In our church tradition Believers Baptism is one of the highly celebrated steps of spiritual growth. Believers Baptism is a baptism that follows a person’s repentance of their sins and a surrendering of their life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. In our tradition we practice immersion. This is where we put the person completely under the water to symbolize a few things. It symbolizes a washing away of sins. It also symbolizes that we have died to our own selfishness and have given Jesus Christ control of our life. I often joke that if I kept the person under the water long enough, they would be dead. And when they come out of the water I usually say, “Arise to a new life in Christ”. In a sense, it is a personal resurrection a little like the resurrection of Jesus.
In our church, we baptize in the Bow River. We are only minutes away from the river so the whole church drives down after the morning service and watches as the person is dunked under the cold river water. And when the person comes up there is often cheering and congratulations offered to the person. This is a highlight for the whole church.
Just recently someone asked if they could be baptized. They thought I might want to wait a little though as the river is still very cold in April. As I was thinking of baptism I was thinking of the different people I have had the privilege of baptizing. There have been grandmas. There was one guy who was about 6 feet tall, with huge arms and tattoos all over his body. Another young man had been baptized as an infant but now wanted to be baptized as a believer in Jesus Christ and as a personal response to the love and forgiveness of Jesus. I have baptized youth. It was exciting to baptize my daughters!
Baptism is that moment when people declare their faith in Jesus and their commitment to live for him in a public way. I feel so privileged to be the one who gets to lead this ceremony from time to time!
Baptisms are really special! They celebrate steps of Discipleship in the lives of the people being baptized.
In a small church like ours we are excited when there are more than one or two baptisms a year. I have been in this church for just over four years now and each year we have baptized one or two people – and we have celebrated with each one. But this year we had four. The four were all young people, the youngest was 9 and I think the oldest was 12 or 13. There were three boys and one girl.
I’m not sure what you do for Baptisms, but let me tell you how we handle it. We do river baptism so it has to be in the summer. We have done it at the church in a horse trough but most prefer the river so we wait for warmer weather and for the river to go down to a safe level in the spring. We had to do a little scouting around to find a slow enough part of the river this year.
Our format is to start announcing that we will have a baptism in early June or earlier. Then a week or two before the Baptism we ask those interested to meet for a one hour class that explains what Baptism means and how we do it and why. It was good to have each one bring a parent so their parents knew exactly what we were teaching their children. Then they have to meet with a couple of the elders and basically go through their testimony or answer the testimony questions I provide for them. I make sure one of the elders prays for each one. Then each Baptismal candidate also has to share their testimony in front of the church on their Baptism Sunday. With these, they all asked that I ask them the questions and they just went through and answered them publicly. Older people usually write theirs out like a story. After the Baptism I make sure they each receive a Baptismal Certificate to remember the day. I also choose a verse for each one and include it with a few of my comments in their certificate. As we are standing at the river’s edge, just before baptizing them, I read out the verses for them. When I baptism them I say, “Upon the confession of your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I now baptize you in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. You have died to your old self.” Then I put them in the water till they are completely immersed, and as they come out of the water I say, “rise to a new life in Christ.” I think that explains the whole symbolism of what it’s all about.
It was great to be able to baptize each of these four. One of them was actually baptized by their dad who was a missionary in Quebec until recently. One of the boys had his grandpa, who has been a pastor, come and baptism him together with me. Often, because of the flowing river, we have someone assist me who stands on the opposite side of me and baptizes with me to make sure that the person is safe. So having grandpa help wasn’t unusual for our church.
Four baptisms and a nice sunny day at the river! What a great day!