Rev. Steven R. Giddens
I was Baptized in a Baptist Church at the age of 14 even though most of my friends were Catholic and I enjoyed going to Mass I was not welcomed to make this show of love and commitment there; at least, not without some classes and a few tests. Even the Methodist church my grandparents went to was not open to the idea of my Baptism with them because they did not feel it was appropriate, given how much I bounced around. I laugh now, having gone to a Mennonite institution for Seminary and reading their history on the subject. The UCC says that they recognize all Baptisms and that anyone from an infant, to a child, to an adult can be baptized. The UCC also has no formal policy on how to baptize be it sprinkling, dunking, live water or still, and there are no strict rules or guidelines regarding this recognized sacred rite. I find this to be very liberating and as the UCC also acknowledges that this rite is, “an outward and visible sign of the grace of God,” and that, “Through baptism, a person is joined with the universal church, the body of Christ,” I believe that the emphasis of such a ritual is about the meaning to that person, or that person's family, with regard to their acceptance of membership within the whole Christian body universal. I really hate membership requirements and having to pay dues. It’s a pain in the neck and takes away a bit of the nostalgia of being a part of an international organization. Even within the UCC we are required to be members of local churches and when we move or change geographical locations, we are supposed to demit from one local church and readmit into another and by that I am grateful we don’t follow the same logic in Baptism. I believe that when we are baptized we are admitted into the universal family of the faithful; we become Christians universally. I feel this should be the only outward test or display of being “one of us”. I appreciate the UCC for allowing me the ability to move from one church to another and say, “Yes, I have been Baptized” without any further explanation or proof of such. I have had the unfortunate experience of being questioned abhorrently about whether I was truly saved at the time of my baptism and if I was baptized properly, if I knew what I was doing, if I had a remarkable experience, etc. Since I view Baptism as a sacred rite between the person being baptized, or person’s family, and our God, I see my role as both educator and facilitator. I see myself stressing the importance of this rite, what it means, why we as Christians do it, the history of the event, and like the water, I go with the flow. If a family wants an immersion because they believe this is the best and only true form of Baptism, then so be it so long as they have the faith and commitment to the same. My wife and I have decided that we will not do an infant baptism for our daughters because we want them to make that choice for themselves. We are not the kind of Christians that believe that infants are condemned to hell if they die unbaptized. We also believe that in the hour of death a baptism can be administered it is just as beneficial as one elected and planned. But then the question has to be asked, “If a person comes to church regularly and gets involved in the mission and outreach activities and participates in lay services but is not baptized, are they a Christian?” I think this is a very interesting question and a plausible situation. For me, I would want to talk to this member and try to gain an awareness of their thought process. Why are they not seeking Baptism? What do they think Baptism is? You know, some of our ‘Church Fathers’ set the precedent of not being baptized until death and considered themselves very devout Christians. I think in this regard I would like to know the person’s faith and spiritual understanding. I think too that Jesus was on to something when he repeatedly said, “Your faith has made you well...” Not all of those to whom Christ said these words were Christian and yet their faith moved the Lord. Maybe if someone has a strong faith and can articulate their reasons for delaying Baptism we should be slow to judge and willing to nurture their growth in faith, love, and community.