|Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Eisleben|
Many churches celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord on the Sunday following Epiphany (January 6). Since Epiphany falls on Sunday in 2013, this year the Baptism of the Lord was celebrated yesterday on January 13. This feast is an appropriate occasion for remembering our own baptisms, in which we took on a new ecclesial identity in Christ when we embraced Christ’s story, the story proclaimed by the church, as our story.
I recently found myself thinking about how churches in my own Baptist tradition might be more intentional about remembering our baptisms when I saw a photo posted on Facebook of a Lutheran baptism performed in a new immersion font in the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Eisleben, Germany—the church of Marin Luther’s baptism on November 11, 1483. Luther was baptized as an infant with water poured from a small font, remains of which were incorporated into a reconstructed font that now stands in the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul. But when the interior of the church was renovated in 2011, a new baptistry suitable for full-immersion baptisms was made the centerpiece of the renovated sanctuary. The top of the pool is level with the floor and is situated at the center of the front of the sanctuary, so that the congregation must look across the baptistry to see the altar and pulpit. Concentric circles in the pattern of the floor radiate outward from the baptistry. No one can worship there without thinking about baptism. On April 29, 2012, the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul was re-opened as the Center of Baptism for the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church in Germany intended to serve as a center for ecumenical reflection on the theology and practice of baptism.
One of the gifts that Baptist churches give to the people they baptize is a baptism that can be personally remembered. (I don’t think that candidates for membership in Baptist churches who were baptized as infants and have subsequently made the faith into which they were baptized their own should be required to be re-baptized with a “believer’s baptism” as a condition for membership, however, but that’s a topic for another discussion.) Baptists of all people have good reason to give attention to the remembrance of their 'rememberable' baptisms.
How might Baptists do this? I invite readers to share their own ideas and/or practices from their congregations in the comments below. I’ll start with the following recommendations: