By Elise Eslinger, retiring JBL Board member, with Richard Eslinger, lifetime member
Do you remember that lively fountain scene early in the ‘70s movie Godspell? Jesus seeks out and is baptized by John, and interaction between the cousins attracts the attention of a motley crew of young people. The whole gang joyfully splashes with Jesus and John in the waters of that fountain. These “flower children” are launched into a transformative journey of faith—a total immersion into the teaching and healing ministry, betrayal and death, and joyful resurrection of Jesus their Lord!
This scene came to mind as my husband and I spent the weekend in Saint Augustine, Florida, following our evocative JBL-NAAC/Associated Parishes for Liturgy and Mission (APLM) retreat. As we visited the Ponce de Leon Park and its “Fountain of Youth,” we saw freshly the counter-significance of our Gathering which explored Becoming the Story We Tell. *
Our retreat community had been very intergenerational—participants ranging from founding mentors, leaders and teachers in their 70s and 80s, to experienced catechumenal practitioners and recent inquirers, to youthful ministry leaders with many questions (reminiscent of those young folks in Godspell)! We became poignantly aware of the great contrast between believing in a miraculous “fountain of youth” and being immersed in the baptismal fountain of death/resurrection/eternal life in Christ!
In retreat, we had been hospitably offered excellent presentations, a sequence of rich daily prayer and Triduum-based worship, evocative small group lectio conversations, and rich table talk over delicious meals. By rehearsing practices of welcoming, praying, personal and shared reflection on scripture, and drinking deeply of the Living Water in worship, we had been moved toward fresh and hopeful forms of discipling and bridge-building, so needed in our disintegrating and often polarized cultural contexts: contexts intensively glorifying “eternal youth.”
We now affirm again, gratefully, that our congregations can be invited not only to sing fountain songs of faith, but to become the Alleluia Song, to become the Christ-Story we tell—on behalf of loving and serving generously for the sake of all God’s children—“day by day” (just as the Godspell youth sang).
* Becoming the Story We Tell. Rediscovering our Baptismal Identity and Calling by Immersion in the Central Drama of our Story is the creative, transformative pre-catechumenal, discipling ministry of the Anglican Church of Canada, created for today’s cultural context by providing both strategy and resources for congregational consideration. See https://www.anglican.ca/becoming