On the last Sunday of June, at 8:00 AM, we gathered at the Shenandoah River for a baptismal service. As I huddled with the elders to review who would do what during the baptisms I looked up and beyond the crowd, walking toward us, were Maureen, her children, and an older lady who I did not know. After we finished our review I went over to Maureen.
“Maureen, it’s great to see you, how are you?”
“Pastor Bob, I heard you were having baptisms this morning and I’ve come to be baptized. This is my mother, Nancy O’Neill.”
“I’m so excited about Maureen being baptized,” Ms. O’Neill said. “I’ve heard so much about you and the church, and it’s wonderful everything you’ve been doing for Maureen and her family.”
“Well, it’s great to meet you,” I replied. “And Maureen, it’s great to see you.”
“Sean didn’t want me to come. He’s been giving me a bad time about coming to church, a really bad time. And when I told him a few days ago that I was coming this morning to be baptized he was pretty angry and insisted that I not come. But I told him that I need to think about eternal things, that I’m not going to be here forever and that I have to come.”
Susan and Sharon had walked over to us during our conversation. I looked at them and said, “Ladies, since you are Maureen’s friends, and since you’ve been on this journey in Christ with her, why don’t you come out into the river with Maureen when it’s her turn to be baptized.”
After the congregation gathered in a semi-circle we sang a song, accompanied by two guitars. I opened my Bible and gave a teaching on baptism, after which we sang another song. Then the elders and I went out into the river, followed by about twenty people, young and old, who were to be baptized.
Baptisms are sweet times, sacred moments in the lives of individuals, families, and the covenant community. Parents stood with us and participated in the baptism of their children and teenagers. In one case we first baptized big Gerald Stone, and then Gerald assisted in baptizing his two children, Cissy and David, with Joan Stone (wife and mother) rejoicing to see her prayers answered.
The last one to be baptized was Maureen, confessing her faith in Jesus Christ and making a public commitment to follow Him in death, resurrection, and in her daily life. As Susan and Sharon stood with us, praying with Maureen, I baptized her in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When Maureen came up out of the water her face was radiant, simply radiant.