I can still see the translucent glass on portions of the Cedars baptistry walls, with clear glass in the middle. I can still see dear, white-headed Henry as he did his deacon’s duty, checking the temperature of the baptistry water every Sunday morning before the assembly began, just in case someone were to need the water that day. I probably witnessed a few dozen immersions in my early years, but it was not so frequent an occurrence as it should have been. Our church had historically been fairly evangelistic for a while (40s, 50s, 60s), but more of its later efforts were focused overseas. During the 70s and 80s, I don’t think there were ever more than a couple of intentional efforts going on to study with, convert, and immerse people. In my experience, there has never been enough discipling effort in any church, either before or after baptism. (And that reality, in part, led to the offshoot branch of the Church of Christ known in various eras as the Crossroads Movement, or the Boston Movement, or the International CofC. For all their abuses of authority and dogmatic approaches, they were serious disciplers.)
Christian camps tend to produce baptisms, and my camp was no exception. Proportionally speaking, the rate of baptism at summer camp was probably ten times that of most people’s home churches. At some point, I think a rule was put into place that campers at one of the senior high weeks could be immersed regardless of family, but that anyone in junior high or younger would need parental permission. That rule probably just increased some young people’s determination. I remember one evening, down at the camp pool, when three young people were immersed on the same occasion. Singing and wet hugs were part of the camp baptism experience. Although I attribute a great deal of spiritual growth to my camp experiences, I myself was immersed well before junior high age, following three others in my age group, within the confines of the aforementioned indoor baptistry.
Quite distinct from the quarterly or annual (or spotty) baptism practices of some churches, relative immediacy was important in my tradition. “Gospel meetings” (a/k/a “revivals”) might lead to baptisms, but not every time. My church was labeled a “cerebral” one by one reputable, deep-thinking, passionate guest speaker, and I think he was onto something. We didn’t have as many immersions every year as a couple sister churches tended to have. I think we were less prone to heart-responses.
Next part: Sunday, 10/30/16