to have her children near family and join her father as a financial advisor.
That local family joined outside on the porch on Sunday, June 7th for the newfangled baptism. Rev. Anne Marie Holloway led the service in person, and was joined there by Baum, her children and her parents. The Godparents and their families joined by web conference, as did other friends and family, making for about 30 people on the call across 15 devices.
“I emailed and talked a lot with Anne Marie” leading up to the ceremony, said Baum, who has been working from home during the COVID-19 crisis, with many thanks to a reliable nanny. “[Anne Marie] and the church were in constant communication about what they could do to make the baptism happen. She said that the church proper would remain closed but that we could have it at the house outside. We didn’t want to put anyone at risk having it indoors (for my parents or my children).”
The baptism took lots of planning. This included staging an altar in preparation for Griffin to receive the sacrament, as well as getting the camera and mic working. Readings were chosen for the Godparents and Baum’s niece, and a program was created. Set-up was done with masks on; they were removed just for the actual ceremony.
“Making sure everyone could be seen and heard. Avoiding zoombombers. Making sure everyone was on mute and there were no unconventional sounds during the ceremony,” Baum said. “In the end the actual ceremony was only 13 minutes, according to my sister… In the end more family was able to attend via Zoom. And they probably had a better view than from the pews.”
Plans are to do something in the church once it re-opens to all. “It will be announced in the Parish Register this Sunday,” she says.
Those who Zoomed in this past Sunday weren’t disappointed. They were treated to a moving ceremony plus the sort of hijinx you’d expect from a 2-year-old big brother.
“We had Parran pour the water into the font. Anne Marie blessed it and then Parran and I baptized Griffin. Parran said, ‘Bless you, I love you.’ And then big brother baptized him three more times…,” Baum said.
Aiming to hold Parran’s attention during the ceremony, Rev. Holloway had given him a little lamb to hold. Naturally, the lamb got baptized, too, and went swimming in the font toward the end of the ceremony.
Any pictures I asked? Why of course…