I was eight years old when I first stepped down into the deep warm waters of baptism. Dressed in a white robe, surrounded by family and friends at Kirkwood Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, I was immersed into full-body baptism. I remember being scared to death because I couldn't swim and was afraid I would drown in those deep waters. It's not bad theology for an eight year old as we sometimes refer to baptism as a state of dying to sin and being reborn into the life of Christ. But needless to say I didn't drown and I've never forgotten those deep warm waters.
As an Episcopal priest, I've done a hundred or more baptisms. All of them have been wonderful experiences of grace. But even with my bishop's direction to use a lot of water at my first baptism, every one of these baptisms have happened with less than a gallon of water. Using the silver flagon or ceramic pitcher set out by the Altar Guild, I've sacramentally poured water into the font, swirled my hand around to bless it, and then poured three handfuls of water over the forehead of a child or adult. And while our Book of Common Prayer clearly indicates the preferred method of baptism in the Episcopal Church is by immersion, I've never served a church that has baptismal pool. Thus, the font has been sufficient.
That is until two months ago when I was asked by my eleven year old granddaughter to baptize her. Ella is Baptist. And for her baptism I had the chance once again to step into deep warm waters. Standing in her church's baptismal pool with Ella, I recalled my own baptism and shed tears of joy in God’s goodness and grace. Remembering how I held her in my arms as an infant and gave her a priestly blessing, brings more joy to the privilege of now baptizing her.
Almost as tall as I am, Ella stands before me, holds onto my arm, and in the name of God, I immerse her down into these deep warm waters. As she rises up soaking wet from head to toe, I kiss her cheek. I don't believe either one of us will ever forget the love, the grace and the holiness of those deep warm waters. And something tells me the next time I do a baptism with less than a gallon of water, it won't quite be the same. Oh, it will be the sacrament of baptism but it won't be a soaking!.