Tag Archives: baptism

Words in a Journal, Names on a List

The entries are there. And they were written down before any electronic records were kept. It goes back before Xerox or photocopies. Okay, not too far back. After Guttenburg (the printing press) but before the the beginning of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. Early 20th century.

Today, I had a quest – a quest to discover an important date of one’s life. There are important dates we all look back to – weddings, births, funerals, baptisms. These used to be kept in the family Bible. But today, I was asked to find a baptismal date.

It started when I lost a friend. He was in his 90s and had experienced a long and adventurous life. Born in the same community were he still lived, this man had served in the national guard. Seen children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. He leaves two siblings behind, but joins his others in heaven.

So, when was he baptized?

He joined the church in 1980. Maybe 1979. But no. That was when he returned to the church. For a while, he and his family attended elsewhere. They said he returned by “experience” which I am not exactly sure what that means – another mystery in this quest. Another record had he joined by statement. The issue was far from settled.

These records had not been photographed. The written journals were all that remains. Pages were yellow. Bindings were coming apart. We keep them in a large, fire-proof safe/file cabinet. Some of the records had been converted to a simple typed list of membership, but I discovered those occasionally got transferred incorrectly.

So I looked for his father’s membership, and they joined in in the late 1920s. The roarin’ 20s. I am not sure how much this farmland community roared, but I know they were faithful, strong workers with the land and in raising families. Many of those families are still connected to the church today.

People’s lives. History of relationships. Interactions both pleasant and unpleasant. One business meeting’s had minutes that shared charges against a pastor. Accusations of members carousing? with groups of drunken hooligans. People declared out of order and silenced in the meeting. What was going on?

And then a follow up entry one week later – the pastor had resigned. Wow, politics in a church before there was social media? (please read the sarcasm, irony, and humor in the last sentence.)

Back to the main story. I looked up when my friends parens joined. And there it was – an entry of a baptism. It had his parents and how they joined. Then a few lines later – a baptism. No month. Just a year. He would have been 13 or 14. I am not sure who baptized him, for the pastor left that year to be a chaplain in the Army. Not knowing the month and all. More research needs to be done.

Records … words in a journal … simple letters that form these words … and these words tell us a story. And we need these stories. A time will come when no one will be around that knows these stories. And then the stories may be lost. The pages will get yellower. The letters will fade. The words will disappear. But the stories don’t have to.

I encourage you to write down the stories. Put them where future generations can read them.

Churches have some great stories – scary at times – but great. Let’s not lose them.

Shout It Out … a picture that declares an allegiance

It had been way too long. It took two years at my present position to reach this point, and I wish it had come sooner. True, delays by the Coronavirus were a factor. Yes, another option surfaced a few months ago, and we outsourced the location. But, last Sunday was the first time in two years it happened.

Now, this event wasn’t overly simple to pull off. First, there has to be someone willing to participate … someone who doesn’t care what the world says, they say, “Yes!” … someone who wants people to see them. And this past week, we had two such people.

Second, it takes a team to pull it off. Some to help the ones shouting out their witness. One to help me in the leading and explaining and such. Some to get all the resources in place. And at least one to spend time making sure the valuable resources are in the right place at the right time and not gone to waste.

And third, there has to be the right timing. A time people are their to witness and celebrate in the act … getting family and friends there too.

To what am I rattling on about? Two fine ladies, from two different generations, declared to the world that Jesus had saved them, that Jesus had forgiven them, and that Jesus was their Lord. These two wonderful spiritual sisters in Christ, shared the waters in baptism.

James River … baptism of Ashley L-G and Jan G

The event – the water filled the baptistery … the ladies participated in an immersion … and the world heard their actions shout boldly, and humbly.

The lesson – baptism by immersion shows us a powerful truth. It declares how those who are Christians have come to the place where we (our old ways, our desires, our preferences, our brokenness, our hopelessness) have been buried in Christ (submerged, like put into a grave, completely submerged meaning all of who we are) … and now we are raised with Christ (lifted out of the water, symbolizing out of hopelessness, brokenness, etc) into a new way of life. And that life has hope, joy, purpose, forgiveness. So shout it out!

The act doesn’t save you. The water doesn’t wash away the old ways, the broken, sinful ways. But it does shout out, picture, declare what has already been done through believing on the saving acts of Jesus.

Moving Forward – I pray you know the freedom, the forgiveness and the hope in Jesus. I hope you shout out to the world what He has done. And I hope it will not be so long between now and the next time we have to fill the baptistery.

For clarity, when I said valuable resource I was referring to the water. Our church is on well water, so to fill a baptistery takes might just mean the parsonage doesn’t have water for a shower tomorrow. But that’s a price I’m willing to pay. The truth is … the real valuable resource is the people. God loves people. And so do we!

Old Rocks Church and the Legacy of Suanee Creek – and Me

Nestled in the woods in the far corner of Appomattox County is a hidden venue with a legacy that is older than our nation. One has to travel down a half mile fire road of gravel that is blocked off by a simple metal gate. The location is quiet, peaceful, and historic – filled with simple sounds of birds chirping and the water splashing over the rocks.

And if you listen close enough you might hear the echoes of “Amens” that go back to 1772.

The location is right along what used to be the old stage coach trail. Yet time and the railroad made that stage coach trail relocate. It is the original spot where Rocks Baptist Church used to meet and worship for decades. On looking around, you can see where the church got its name – for the acreage has rocks large and small that have been there for millennia.

The Suanee Creek pretty much flows the way it did for the past several centuries. Some rocks were added to help dam up a small area that could be used for baptisms. And this is what brought me to the scenic hideaway.

A few months ago, before the pandemic changed the world forever, I was approached by a friend that expressed a desire to be baptized in believers’ baptism. This was exciting and He wondered if we could get baptized at this location, the Old Rocks church site. The opportunity arose, and so yesterday we ventured out there for an act that is linked in a legacy.

I cannot fathom how many people have professed their faith in Jesus and stepped into these waters to be baptized. The simple act of immersion signifies their complete surrender in obedience to Christ. Hundreds? Thousands? Who knows. But it is spine tingling to know that I now have a small piece in that long line.

Initially, the waters were chilly. And I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to get my Chuck Taylor clad feet unstuck from the mud at the bottom of the creek. In the end, we survived, and we got all our footwear safely back to shore. But more importantly, PR proclaimed to the world that he is a faithful follower of Christ.

Surrounded by family and friends, he joined an even longer line of legacy of those who have been baptized in the name of Jesus. And that is even more spine tingling than a legacy of a location.

There’s no real lesson in today’s blog, but what there is are the emotional words of a writer who realizes how Jesus changes everything with His death, burial and resurrection. And we who are spiritually dead can be made alive in Christ. And that’s the greatest lesson of all.

See, here of the water. What does prevent you from being baptized? Proclaim it!