Mac and church

In the information pack that we got about Mac before we met him there was a statement that said “Mac doesn’t do church”.  I thought it was a rather strange comment and didn’t really think anything of it.

When we were going through the adoption approval process, I was also going through the selection process to train as a part-time non-stipendiary priest in the Church of England.  It was a rather odd time going through two processes that were particularly probing and intrusive at the same time.  We did also find sometimes that social services were suspicious of Christians, feeling that for some reason we would force religion on any child that came to live with us.  This was never an issue for us.  I had always gone to church with my dad when I was young, but was never forced to.  Swee had gone when she was very young, but not when she was a little older.  It was very clear to both of us that Mac could come to church if he wanted to – and we would like him to feel comfortable in church as I would be spending so much time there, but he could certainly stay at home with Swee if he didn’t want to.

Once Mac did move in with us, I remember asking him a few questions about Christmas and Easter and he had clearly learned the basics at school or in one of his foster homes as he knew about the birth of Jesus at Christmas and knew that Jesus died on Good Friday.  Fairly early on, we took him to one of the family services as lots of our friends wanted to meet him.  I remember sitting in the pew with him and Swee – he enjoyed looking around at what was going on, and singing along to the hymns he knew.  Of course his reading wasn’t good enough to follow the words of the service although I did try to trace them along with him.  And then it came to the Lord’s Prayer – and he started reciting along with it!  He knew all of the words.

Talking to him later, he said that he learned it at school, but he also used to go along to church quite often with his last foster mum, Sue.  So whenever Swee went to church, he tended to go along with her as well.  he enjoyed going along to the special services like Mother’s Day and Christingle at Christmas.

When Mac moved in, I had just been approved for training, but I decided I would put it off for a year while he settled in as I knew it would take a lot of my spare time.  However I did still get involved in some services and I was in the church choir.

Early on I remember I was going to help with a service of Evensong, and I had just put my cassock on.  Mac hadn’t seen me in this before.  He was in his bedroom and as I walked past from our bedroom I shouted goodbye to him.  He looked at me and said,

“You’re not going out like that!”

I couldn’t help but laugh.  Actually Mac became quite intrigued, and he decided to join the church choir.  He loved to sing and enjoyed being part of the group.  I think he also enjoyed having his own red cassock as part of the choir.  I did sometimes take services in some of our other churches, but Mac would still go along to choir.  Dad was one of the churchwardens, so Mac was able to help out – lighting the candles and putting them out after the service (a particular favourite as he was always a little pyromaniac), handing out books, helping with the collection and counting it afterwards.  It was a great chance for Mac to have some independence and to spend time with my dad.  I think he also loved being part of the church community and being comfortable in the church.  He also had a chance to earn extra money by singing in the choir at weddings – always a special treat!

Mac’s Baptism

Once Mac was adopted, we spoke to him and he agreed with us that he would like to be baptised.   For us it was a great way to give thanks for our family coming together and for Mac to be really welcomed by the village and the church family in a formal way.  We set a date for September 2009, close to my mum’s birthday.

One thing that he was very sure about was that he wanted to have some new clothes and wanted to be really smart.  Mac was starting to enjoy having nice clothes and was becoming a bit of a peacock.  So he and I went shopping.  We thought a suit might be a bit too much, but found him a waistcoat and smart shirt.  He also saw a vivid neon pink tie that he loved – so that topped the outfit off.

Mac also wanted some new shoes.  He always found his school shoes boring.  As any parent of a boy will know school shoes take a lot of damage particularly from plenty of football in the playground during break times.  So Mac’s shoes were suitably comfortable and hard-wearing.  When we were shopping he saw a pointy pair of shoes that he immediately fell in love with.  So, we agreed that he could have them, as long as they were just for church and special occasions, not  to be worn to school. (He agreed although there were one or two occasions when he tried to slip past us with them on for school, claiming his others were too dirty or uncomfortable.)

We decided that we would make it a really big party – and take the opportunity to celebrate with everyone.  We needed to decide who we wanted as Godparents.  There were so many people that were important to us and we wanted to be important in Mac’s life.  We felt he really needed lots of Godparents – so we chose ten!  And where any of those were part of a couple, we stressed that we were really asking all of the family to support us and him.

  • We had my sister Sandra and her two sons (our nephews), Daniel and Richard;
  • We had Swee’s sister Annie and her daughter (our niece), Emily;
  • We had Swee’s brother Andy;
  • We had our friend Adam (and by association his wife and children);
  • We had our friend Jon (and again his wife and children);
  • We had our friend Rebecca (and her husband and children); and
  • We had Sue, Mac’s last and very special foster carer.

Five men and five women.  There wasn’t much space around the font!  The service was lovely and the church was packed with all the people we had invited and plenty of other people as well.  I was worried that Mac might be a little overwhelmed, but he completely took it in his stride.

We had also planned a party afterwards in our local village hall.  This really was to be a celebration of us coming together as a family and to thank everyone for all of the support that they had given.  We decided to have a Harry Potter theme.  All of the tables were named after a Harry Potter character and decorated appropriately.  Mac also had a fantastic Harry Potter cake with the Hogwarts shield and other Harry Potter decorations.  I really think Mac could hardly believe this was all for him.

The village hall was full.  In addition to Mac’s godparents and their families and all of our family, we also had close friends from the village and from work.  These were all people who had been alongside us during the whole of the adoption process and before.  We had organised a hog roast to feed everyone.  The food went down really well, everyone having their fill of pork, stuffing, butcher’s sausages, crackling and great salads.  I had decided that this was the perfect time to make a speech, to mark the occasion and our happiness at becoming a family, and to thank all of the people there for their support and love over the years.  I just about managed to get through the speech without cracking too much.  But the real choker for everyone was about to come.

While we were preparing for the party, and talked Mac through what it would be like, he asked if he could say something.  At first I was a little reticent, because I didn’t want to put him in a position where he wanted to do something and then not be able to manage it.  I was also unsure about what he might say!  But we spoke to my best friend Adam (and now one of Mac’s Godfathers) to ask if he would help him if Mac became too nervous.

As it transpired, Mac was too nervous to make the speech, but he had written it, and in some ways it was all the more powerful with Adam delivering it.  The words were all Mac’s own.  In fact he put a wonderful short speech together – saying how much he had always wanted a family of his own and how happy he was to now be part of our family.

The words of his speech exactly as written by Mac are set out below:

Family

I wanted to be part of a family that looked after me and I had waited for eight and a half years to have a family like this.  Before I came here I stayed with some special people called Sue and Mark and their family.  Chelsea was there and was like me and we loved each other very much and she used to tease me.  I loved to play with Archie who is the child of Sue and Mark’s son Andrew and his wife Claire.

Richard and Swee are the right parents that I have been waiting for a long time to meet and now I am happy to live with them in St Mary Bourne because it is a nice quiet place.

They are nice kind people who care for me and love me.  These are the family I have always wanted.  Now I am going to sing a song.

Mac didn’t sing a song!  But his words did bring a round of applause.   I know Swee and I were in tears – we were not alone.

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