There’s something priceless and timeless about welcoming someone into the Kingdom of God. That feeling only increases when it’s, firstly, overseas, and secondly, in a 200+ year old Anglican church in the middle of Malaysia.
For Chaplain Tom Killingbeck, this was his first baptism in Malaysia. Tom and his family are posted to No. 19 Squadron, which is the RAAF’s only overseas permanently posted unit. 19SQN works from the Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth, supporting a wide range of deployments and exercises for all three of the services.
Understandably, the Malaysian base no longer has a chapel of its own – it was removed after the base was handed back to the Malaysian Armed Forces in 1988. The old font from this chapel, along with the chalice and paten from the communion table, survive, and sit comfortably in the quiet space attached to the chaplain’s office, a reminder of the history of the base and its importance to the now.
Previous chaplains have developed relationships with local Penang churches, and Tom is no exception, regularly playing guitar for the worship band and occasionally preaching and leading a communion service at St George’s Anglican Church, the oldest Anglican Church in South-East Asia.
For Nathan and Naryssa, and their daughter Elyse (2), it was a chance to take a breather, with Nathan deploying as a Force Protection Guard which supports security on the base for the Australian elements. Naryssa and Elyse joined him for a holiday, staying on the island of Penang and meeting up with him between his shifts and work roster.
They had previously not been able to have Elyse baptised due to COVID requirements, work commitments in Darwin and around Australia for Nathan, and were worried that they might “somehow miss the window” before Elyse was “too old”.
During one of CHAP Killingbeck’s visits to the Force Protection Flight, after a conversation that spanned a number of other things, Nathan asked out of the blue whether it would be possible. With assurances that it most certainly was, and that there wasn’t a “window” or such a thing as “too old” for baptism, as baptism is about turning to Jesus, and repenting of sins. It’s a symbol of the forgiveness that is won for us though Jesus’ death on a cross, and resurrection to new life.
Nathan and Naryssas engaged the local Anglican community to determine whether the baptism would be held there, or would need to once again use the old chapel’s font. The vicar of St. George’s, the Right Reverend Stephen Soe, heartily agreed.
The date was set, CHAP Killingbeck met with the family to talk through their understanding of Christianity and the reasons for baptism, and the feeling that this was going to be a very special occasion grew!
Indeed it was – a small group gathered at the front of the church, godparents-to-be were welcomed to the service via video link, and Elyse was welcomed into the family of God, with Nathan, Naryssa and the godparents making promises to bring her up in the Christian faith.
“‘We believe in one catholic and apostolic Church,’ declares the Creed,” CHAP Killingbeck said. “It was a privilege to welcome Elyse, and her parents and godparents, to St George’s, but also into God’s family. No matter where we are, what language we speak, how old or young, what race, gender, or any other factor, there is always room for us in God’s Church.”