A View from the Pew: Worshiping During Baptism

During COVID-19’s shelter-in-place orders, I’ve not had the opportunity to be a part of any baptismal services, but our church’s last face-to-face Sunday service began with the baptism of young Audrey, making her public profession of faith and following the example of Christ in believer’s baptism.

Baptism is a powerful symbol in my faith tradition, and I cherish it with greater intensity as I age. Whether it’s the strength of my memories or the decreasing frequency with which baptisms occur, baptism is an important time of worship for me. As I reflect on why it means so much, allow me to suggest five ways you can worship as you participate in a baptism, even when you are not the candidate:

  1. Recall your baptism. Baptism is such a strong visual prompt to worship that it can’t help but cause you to remember your own baptism, no matter how old you were when you were baptized. I often recall entering the heated baptistry and being comforted by the warm waters despite the cold, January temperatures outside. With Mrs. Yancey softly playing “Shall We Gather at the River” on the organ, my childhood pastor, Bro. Billy Mauldin, in his flowing black robes and water-tight sleeves slowly waded into the baptistry. I remember my baptism at age 10 as somber and reverent, yet joyful and affirming. When you see the candidate first emerge into the baptistry, take a moment and think about what you experienced at that moment, about the commitment you made to Christ that caused you to take that step, and about the work God did in your life to bring you to that moment. Offer a prayer of gratitude.
  2. Imagine Jesus’ baptism. Churches typically focus on the Baptism of Jesus early in the year as they follow the life of Christ and beginning of his earthly ministry, but anytime there is a baptism is a good time to think about Jesus’ baptism. Baptism is an act of faith we have in common with Jesus.
  3. Contemplate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. As immersing Baptists, we proclaim the story of the gospel of Jesus at every baptism. To reinforce the visual aid, the pastor will often paraphrase Romans 6:4 by saying, “Buried with him through baptism into death… and raised to walk in newness of life.” Remember the sacrifice Christ made on your behalf and the loving response it requires of you.
  4. Pray for the candidate. Silently praying for the baptismal candidate helps you stay present in the moment and connects you with them. We all need prayer along the way, and there is no better time to pray for the person being baptized than when they enter the waters of baptism.
  5. Sing the baptismal hymn with intensity. Whether it’s “Shall We Gather at the River,” “Blest Be the Tie that Binds,” the Doxology, or whatever hymn you sing at the conclusion of the baptism, sing it with meaning as an offering of praise to the Lord for the work accomplished in your life and in the life of those being baptized. Singing with intentionality and meaning is a pure form of worship.

I hope there’s been something useful in this list for you. Let’s gather at the river together. Leave a comment and share what helps you worship during baptism.

Lance Wallace is a Baptist layperson and member of Parkway Baptist Church in Johns Creek, GA. He earns a living in higher education communications and has resumed blogging at newsouthessays.com.

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