Old First’s Dunkers Baptism Tradition: Old First E-pistle 09.13.19

Old First’s Dunkers Baptism Tradition: Old First E-pistle 09.13.19

We have 3 current Old Firsters that I know who were baptized as adults— Adam, Liz and Jillian. 

Trixie was baptized as a confirmation age person, I think as a 12 year old. So were Prince, Aiden, McKenna. 

When people are old enough — or cognizant enough! — to make their own promises at baptism as opposed to having their parents make them for them, it is called believer’s baptism. 

But Trixie’s baptism was rare for Old First, because she was baptized by immersion, wheresas most of us were “sprinkled.” I bet Trixie is not the only one here who was baptized by immersion?

Having pastored UCC churches— congregations in the United and Uniting family of churches— I have always been in communities that celebrate the variety of the church rituals for baptism — infant or believers, sprinkling or immersion. 

Recently, I visited with former parishioners from the church I served in Brooklyn, Tom and Gina. They reminded me that when their daughter Erica was confirmed, I modified the liturgy to adequately reflect her life.  (Confirmation, after all, is simply a now old enough to be cognizant person taking on for him or herself the promises parents made for him or her at baptism.) 

Erica was also being bar mitzvahed (Gina, her mom is Jewish and Erica was being raised in both traditions.) Instead of asking Erica to hold and reconcile on her own the two different faith traditions, we thought that the whole church community could hold and reconcile the breadth of Erica’s experience and spiritual life. We wanted the church to be honest enough to acknowledge and celebrate that Erica was taking on two sets of Godly aspirations for living  her life.  

I told Tom and Gina that at Old First we had done a baptism that recognized that Theo V. was being raised by his parents in the understandings and nurture of both his dad’s Christianity and his mom’s Hinduism. 

Baptism is traditionally a person’s welcome into the church. Metaphorically, It’s more than a handshake. It’s a heartfelt hug that promises you an ongoing relationship here: you will always be welcome because now you are “part of the family,” and as such you can count on us for help as well as love just as we will count on you for offering the same. 

But baptism also connotes other more troubling metaphors too. One could also say it’s a ritual drowning as we pray that our old self dies with Christ so that our new self might rise with Christ. Baptism is about being born again as Jesus tells Nicodemus — we all need to be born again by the Spirit (John 3:4).. 

That all sounds pretty dramatic and a bit threatening until we take an honest look at our lives and acknowledge all the struggles and troubles we need help with putting behind us. Paul wrote: For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing (Romans 7:19). 

Does anyone in our church need to be baptized? There is usually someone somewhere in the congregation who is thinking about getting baptized… And when you think about the meanings of baptism I bet more of us need some of that! Does anyone need to be hugged as a promise of permanent embrace and belonging? Or “drowned” in some respect in  order to come up gasping for air and to get a new beginning entirely? 

We are going tubing Sunday after church. It’s a completely appropriate kick-off to our post-confirmation youth group. And it’s open to EVERYONE! (I want to come up with a prize for the most surprising person who tubes down the river with us.) It’s $23.95; we are carpooling and even wearing swimsuits to church. (Michael has release forms that parents have to fill out for their children under 18.) 

I also hope to use the afternoon for some experience of baptism. Does anyone need to be baptized? We don’t rebaptize — once, no matter in what branch of the church, is always sufficient because baptism is about God’s ability not human limitations / failings. But we do have something called Renewal of Baptism — when we remember the promises — vows really— of our baptism. We all probably need that (more often that we remember)! 

And Sunday after church, with a whole river of living water and hours together, surely there will be grace and we’ll get the Renewal of our Baptisms  done…

See you in church and at the river, 

Michael

PS For a completely different benefit of our afternoon tubing…when is the last time you have been a few hours smartphone-free?