water water everywhere

Now, here’s a quick quiz for those of you familiar with Holy Trinity Dunoon.

In which of the following place(s) does water not flow?

  1. down the tower
  2. through the walls
  3. through the font

Sadly, the answer is 3. Or so it seems.

Tomorrow, there is a school group coming to look at the church and to ask questions. So, naturally, I opened up the font to get it ready (for show and tell, that is — not for baptism). After removing the rather odd collection of things that someone had stored there (why?), I noticed that there was no plug to keep the water in. That should have set alarm bells ringing. But it didn’t. Rectors can be so naive…

It had occurred to me, though, that the font might not have been used recently — so I proceeded cautiously. I filled the small watering can and poured a steady stream into the hole, anxious to see what happened. It backed up a bit, but so does every other drain in Dunoon. I kept going.

htfont.jpgNo joy. By this time, I had a small pool of water — just enough to make the inner lining of the font start peeling– and I decided that the thing to do was to poke at the drain. There is a handy drain-poking-paintbrush in the back vestry. So off I went. Only to find that the paintbrush, when pushed gently down the font drain, encountered solid stone three inches down.

Apparently, when the font was moved from the back chapel to the main door (‘sometime before the war…’), they did not create the necessary drainage. And apparently, every child since has been baptized in a rather large glass bowl hidden in the font, so that no one could tell.

But here is the mystery. Why would someone go through all the trouble of moving a very large, very heavy stone font if it would not then be possible to use it? And why, if you were going to baptize a baby from a glass bowl, would you place it in a large stone basin, where it is harder to reach?

Still: this was a good time to learn.

I wonder if Ikea has a font sized bowl in it’s liturgical toy section this year…

5 thoughts on “water water everywhere

  1. If you kneel in the Lady Chapel, you can see the crumbling cement where the drain from the font used to be. I often speculate about the reason for the move – was it to do with the journey into the church from baptism (at the front door)?

  2. Chruches, like all old buildings, should come with a “log book” a record of what has been done and when. In my own house I regularly find some plubming or building alteration that makes little sense, but must have been a reason for it, even a temporary one (and we know how temporary “fxes” sometimes become very permanent indeed !).

    But I suppose the serious point is one that nearly every congregation in Scotland , across the denominations ,has lurking somewhere at the back of its mind – when does thestruggle ( the struggle of expense, worry and inconvenience) to maintain often neglected ,sometimes badly constructed at the outset , buildings become simply not worth it? And is organised religion so hampered by this legacy that it is now ,in some places at least, an actual obstacle to renewal and the nurturingof a much needed spirtualilty in the world we actually inhabit .

    I am only raising it is a question, mind….my long term defence and advocacy of old buildings and bringing them back to life is well documented. But thinking about the alternatives is always a productive thing to do in any circumstance.

  3. I hate to admit this, but in this country (USA) many fonts have no drains and use, generally, a silver bowl to hold the water. Calvary recently moved its font from a relatively hidden location to just beside the Chancel steps, but made no provision (not do I think they could given the placement) for a drain. We also used for a number of years “The Holy Hibachi” to start the fire on for Easter Vigil.

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