Making my usual pastoral rounds at the local hospital some time ago, I witnessed the most unusual of circumstances. A dilapidated Buick had jumped the parking lot curb and had crash-landed in the flower garden just outside the main doors. The driver’s door was wide open, and a group of hurried and harried medical staff was doing something to someone in the driver’s seat.
My curiosity was far too strong, so I slipped out of the hospital lobby to get a closer look. To my astonishment, a baby was being delivered right there in the front floorboard of that car. Thank God I didn’t stumble upon this situation alone, for in the magnificent words of the late Butterfly McQueen, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthin’ no babies!”
All I could do was offer quiet prayers – for the laboring mother, for the new life struggling to be born, for the skilled and steady hands of the medical staff, and for myself – that I not pass out and create a secondary medical emergency. Within minutes the child, a boy, was born (more through the efforts of the mom, midwives, and nurses, not my prayers), and within days the two patients left the hospital in excellent health (in that same Buick, by the way).
Granted, this birth was not typical. Some mothers labor for hours. Some children enter the world only by surgical intervention. Some babies are born in a maternity ward, some at home, some with a cadre of attending physicians, and indeed, some are born in the most bizarre of environments. What they all have in common is this: When it comes to birth, every newborn needs all the help he or she can get, to ensure good health.
This, as I see it, should be the calling of the church. Congregations should provide safe, welcoming environments for faith to be born within people. Churches should strive to be delivery rooms where the new in faith can grow, be nurtured, and become the people God wants them to be.