every quarter, my church heads down to mission bay (a man-made bay off the pacific ocean, just north of downtown san diego) for baptisms. this is something i love about my church. there’s nothing stodgy or passionless about it. it’s a freakin’ party.
about 400 or so were there today (i’m totally guessing), and by the time i got there, the area was already thick with barbecue smoke. everyone was in beach clothing, and had laid out blankets and beach chairs all over the place. a game of volleyball was in full swing, and little kids were running all over the place. at some point, a group with guitars started leading worship songs — it all feels wonderfully hippie at that point! but, hey, we’re on the beach, so it works. then, one of the pastors comes up and explains baptism (those being baptised have already met in the preceeding weeks — though it seems people can make the choice that day also).
then, we all head for the water’s edge. all the pastors of the church walk out into the water (when my daughter got baptized two years ago, they let me do it). and people just line up. today there were about 80 people. almost all of them are adults. since most of them have lead lives away from God for decades, they’ve had a great opportunity to really screw things up. so, when these people make a choice to follow the jesus-way, it’s a big change. and when they pop up from the water, it’s almost always accompanied by a face that radiates the joy of this moment in their lives, and the loud cheers and applause of family and friends on the shore.
the whole thing is a bit of a party-style frenzy. i cried about three times (well, got way choked up), watching…
-the newly-wet face of a woman who’d obviously been around the block a few too many times (and was wearing a bikini top — something i’ve never seen at any of the churches i worked in!), and the look of pure peace as she stood up out of the water. i could “see” that she was tangibly experiencing grace.
– the nervousness of the massive muscled guy with tattoos all over his shoulders and arms (um, and not celtic crosses, if you know what i mean). he walked out nervously, turned around nervously, nodded his head nervously in discussion with the pastor about to baptize him, folded his hands like a 5 year-old, and went under. then he lept up like a super-hero, with pumping fists in the air, shouting “YEAH! YEAH! YEAH!”. he had a whole crew of similar-looking friends on the shore, and they were all going crazy.
– the father and teenage daughter who walked out to get baptized simulataneously, and the tears of joy on both of their faces.
i could go on.
then, we all ambled back up the beach to the now-ready burgers and hotdogs and watermelon and cake. none of that potluck mystery casserole i grew up with at church functions! to finish it off, a friend and i beat our two new youth pastors in bocce ball.