Monday, November 12, 2007

A Bounty of Baptisms...

My morning began with a far-too-early rise at 6:00AM. Today was a full day of singing, and it all started with an 8am call at Church of the Redeemer. Jenna (our music director) was away this weekend, so we were lead by Dave Durham, who was also a guest the first time I sang there. Jenna had sent us a songlist, and I knew the hymns, but I was really unsure about the praise choruses. So, that meant sightreading a bunch of songs in a short, early-morning rehearsal. On top of that, Dave turned to me and asked if I could do alto harmony on everything. Alto! I haven't read an alto part in years, much less finding parts by ear. So, I already knew I'd be outside my comfort zone, but that was that, so off we went.

The team actually ended up working really well together. We had keyboard, guitar, bass, and 3 part vocal harmony. I had a solo on one of the Communion songs. The first service was, well, good but a little loose (I think that's typical of most churches!). But by the second service, we were tight and some stuff just felt great. We got positive feedback from the congregation, and that's always a blessing.

Here's where the day starts getting interesting: At the second service this morning, we had a baptism. It was a little baby girl, who grabbed the Pastor Thomas's beard while she was getting the water poured on her head. We all answered the questions about "Do you promise to support this child in her life in Christ?". (paraphrasing, but you get the point) All very powerful and good.

This afternoon, I attended an adult baptism in Franklin. A friend of mine, who had been baptized as a child, had now decided to rededicate herself to Jesus through a full immersion baptism. About 30 people gathered very casually in this huge Baptist church. The worship area was a huge room with chairs and a stage, and it smelled oddly like a school gym. That's when I noticed that the hardwood floor was actually a basketball court. I have no idea what this means, but this might just be the church for Gerald!

The baptistry was 2 stories up and opened up into the main room like a balcony. The side facing us was clear plexiglass so we could all see the actual immersion.

I had volunteered to sing. There was no sound system to use, so I brought a guitar, and I sang my arrangement of "Jesus Loves Me". It went very well, and everyone seemed very pleased.

Side note: I got compliments from several people, which was lovely, but the coolest moment was when a gentlemen, who claimed to be an "old Southern Gospel singer", came up to me. It was Buck Rambo! Of the Rambos! Crazy!

There were 3 people lined up for baptism - 2 adults and one child. As each person came forward, they spoke a few words about what brought them to this decision. Pastor Stan was very casual, but also very sincere in performing the actual baptism. As each person took the plunge, we actually saw them go under the water, and then that priceless expression as they emerged, changed forever.

So, tonight, I'm thinking about baptisms - adult versus baby, immersion versus sprinkling. I've decided that I love them all, and for lots of different reasons.

I love baby baptisms, because it brings together a group of people to raise and support a child in their life in Christ. The parents choose God-parents - trusted friends who will be a spiritual and loving team for their child. The baptism is done in front of the entire church community, and we are all asked to pledge our support in raising this child in Christ. In some services, we are also given the opportunity to renew our baptismal vows aloud. In the end, we welcome the child into our community of faith. It's always powerful, and always full of joy.

And I've also realized that I love adult baptisms. I love hearing the stories of why people are making this decision. Perhaps they have just come to Jesus. Perhaps they were raised in the church, but they've strayed, and this baptism is a sign of their recommitment to Christ. Either way, this is a life-changing decision that, like a marriage, they have chosen to confirm in a public and holy way. I love seeing the full event of an entire body going under the water, and seeing them come up again, cleansed and renewed. And again, it is powerful, and full of joy.

And I also love that we serve a God who will take our commitment at any point in our lives! Never too early. Never too late.

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