Isaac was a "church baby".
I first heard that term from my mom. A baby born into a family that is active and visible in the church congregation. Eagerly awaited, and greatly celebrated in its extended "church family" when it finally makes an appearance. Passed from shoulder to shoulder during Sunday School classes, familiar with every toy in the toddler nursery and the recipient of baptismal cards from assorted fond adoptive "grandmas" and "aunties".
We hadn't been members of our congregations very long when Elizabeth or Alex were born; they were welcome additions to the Cradle Roll, but not cause for any particular excitement outside a small circle of friends. By the time Isaac came along, we were heavily involved in children's choir, Sunday School and the Confirmation mentor program. EVERYONE knew we were having that baby. Generous ladies filled our freezer with casseroles, offerings of diapers appeared from nowhere and I had to explain to my mentored Confirmand that I would TRY to be at the next class activity, but babies hold their own schedules and I couldn't make any promises. (He went home and grumbled to his mom that "She looked okay to ME!").
Isaac made his first appearance at church services when he was 5 days old, causing a near traffic jam in the aisle after Communion as his fond admirers stopped to pet his spiky black hair and stroke his hands.
It's been a while since our current congregation has had a "church baby", but early last fall, word began to get around. A delightful young couple whom everybody knows and loves was expecting a very-long-awaited first child. The choir, the education committee, the Relay for Life team, the worship committee all watched and waited through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany and on into Lent. The expectant mom was radiant, the father proud. There were the requisite showers, and as April approached, gatherings began with "HAS the baby come yet?"
And then, in the best Church Baby fashion, Ella was born late on a Saturday, just in time to be the top news on Sunday morning. The pastor's announcement was greeted with smiles and silent cheers, then concern as he added that the baby was "under observation". So small, so new, Ella was in the prayers of an extended family she didn't know existed. While we worried about the baby, we also grieved as a group for her parents and the sudden shift in their expectations.
Over the next few days, phone calls and e-mails gave the details; few at first, then more. A named "syndrome", a defect in the baby's jaw and palate. There could be surgery eventually. Time, modern medicine and love would combine to work miracles.
This morning, there was a new person at "late church", wrapped in a flowered pink blanket. There was nearly a traffic jam in the aisle after Communion as adopted "grandmas" and "aunties" waited to get a peek at the new baby. It's been 3 weeks exactly since our collective worried gasp.
Today, we all welcomed Ella home.