The baptism service began with everyone gathering together on the beach at South Wrightsville. Many friends from church were there, as were the four of us and my dad. So many other family members and friends – both real life and online were there with us in spirit as they sent thoughts and prayers for Mary and us during this special time in her life. What an amazing feeling, that sense of communion in the Spirit, unhindered by physical distance!
Mary opted to wear her bathing suit, and she wanted to wear the traditional white over it. Our neighbor and top kidsitter Shayna had given Mary some clothes that she was getting rid of. Shayna’s small enough that Mary can wear some of her stuff, as long as it’s not too grown up. One of the items she gave her was a tunic top, sort of Grecian goddess in style, and because it’s pretty and longish, Mary opted to wear that. It was a good choice, because it’s about dress length on her. Shayna and her husband were two of the ones who were with us in Spirit, as they’re on duty with the National Guard currently. (Mary’s outfit really doesn’t make a difference, but I wanted to remember it for my own sake.)
Our pastor began with a prayer, then we sang the first and last verses of Amazing Grace. After that, the family members of the four baptism candidates read their faith stories. First was Steven’s, a man close to my age. His wife Sharon read his. She got a little choked up in places, for his story was moving, and it was beautiful to see how she’d helped him along in his faith journey. Then Peter read Mary’s. I loved how she included by name some of the people who helped her along her faith journey, too, including her maternal grandparents (with such adjectives as “wonderful” and “marvelous”). Then there were two teenagers who I don’t really know – Steven and Delaney, brother and sister – who were being baptized. What an amazing day for them, but also for their mom and grandma with them!
First Pastor Eric baptized Steven (the older one). They walked into the water together and dove into the waves before Eric baptized Steven. Whatever works, because I was quite sure the water was doing its part of following the Didache by being both “living” and “cold.”
Then it was our turn. Mary had already told me she wanted us to hold hands going into the water. As we reached the water, she said, “Come on!” and started running, so we ran into the ocean, laughing joyously. The water was almost Caribbean calm at this low tide and pretty clear for our oceans. And, as I suspected, cold. Mary gave a little scream once when a waved lapped us. I put my back to the sea so I was facing the shore, raised my right hand and said the familiar liturgy:
Yes, I got choked up, but only she could hear it.
Every church-goer has heard the account of Jesus’s baptism at least once. After Jesus comes up out of the water, the Spirit descends like as a dove, and a voice from Heaven says, “This is my son whom I love. In him I am well pleased.” Stop and go back to read that quote again, slowly. Can you imagine hearing your mom or dad say that to you or about you? How incredible and affirming those words would feel!
So, after Mary came up out of the water and brushed her hair back, I hugged her and said, “You are my daughter. I love you, and I am so proud of you!” She made a comment about having a little salt water in her mouth as we approached the beach. I said, “Let it remind you that we are to be the salt of the earth.”
Pastor Eric baptized the last two candidates, pronounced a brief benediction, then all the kids ran to the water – except for my two. Oh, my poor three-year-old wanted to get in the ocean soooo badly! It was killing her being that close and yet, so far away. A beach trip is in our near future.
It was truly, absolutely, completely a “high and holy day.” It’s one of those days that I will carry and cherish in my heart always.
- Pre-Baptism Reflections (godsmasterpieces.wordpress.com)