Phragments from Phyllis: Welcome to the body of Christ
My granddaughter Pearce was baptized Sunday as her family and many of their friends watched. Joining us for this sacred event were Liz’s twin, Cat, Scott, Cade and Payton. Also in attendence were Tom’s father, Charlie, and his two sisters, Jane and Deb; Vince’s parents, Susie and Danny Bartges, and his sister, Christy, with her family – husband, Jeremy, and sons, Ethan and Aaron; as well as lots of good friends, including The Star’s own Bill Bengtson.
My daughter Liz and her husband, Vince, are not members of our church, but Liz, having been raised in a Christian church that baptizes infants, felt that the sacrament was important to her. So we talked to our minister, Dr. John Wall, and he took the request to the church session, which agreed to baptize baby Pearce into the body of Christ. Representing the session and standing up for Pearce was church elder Alan Blancett, who had also led the mission trip that Tom was a part of in February – making the sacrament even more special to us.
The service was poignant and incredibly sweet, as Dr. Wall discussed the fact that the baptism of Pearce was an opportunity for the members of First Presbyterian of Aiken to stand for all of Christ’s church.
He explained that we all, the congregation and Pearce’s family, were witnesses to the promise that her parents would raise her in a Christian home with a Christian foundation, and they were participants in that promise – to do their parts in the Christian community at large to help raise Pearce in the way she should go as a Christian.
Dr. Wall pointed out that some folks get hung up on when a person should be baptized – we baptize infants; others prefer to wait until a child professes his faith to baptize.
But, as Dr. Wall detailed, in any event, Christians should be sharing the good news with others. By baptizing Pearce, he said, we mark the beginning of her journey with God, and the congregation is a witness to that beginning.
As first happened with Jesus, when the Holy Spirit descended on him like a dove at his baptism and God said, “This is my son, in whom I am well-pleased,” Pearce’s baptism symbolized the infusion of the Holy Spirit in her.
Following the baptism itself, the church’s assistant minister, the Rev. Holly Shoaf-O’Kula, connected her thoughts on the importance of sharing Christ’s story and the beginnings of that journey with Christ at baptism. In her sermon on “The Summons,” when Jesus calls his first disciples to be cast their nets “on the other side” and become fishers of men, Rev. Shoaf-O’Kula talked about “what’s in your/our net.” She suggested that, as Christians, we must cast our net so that we continue to share the good news.
She pointed out that baptism is the first step in preparing Pearce to cast her own net.
It all came together – along with lovely music courtesy of the USCA Choir – to make for a beautiful service that we will all remember fondly.
Following the baptism, Dr. Wall took Pearce and slowly walked her through the church, up and down every aisle. He had told Liz and Vince that this was important to truly introduce her to the entire congregation and to bring her both symbolically and physically into the body of Christ. He had promised that, should Pearce begin to be upset with someone other than her parents holding her, he would ask Liz and Vince to carry her and to walk with him into the congregation. But if all went well, the idea was that her parents were to stay by the front, said Dr. Wall, as Pearce took the initial steps in her personal walk with God into the greater body of Christ.
As he turned to begin Pearce’s first journey through our own Christian community, I heard the pacifier fall to the floor, and I thought, “Uh-oh.”
But I – and, I think, the whole congregation with me – became amazed as a wide-awake Pearce looked intently at the faces in the church, occasionally gesturing with her hands but not making a sound and looking very content in the arms of “God’s man.” It was a beautiful moment for us all. It made me cry – not the first time, of course, during this holy sacrament.
And I was reminded yet again how blessed I am.
Pearce, we welcome you into the body of Christ. Prepare to cast your net.