I went down to the river to pray River baptisms

River Baptisms by Theodore Bryant-Nanz

St. Mary's, Dousman has had the precious opportunity of welcoming two new Christians by baptism in a river. The church has about 1000 feet of the Bark River on its property in Dousman. The river runs clean and pure and has very precious native habitat on its banks. For me, the experience was deeply moving. We were able to welcome new Christians surrounded by the glory of God's creation. Two people went down to a river and emerged cleansed of sin and members of holy mother Church. In our modern age, it is rare to be able in literal sense to reenact the baptism of our Lord. The presence Holy Spirit was strongly felt on those days.

baby Graham being baptized

Reflections on River Baptisms by the Rev. Scott Leannah

I have now performed two baptisms in the Bark River. One of those baptized was a man, the other a baby. The man had prepared for some time, meeting with me individually and learning the basics of the Christian faith and praying about his decision and the call he felt to baptism. As he knelt down in the clear, swiftly running water, I stood next to him and offered the prayers for the ceremony. He was ready. Many of his family members and several friends were there--the mood was joyous and celebratory. As I scooped large handfuls of water and poured it over his head, welcoming him into the Body of Christ, I was mindful of the precious gift of water, and how right and fitting it is that we would symbolically be cleansed and made new people through this most ancient of practices. Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John. Bob was baptized in the Bark River. Water is God’s holy gift, and Bob became a new creation in Christ that day, in a vibrant, living stream of life-giving water. It was beyond words.

The next baptism was of a baby named Graham. His parents, Madi and Jake, were taken by the beauty of our stretch of land along the river and the river itself. They enjoy our outdoor worship services along the Bark and felt like it would be a perfect place to welcome little Graham into the Body of Christ through baptism. Since he couldn’t kneel in the river like Bob the grown-up, the first time I lowered Graham into the water (in the name of the Father), he made a bit of a surprised face. The water that morning was clear, there was a great current, and it may have been a bit brisk. When I lowered him a second time (in the name of the Son), he started to spread his arms a bit, and he was smiling. When I lowered him the final time (in the name of the Holy Spirit) he was trying to get back into the water again--he was loving it! His joyous smile, the happy expressions on the faces of his parents, and the parishioners gathered along the riverbank were all giving praise of the God of life who has given us salvation in Christ. Graham’s desire to stay in the water reminded me of the tug we all feel to grow deeper in Christ. I asked myself, and we might all reflect on this: what has kept me from diving in more deeply into the new life given to me in Christ?

Our stretch of river bank is a precious resource given to us by our ancestors in faith, and ultimately is God’s own gift to us. Welcoming new members into the Body of Christ through baptism at this site is a wonderful and joyous way to raise up prayers and thanksgiving for all that God is doing in our midst.

Credits:

Created with images by bdearth - "Russian River"

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