I want to get re-baptized!
March 19, 1989. That was the answer to my question. I had several photos but I didn’t have the date. It didn’t take place in my home town, as the local priest would only perform the ceremony if the family attended the church. So, we went to my grandfather’s church, St. Augustine’s on the Fulham Palace Road in Hammersmith, London. In fact, he was the only family member who went to church. Even my Godparents didn’t attend church! But on March 19, 1989, I was baptized. I remember nothing.
A decade later, and my whole family was now attending a non-denominational church with Baptist roots named Marlow Christian Fellowship. Both my mother and father had given their lives to Jesus in the intervening years, and I had watched them get baptized at the swimming pool at the local sports center where I learned to swim. Following that experience, I asked if I could get baptized.
(I also asked if I could get glasses after my dad got glasses. He said, “No,” as he thought I just wanted to copy him. Turns out I couldn’t see more than 20 inches in front of me, but it was another two years before they actually took me to get my eyes tested. Parenting is hard. I know that now.)
But following interviews with the church elders and reading a book about baptism, my parents did allow me to get baptized (again?). And so, I was immersed in a tank in a school hall where we were meeting as a church in November 2000 wearing an England Rugby shirt that is still in my closet today. (For reference, having now helped administer a few baptisms, white t-shirts are not the best choice for full immersion.)\
This Sunday, we will be having our first Baptism Sunday since the coronavirus. On previous occasions we have seen as many as 30 people come forward to be baptized! And usually there will be one or two people who come forward and say, “I want to be re-baptized!”
It’s a very well-intentioned statement, and one that I am guilty of making myself back in the year 2000. God has clearly been doing a work in the life of the person coming forward and it is important to affirm that. But baptism isn’t actually something you do twice.
Ephesians 4 says, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6 ESV) Throughout the centuries the Church has understood that this means re-baptism is not necessary. Baptism is once and done.
So, what about my second baptism? Why did they let me do it? Well in their faith tradition there were two key issues with my original baptism: (1) I was a baby, and (2) it was Roman Catholic. As a result, they believed my original baptism wasn’t legitimate. I was all too happy to agree with them as I was desperate to get dunked and have that moment of coming up out of the water to everyone clapping and the music playing.
But today, after much prayer and study, I view things a little differently. I believe that the very fact that God was doing a work in my life at that time demonstrated that my original baptism worked! God had been faithful to the vows that had been taken on my behalf. God had continued to pursue me and draw me into relationship with himself. And I was, aged 12, at a point where I recognized that for myself.
So, what did take place in that tub in the school hall in November 2000? Well, I don’t believe it was a baptism. If I believed then what I believe today, I would see it as a reaffirmation of my baptismal vows, a bit like when a couple decides to reaffirm their wedding vows. It didn’t negate my first baptism, and wasn’t necessary at all, but it was a touching ceremony to affirm that God had been at work from my baptism in 1989 until that day.
As we approach this Sunday, I would encourage you, if you have been baptized to find out the date. Ask your parents or grandparents. Dig up the baptism certificate. And remember the day that you entered the family of God. And recognize the reality that God has been faithful to you ever since.
And if you haven’t been baptized, or you have a child who hasn’t been baptized, consider signing up. Perhaps this Sunday is the moment when you need to declare that you and/or your child are a part of the family of God, and that you are trusting in his promise of faithfulness in the future. You can sign up here.
P.S. Alpha begins this Tuesday September 21. It is a safe, non-judgmental place to explore questions of life, faith and meaning. If you have been having conversations with someone about faith, I would encourage you to invite them to join you. You can sign up here.
PPS — a reminder: you can find out latest guidance regarding COVID-19 here.
Photo by Borna Bevanda on Unsplash