New symbolism in the baptismal pool
Following two baptisms in his church, minister Brian Davison is struck by how the baptistery leaks - and the new insight this gives
On the 23 June we had the pleasure of baptising two people at Cutgate Baptist Church here in Rochdale. First there was Mariella who had found the Lord three years previously, during childbirth, which went dangerously wrong for a while, but she knew during and afterwards that God was looking after her. She committed to him and has not looked back. Her partner Kenny has seen the difference in her, and is journeying towards faith. Being present, and actually helping her in the pool was another step for him.
The there was Dianne, who has been wanting to be baptised for some time, but did not want a service that was “all about her”, so waited until someone else was being baptised.
It was a wonderful time, the first for a few years, and it gave rise to a new insight.
We may be familiar with many of the symbols found in believer’s baptism by immersion: there is the washing away of sin, dying to the old self and rising to new life in Christ, symbolised by being laid down under the water and lifted up again. Many churches have two sets of steps in the baptistery, and the candidates go down one side and up out of the other – reminiscent of the Children of Israel crossing over through the red sea from captivity to freedom and journeying with God, and again crossing over the Jordan, from desert wanderings to the promised land.
My eldest son Jonathan introduced another at his baptism. Clare (my wife) had bought him a set of new clothes the wear for the service, but he chose not to. He preferred to wear his old tatty clothes for the service and baptism, changing into the new fresh clothes afterwards, to symbolise the new life. (Quite an insight for an 11 year old!)
Now, many years and many baptisms later, (I celebrated 30 years in ministry on 8 July this year) a new insight! The baptistery at Cutgate leaks. It has done for years and many things have been tried to solve the problem. This time we tried a rubberised coating to waterproof the tiling, but to no avail. So the water doesn’t hang around, it needs to be topped up the day of the service if filled the night before. The ground in the cellar and all around are soaked with baptismal water. Although not so dramatic, it brought to mind Ezekiel's vision of the flow from the temple. Where God meets his people the result is a river of life flowing out and transforming the world around.
How lovely that baptism does not stay in the pool, does not stay in the church, In the building. What happened on that Sunday in June should soak into the community around. The waters of baptism are waters of transformation, and those waters should leak to all around, they should make a difference.
And ourselves, filled with his new life, should leak that life all around us. We need to follow Paul’s instruction to “go on being filled with the spirit” because we should leak the spirit, the love of God, his grace his joy his kindness his challenge, wherever we are.
The leak in the baptistery reminds us that the transformation is not just for a special day, but we are to be constantly topped up, be open to constant transformation, a change that makes a difference around us.
May we never stop leaking…..