I actually read Lauren Winner‘s Girl Meets God a few weeks ago, and of course it was published in 2002, so I’d been hearing about it for several years and kept thinking, “I really want to read that.” Especially since every article I read by Winner was—well—winning (like she never heard that one before!). On the other hand, it’s a spiritual autobiography, and one sort of has to be in the mood for that kind of thing—unless one is Lauren Winner. But I really shouldn’t have waited because it’s just a joy, in the C.S. Lewis- “Surprised by Joy”-sense of the word.
I must quote a few passages that jumped off the page for me:
Sometimes people wonder how babies can be baptized; indeed, that very wondering is the genesis of the Baptist church…. Hannah, who’s a Baptist, often says that a baby can’t promise to do everything one promises in baptism. I have never found this a very persuasive argument. It strikes me as too individualistic. The very point is that no baptismal candidate, even an adult, can promise to do those things all by himself. The community is promising for you, with you, on your behalf. It is for that reason that I love to see a baby baptized. When a baby is baptized, we cannot labor under the atomizing illusion that individuals in Christ can or should go this road alone. When a baby is baptized we are struck unavoidably with the fact that this is a community covenant, a community relationship, that these are communal promises. (80)
A child (not a baby) was baptized in our church yesterday, old enough to make her baptismal promises herself, illustrating both elements of the covenant Winner discusses in this chapter—that the congregation promises to support the new member of the Body, and that the person being baptized promises to live her Christian life “with God’s help.”
Winner writes about the virtues of liturgical prayer for helping the believer to focus:
When I am unable to pray, the prayer book gives me the words. Liturgical prayers, Edith Stein once wrote, “support the spirit and prescribe it to a fixed path.”
Sometimes I think I have come up with something poetic. One day, when I was full in the flush of agony about what I should do with my life…I heard, reverberating around my brain, “Go out to do the work I have given you to do.” The work I have given you to do. The work I have given you to do.
This phrase turned out to be from the closing prayer of the worship service, which she had not remembered until the next Sunday. Nevertheless, writes Winner,
what I am learning the more I sit with liturgy is that what I feel happening bears little relation to what is actually happening. It is a great gift when God gives me a stirring, a feeling, a something-at-all in prayer. But work is being done whether I feel it or not. Sediment is being laid. Words of praise to God are becoming the most basic words in my head….
Maybe St. Paul was talking about liturgy when he encouraged us to pray without ceasing.
But those two bits are by no means the best reasons to read this book. So please do read it.