Baptism has a very special meaning to me. As some of you may know, I was baptized four years ago during a trip to the Holy Lands with a group from this congregation. The sacrament of baptism actually took place in a remote section of the Jordan River.
To give you a little background on how this came about I will first tell you of my family background and childhood religious experience. My parents were bible students in a group of people very much in the fundamentalist school of thought. They did not believe in infant baptism or any baptism for adults, for that matter, unless the person was totally consecrated to live a saintly life. So needless to say I was not baptized.
When Carole and I joined this church in 1970 it was the first church that I had ever joined. John Townsend, the minister at that time, and I talked about baptism and he suggested that I could postpone the sacrament until I was comfortable with it, since it was not my parent’s belief or custom. By 2006, both of my parents had passed away and I felt that my faith journey called for me to be baptized. I met with Hamilton in October of 2012 and we decided it was the time to proceed with it. As we talked about it further it occurred to us together that since we were going on the trip to the Holy Lands, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could do the baptism right there in the Jordan River. We thought it would be a great thing for me as well as provide a real life experience for all who would take part in the service. Besides Hamilton wouldn’t have to carry me up and down the church aisle to show me off.
So plans were made and Hamilton and Peggy Jo Shinnagawa put together a riverside service complete with printed programs, hymns to be sung and water taken from the river.
We stood at the edge of the river and the 35 or so of our Federated congregation stood on the steep banks. Hal Maskiell dipped the water from the river for use in the baptism. Hamilton conducted the service and I was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit“ William Frederick Mason” member of the church.
After the service we greeted and hugged friends on the bank.
Baptism as an adult is very meaningful as it symbolizes purification through remission of sins and in-turn a regeneration of souls in our acceptance of Christ as our lord and savior. This rite then enables us to become members of the Christian Church.
I never felt as close to God as I did in those moments. It was the most meaningful event of my life. As I repeated the vows of dedication of the sacrament I was deeply moved. I learned afterwards that the service had a profound impact on a lot of people in the small group of pilgrims gathered behind me on the banks of the river.
The next day we visited Bethlehem and I purchased a gold cross to commemorate the baptism. I have worn it on a chain every day since the event and I bless what it represents.
Now days I sometimes get a little emotional singing some of our hymns in church. Songs with lyrics like “I was there when you were born, I was there when you were baptized”, have special meaning to me and I admit to getting a little lump in my throat as I sing them.
(Before I close with a prayer I would like to share a little joke that I have with Hamilton. Hamilton pours in a little water from the River Jordan into the baptismal fount for every baptism and some special blessings or dedications, and he has been doing that since 2012. My comment to him is “How much water did we bring back with us? I mean, we must have brought back a 55 gal drum.” But, He tells me that several of our fellow pilgrims all brought some water back with them. So I say “Are your sure this isn’t Chagrin Falls Water Department water. He assures me it is not. So “in God, and in Hamilton, we trust”)
Let us be in the spirit of prayer.
Heavenly Father, Mother of us all, we thank you for the many blessings that you give us. As we practice the sacrament of baptism with one another we emulate the baptism of your son Jesus done 2000 years ago, and we do so in his name. Forgive us our sins and strengthen our hearts and minds to live up to our vows of dedication and follow the ways of Jesus Christ our Lord and savior. AMEN