I had a friend who traveled to the Holy Land a few years ago while he was on sabbatical. Like most Christian Holy Land trips, he visited the Jordan River and the supposed site of Jesus’ baptism.
As he was standing on the shore, he looked across the river and saw a group of people on the opposite shore. There was a man standing in the water who kept going under the water and coming up as the group on the shore was cheering and praying and celebrating.
And my friend realized that the man in the water was baptizing himself.
No one is baptized alone
In Baptist churches, when someone is baptized by immersion, they enter the waters with at least one other person, usually the person who is doing the baptizing.
Sometimes there are others who are in the water, be it a mentor, deacon, or a family member.
Because no one is baptized alone.
Baptism at First Baptist Decatur
A few weeks ago, we celebrated a baptism in our worship service. As is our tradition, we invited anyone who was able and present to come to the front of the church and get near to the baptistry. This is especially helpful for the youngest among us so they can what is going on.
There is another reason, though, why we invite people to move forward for the baptism.
Baptized into community
When someone is baptized, they join the family of the Church Universal. They aren't baptized into the Baptist faith or the Protestant faith; they are baptized into the Christian faith.
They join their hearts with thousands of people over thousands of years who have proclaimed that Christ is their Savior.
So when we invite people to move forward, for us it's more than just so they can see. It is a symbol for the person being baptized that they are becoming a part of a huge family.
They are surrounded by a group of witnesses who represent those who have entered the waters in years past and will enter the waters in the years to come. No one is baptized alone.
Baptized into relationship
There is a reason why when baptisms happen that there is someone who is in the water (or standing at the font, depending on your tradition). It's because we can't be baptized alone, just like we can't go through this life and our journey as Christians alone.
When we move forward, it’s so the person being baptized can see that they are not alone in the water or on the journey.
When my friend saw the scene on the other side of the river, he entered the waters and waded across to the group. He didn’t speak the same language as the man in the water, but he simply stood next to him . He made sure he wasn’t alone.
May we find ways to join together with others on the journey. May we do our best to ensure that no one ever feels alone.
Kristen Koger is the Pastor for Children and Families at First Baptist Church of Decatur.