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September 1, 2014, 12:00 AM

Rebirth and New Beginnings

36"As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” 38He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him.” Acts of the Apostles 8.36-38

Even though Christianity started out as a Jewish sect, it expanded very early to include Gentiles and others who, for reasons of physical disability or gender, would have been excluded from full religious participation in the Judaism of that day.  Jesus’ practice of “extravagant welcome” and full inclusion of anyone who wanted to follow him became the practice of the early church as well.  So baptism is not only the “sign and seal” of an individual’s participation in the grace of God.  It is also the way we are welcomed (at any age) into full participation in this community of faith and empowered to minister in Christ’s name.  Baptism is a symbolic washing away of the past and a rebirth into a new life in Christ, and a new way of being in the world.

In our denomination, the United Church of Christ, we practice baptism at any age.  We commonly baptize infants, whose parents take the baptismal vows for the child.  But it is especially dear to my heart when youth and adults ask to be baptized.  At our annual “River Service” on August 3rd, we had planned three river baptisms of young people who had asked to be baptized.  Due to the weather we had to move back to the Meeting House and two of the girls were baptized at the Baptismal Font. The third decided to wait until she could be baptized in the river; which will happen this month.    On September 14th, our worship service in the Meeting House will be followed by two baptisms in the Shepaug River, at Mitchell’s Hole.  We can carpool down to Steeprock.  There is a small parking area right across from Mitchell’s Hole.  In addition to our youth group member; we will also baptize a young woman whose wedding is planned in our church next year, and who asked to be baptized by full immersion.

Many people have found our river baptisms very meaningful and for the past few years, we have done at least one baptism at our out-door service.   Most of us were baptized as infants and so we have no memory of our baptism, and several people have expressed a certain regret that they didn’t get to make the decision themselves.   In the UCC, you can’t be “re-baptized;” but you can reaffirm your baptism, and that can be very meaningful; particularly when you want to rededicate yourself to the path of Christ.

When we reaffirm a baptism, I say different words.  Instead of “I baptize you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit;” I say “Remember your baptism.  You are a beloved child of God.”   And then, instead of, “receive the Holy Spirit;” I say “walk in the light of the Spirit.”  If you would like to reaffirm your baptism on September 14th, either by sprinkling or full immersion, please let me know.  My email is pastor.cheryl@firstchurchwashingtonct.org and the phone number is 860-868-0569.  I look forward to worshipping with you this month!


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