Enriching the Baptismal Service

Ways to dignify and solemnize the baptismal service.

By WESLEY AMUNDSEN, Departmental Secretary, Inter-American Division

It was my pleasure to be present at the North Street church in Kingston, Jamaica, en a Sunday night when ten persons were baptized. In all my travels to and fro in var­ious places I have never witnessed a more pleasing and impressive scene. This large church, which has a membership of around eight hundred, is well arranged. The platform is in three parts—the lower platform for the Sabbath school officers, the pulpit platform for the pastor and elders, the third platform, be­hind that, for the choir.

Underneath the pulpit platform is the bap­tistry, with steps leading down into it from each end. Dressing rooms with ample space are provided on each side. On this occasion, as I entered the church through the front door, I was impressed by the beauty of the scene that met my eyes. The lower platform was covered with green leaves sprinkled with scar­let poinciana flowers, which grow in such profusion here in the island. I had never before seen a church thus decorated, and for a moment I paused, and just stood drinking in the picture. "There," said I to myself, "is the way I like to see this rite carried out."

After the sermon, the minister, dressed in a white suit, addressed the congregation and the ten candidates, who were seated on the front bench, and a brief prayer was offered in their behalf. Then, instead of having the can­didates come out of a back room, they were led to the platform by a deacon or a deaconess, and walked over to the baptistry through a short path among the leaves and flowers. All the can­didates were dressed in white instead of somber black. The dignified and solemn manner in which the whole service was conducted appealed to my heart.

How much more impressive it would be if we dignified all our baptisms in somewhat the same manner in which this church solemnizes its service. Surely God is pleased to have all things done "decently and in order." What an impression it makes upon unbelievers when they see the care, and yet the simplicity, which we show in these serv­ices!

It has been my lot to baptize as well as to witness baptisms in the most hideous places—watery graves which were nothing less than niudholes, or churches with platforms rearing up behind the baptistry, ugly and repelling to the better taste. People go to great expense oftentimes in arranging for weddings, and the excuse is that such an event happens "once in a lifetime," or is "the great event." Should not baptism, at which time we are married to the Lord Jesus Christ, receive just as much attention in preparing for the event? In these days we find funeral directors laying more and more stress on the point of making death appear less gruesome. Cemetery graves are covered with artificial green-grass carpets, and the walls of the excavation are often covered with white cloth. Let us enrich the baptismal service and uSe it as an appeal to others who look on. but who have not yet en­tered into the experience.

It was also my privilege to witness a bap­tism out in the country in Jamaica. Here, too, the candidates were all dressed in white, and the service was conducted in a spring. At the close of the baptism, while the minister stood in the water, he made an appeal to those not yet baptized, and five persons signified their intention of being baptized at a later time. Thus the baptismal font became a pulpit also. We too often fail to follow up impressions made upon minds and hearts at these public services.

The picture that accompanies this article shows the platform and baptismal scene in the North Street church in Kingston, Jamaica.

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By WESLEY AMUNDSEN, Departmental Secretary, Inter-American Division

November 1940

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