As an ex-Baptist convert to Anglicanism the theology and mode of baptism has been for me, as you might imagine, an area where I have had to do a bit of work. It was my privilege to be baptised by total immersion, and although I have performed many Anglican ‘sprinklings’ I have held on to a suspicion that after all the Baptists have got it right. As one friend said to me ‘You Anglicans have got the symbolism all wrong: it isn’t about washing, it’s about drowning!’
In fact the Anglican church has just about caught up, and our latest liturgical texts try to get us to assume that ‘substantial quantities’ of water should be the norm for baptisms. I have performed several Anglican baptisms by total immersion, and have been grateful for Baptist colleagues who have been happy to lend us their buildings for these events. I guess it must have given them some small sense of satisfaction to see the Anglicans come begging and admitting they were right after all.
But another church in which I used to worship took a different approach. Rather than decamping elsewhere for its baptisms it used to hire a sheep dip from a friendly farmer, which was installed at the front of church and filled with water. It was a substantial vessel, easily capable of submerging the victim, and with plenty of room for those administering the baptism. On one occasion there was a … shall we say ‘rather large’ man to be dunked, so the vicar, fearing that having got him down he might not get him up again, invited the curate to help him administer the holy sacrament. As they all climbed in my son, who was on the drum kit at the front of church, suddenly saw the funny side, and texted his friend on the sound desk at the back the simple message ‘Rub-a-dub-dub’.
No blogs for a couple of week, I’m afraid. Normal service will be resumjed after that.