Sunday, June 23, 2013

The First Time I Witnessed a Baptism...

I grew up attending a church that didn't have children's services. We sat with our parents from birth until age seven, then we sat "up front" with our same age/gender peers. When I was a child, we had men who delivered sermons. When I was a teenager, the last elder died, and our services shrunk down into what could be called worship meetings, consisting of the singing of ten hymns and a silent prayer.

I had never been to Sunday School, until I was approved and trained to teach it. I showed up for my first 4th/5th grade Sunday School class without any practical experience. I learned at least as much as the kids. That was thirteen years ago.

I had a similar experience with baptism. I had never seen anyone baptized. Our church had stopped doing baptism and other sacraments before I was even born. I remember seeing the baptismal tank in a storage room of the old church building. It seemed a sacred object - large and largely sacred. That tank represented the only path to salvation which was no longer open.

I saw my first baptism in October 2000, when I showed up for my own baptism. I didn't know what to expect, except that the baptismal robe was white and I would be getting dunked, so I should wear something that would offer plenty of coverage. I won't repeat the stories of young ladies who didn't get that message here.

So, for any of my readers who have never witnessed a baptism, I requested a video of one from a member of the Church of the First Born. Brother Alvin Watkins, a COFB preacher, provided this video of the baptism of Kelvin Mercer.

I have, of course, witnessed many more baptisms in the last thirteen years, including my oldest child's. Last summer, my kids and I were playing at a park when we came upon a church group doing a baptism in the river. We knew several of the families from the community and the kids' school, so we joined the congregation in celebrating the baptisms. One of the dozen or so baptisms that day was a disabled young adult who was rarely conscious, and never verbal. During the ceremony he woke up and acted unusually alert. Someone asked if he wanted to be baptized and his face lit up. Though he couldn't verbalize, all present seemed to agree that he should be baptized. There wasn't a dry eye during his baptism, it was something I felt incredibly privileged to witness. Within a week, the young man passed peacefully into the next life.


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