Remembering Baptism

I don't know the date of my baptism, although I am sure I have the certificate somewhere.

I was baptized in one of those pools behind the pulpit in a Southern Baptist Church when I was about nine. That baptismal pool is actually a lot more like what one would have found in an ancient baptistry than these little ornate fonts many of us have in our Episcopal churches.

I remember that I wore a white robe of some kind. I was admonished to wear some kind of slip underneath. And I remember that I accidentally stepped on the pastor's bare toes with my bare toes and it was a very "ewww" kind of moment for me. I remember that although we claimed baptism to be a free choice we made (as opposed to the practice of infant baptism), in truth, I felt a lot of pressure that year from the adults around me to "make my decision" and answer the altar call at a revival service.

Still, I am glad that I have a memory of being baptized, and not just the yucky part about the pastor's toes.

I was reminded of all of that this past Easter Vigil, at which I baptized one of our teens. Her family preferred not to do infant baptism, and so we did some preparation work together over the past weeks to get ready. She spoke for herself and did not need to rely on the BCP for her renunciations and affirmations as many of the adult parents and godparents do at most of the infant baptisms we do. It was a completely joyful experience, for her, for me, for her family, and for the whole congregation.

And yet, I love infant baptism as well. Surrounding a tiny child with prayers and water and oil and candlelight and marking them as Christ's own forever is also a completely joyful experience for everyone.

For me, it's a both-and situation. We still baptize older children and teens and adults, for many reasons. And we baptize infants for many reasons. They're all good reasons, for the most part.

I'm glad to be part of a tradition that is not rigid about any of this. Baptism is at the core of who we say we are, but the details about how and when we do it are not set in stone (except using the words, of course: I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit). Yes, we do it in community and not privately. Yes, we do it on certain traditional feast days if possible (and not during Lent). Yes, we follow the liturgy. But we don't have to prove something about ourselves over it.

And so I give thanks for the waters of baptism, wherever they flow.


Ray Barnes said…
If like me, your baptism took place when you were in your seventies, it is a source of even greater joy.
No one else made the decision for me, though two people were particularly involved in the process,and i had time and leisure and masses of reading to inform my decision.
It was one of the most wonderful days of my life, and each year on Easter Saturday I remember every last little detail of that occasion and mentally relive it.
Baptism is indeed the pivotal point of Christian belief.
It doesn't matter which type of service you use, the lovely heart-warming, life-affirming act is the beginning of everything that matters.