“Baptism, whether by immersion or sprinkling, teaches. . . .”
I can still hear those words. They were read every time a baby was baptized in our church when I was a teen. I probably heard them over 100 times, maybe over 200 times. But never once did I see the pastor baptize those babies in any other way than by sprinkling a tiny bit of water on their tiny heads.
When I became a pastor I had the privilege of baptizing a lot of babies, but I also baptized a few people who came to Christ as adults. They knelt on the floor near the baptismal font and yes, I sprinkled the water on their heads.
But this summer, at Grace Christian Reformed Church in Cobourg, Ontario, we did it – we baptized a young woman by immersion. The baptism took place in Lake Ontario. It was beautiful.
It was August, so the waters of Lake Ontario were not nearly as frigid as they would have been earlier in the summer. And it was a perfect, sunny afternoon.
Danielle Bowers had been dedicated as a baby and had always anticipated the day she would be baptized. As she watched the baptism of a baby from our church, she felt God convicting her – that she should be baptized, now! And so we talked about what that would look like. While every baptism is special and meaningful, Danielle loved the way immersion captures the “dying-away of the old self and the coming-to-life of the new” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 88). And with Lake Ontario in my backyard, well, look, here is water, so why not?!
During the worship service on Sunday, August 15, 2021, Danielle stood before her church family and made her vows to follow Jesus. Then later that afternoon, we gathered at the lakeshore. Assisted by Danielle’s friend and mentor, council member Lenie Rhebergen, we waded into the water. I spoke those beautiful words: “Danielle Rose Bowers, I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
We lowered Danielle into the water and then raised her up.
All those on the shore applauded. A few weeks later we showed the video of the baptism during a church service, and everyone applauded again.
“Baptism, whether by immersion or sprinkling, teaches that sin has made us so impure that we must undergo a cleansing which only God can accomplish” (CRC Service for Baptism, 1976).
In Danielle’s baptism, we saw a picture of that cleansing, a total and complete cleansing.
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