Vol 11 No. 48 Remembering Births, Dedications, Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths

Dear folks,

Someone who is close to me wished to join one of our churches recently. She was asked to provide a record of her baptism and membership from the previous church she had attended, where she had been baptised, been part of a community, lived a significant part of her life, and felt a real bond, rootedness, and debt to. The new church’s request was reasonable, understandable, and very clear.  The trouble is that the person that was close to me was not able to procure from her former church any documentation that they had been baptised and were a member of a previous fellowship. The previous church and the one wishing to receive my friend are both large churches within our denomination.

While new members lists can be gleaned from annual reports and charter members lists are often available, we seem not to care about the intensely deep and personal commitments people make in the lives of our churches regularly. I remember my own baptism in May of 1968. I remember the class. I remember my father baptizing me. I still have a friend from that class, Nancy Scambler, who goes to FBC Vancouver. I remember how the two deacons tried to dissuade me from being baptised because they didn’t think I was ready and my vehemence that I had been a Christian well nigh on 3 years, thinking that far from being unprepared I felt I had waited too long.

It is very important that we remember, record, and can go back to the special celebrations that we collectively mark as congregations. The old state/church/parish system which were very much part of Lutheran, Anglican and Roman Catholic traditions took their record keeping seriously, because in some cases their parish records formed a legal if not a quasi-legal function. Our marriage registers are a legal document and when complete are returned to Vital Statistics in most constituencies. It is fair to argue that in many of these cases of birth, dedication, baptism, marriage, and death these stories are in the heart and hand of God. Of course that’s true, but there is absolutely no reason why they should not also be in the mind of our churches as we record them, so that in our thanksgiving to God for His faithfulness, we can return to these times and renew our attitude of praise and thanksgiving.

New methods of electronic record keeping and social media enable us to do even more than usual on interesting things. For example, a 30 second video clip of a dedication, or a testimony of someone being baptised, or a eulogy at a funeral. All those things can be encouraging parts of who we are in God and with each other. Early next year we are going to provide some basic record keeping platforms that function like a simple and freely available excel sheet. It will go something like this:




Name of parents and siblings



Dedication date

Date of birth and age of child

Person leading dedication service

Any sponsors (some would use the word godparents)



Name of candidate

Person presiding over service

Date of service

*Please note that our adult baptism forms or certificate for baptism are readily available, and as with dedications should be issued for an individual’s record. A copy should be retained electronically.



Basic information available in our register is adequate, but really only that. A photocopy of the marriage certificate (appropriately filled in), would be very helpful. It is important to re-enter the marriage ledger information in an appropriate and secure place.



The death of an individual and the date on which it occurred is important to note, along with the date, time of the funeral, and ideally the obituary. I tried (with Ceal Mclean) to create biographies/obituaries for folk with the emphasis on the biography. We both felt that this living record of God’s story in people was important, but we got some pretty fierce pushback that if we started doing that we might forget someone and people would feel neglected or hurt. I am grieved over those who I carry in my heart and mind who have passed, that so many would benefit from if they only knew a part of their story. In the spring we will begin to share a biography with one another. Slowly at first, but Ceal and I have a commitment to these things and look forward to giving people the opportunity to participate.

I do not mean to suggest that a lack of serious record keeping shows a shallowness of character. It does not. We are all busy and committed to many, many things. However there is a sense that there are always folk who are gifted in keeping track of God’s story in our midst. These people if encouraged and supported would happily provide us with that long look into God’s faithful activity amongst us. It is unacceptable that we do not take seriously the important nature of these events in the lives of individuals and in the lives of our churches.

Could you think on these two things?

If you have ideas or are presently practising keeping these covenant records, would you like to share how you are doing it; what the experience is like; how far back it goes; and any lessons you might like to pass on? Secondly, would you indicate even in a brief acknowledgement, whether you are interested in this kind of encouragement and input in the early new year? Would you do that by dropping a note to Shelby Gregg at sgregg@cbwc.ca?

In closing I would like to dedicate the thankfulness of these remarks to five very different people. Firstly, to Callum Jones (FBC Penticton, BC), who has a strong and wonderful commitment to history and the story of our CBWC family. He desires to keep an accurate picture of the ongoing narrative of our life together. Secondly, I would like to thank Louanne Haugan and Ruth Longhurst for their work in the Calgary office with our archives. Thirdly, I would like to thank Ruth Marshall (Gateway, Victoria, BC) who was helpful to me and to Gateway in their recent anniversary in connecting the dots, stories, and histories of four churches over a 100 year period. Finally, I would like to remember Vic Stevenson who passed away some years ago now. Vic was a teacher and a Reservist LT Col in the Artillery. You have to have a detailed mind for that kind of role. Vic put that energy to work by re-establishing, nurturing, and developing FBC Vancouver’s archives in an experience which has been very meaningful to that church.


In Christ,

Jeremy Bell