The story of Philip baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8 begins when an angel of the Lord calls Philip to set out on “the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza (This is a wilderness road)” (Acts 8:26). Luke does warn us, doesn’t he? I can hear the moody background music between the parentheses. This won’t be a story about the familiar baptismal font and rehearsed liturgy of Sunday morning.
We want to know the name of God. It makes sense that religious people try to ensure that when they address their God in praise or petition, whether during rituals in the assembly or in the personal prayer of their hearts, they are calling on God using the right name. We want to honor the deity of our choice; we wish to stand within a hallowed tradition; we are glad to unite with others of our faith community.
Perhaps my favorite definition of the word sacrament is “the visible sign of an invisible grace.” Coined during the Council of Trent by Augustine of Hippo, the North African theologian on whose theology much of Western Christianity laid its foundations, it remains one of the most used definitions in both the Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant traditions.
I received the opportunity to baptize a baby during my first call as an associate pastor in a growing, vibrant congregation. I was both excited and anxious because such opportunities are rare while working under a well-established head of staff.
It was a wild joy to slide with my canoe into the Connecticut River in the late afternoon of Pentecost Sunday, June 4, 2017, just downriver from Colebrook, New Hampshire—this river called Kwanitekw (“Long River”) to the Abenaki people native here. With a guide and another participant, I was setting out on the second stage of a visionary forty-day River of Life Pilgrimage.
I was baptized on June 28, 1992, by the people of First Presbyterian Church of Dalton, Georgia. Rev. Jim Holderness, whom I would later remember as the kind man who would embrace me in his arms each Sunday and tell me I was loved, presided. I was four at the time, so I depend on others for the details. I’m told it was a sunny day and a bit cool for that time of year.
How do you see the world? With all that is happening around the world, it is tempting to speak of events in apocalyptic terms. I believe we must resist this temptation without looking away from the suffering and trauma afflicting the planet. By virtue of our dying and rising with Christ in baptism, we are sent into the world with a grace-filled way of seeing and being. More colloquially, we are sent into the world “walking wet.”
S. Beth TaylorArtist Jennifer Bunge has settled in Northern Colorado with her family and her favorite art supplies. She enjoys opportunities to exhibit her art at galleries and in churches along the Colorado Front Range. Jennifer finds the theme of healthy...
If your church is at all like mine, baptisms are one of the most joyous occasions of the Christian liturgical life. It is a profound gift to witness the new life that is birthed from the waters and to be reminded of God’s promises to us as we make or renew our promises to God and one another. And, as with so many of our Christian rites, baptism is both solemnized and celebrated with song.
When I think “baptism,” the word “choreography” is not the first word I imagine. Instead I think of my friend Gayden, who says second babies often walk down the aisle to the font because their parents have long given up on making the family baptismal gown fit. I think of congregations holding their breath to see if the baby will wake up and cry when the water hits their universe, only to find their own faces wet with tears of joy.
One Friday during a recent low point in our community’s COVID-19 infection rates, my husband and I bought tickets to a dinner show at an iconic jazz club in our city. The evening’s featured performer was a local musician who also happened to be a congregation member—I had not yet had the chance to meet him, and I was eager to hear his music.
Remembrances of baptism liturgies are becoming more common in Presbyterian congregations. Staff and members who experience them at conferences carry the liturgies home and put them into regular rotation each year.
In keeping with the Directory for Worship, Kaela (not her real name) was presented for baptism with neither undue haste nor undue delay. She was thirteen years old, wearing her backpack and clinging to a stuffed animal as she walked to the baptismal font. Her mothers had been Presbyterian for a little over a year—they joined soon after visiting our church’s booth at the downtown Pride festival the year before.
As I write this column, we have just passed the fortieth anniversary of the publication of Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, the report of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches, finalized in Lima, Peru, in January of 1982. Its publication four decades ago represented an even longer span of the work for the commission, since it summarized agreements that began in 1927, more than fifty years earlier.
This baptismal hymn reflects the ancient relationship between The Apostles’ Creed and the practice of baptism. The Apostles’ Creed grew out of the ancient baptismal practices of the early church and became a baptismal liturgy in the early centuries of the faith.
I’ve been feeling less imaginative lately, and I have realized that I gave away a great deal of my creativity to COVID-era videos and parking lot services. As my creativity has dwindled, my exhaustion, impatience, and thirst for fulfillment have grown. Even (and maybe especially) as society has “returned to normal,” the gumption behind my own pastoral identity still feels tasteless lately.