Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Flora Baptist Church

Baptism by Immersion
(Cooling Waters Offered by Wikipedia)

If you started out from Viola, Arkansas down Highway 223 south, took a right turn at a rough dirt road just outside of town, and rattled along that rocky stretch for several miles on your way to Big Creek Ridge, the farm where I spent the summer of my ninth year, then not far from that ridge -- at a place where two dirt roads diverged, one leading past scattered farms to wind its eventual way toward Highway 62 and the other leading along a rocky stretch and up the ridge to end at my paternal grandmother's place -- stood Flora Baptist church.

It stood not in the cool shade of the big oak trees that towered over the road back toward Viola but in a clearing baked hard by a relentless summer sun that turned the sanctuary into hell's antechamber and probably contributed to the effectiveness of the occasional hellfire-and-damnation sermon.

Or maybe not, for the sweltering heat induced lethargy.

I'd slump in my seat and watch the heavy red wasps that drifted in through the open windows and circled believers' heads like scaled-down demons looking for a chink in the armor of God but finding their aims thwarted by slowly wafted hand fans with their images of Jesus as shepherd protecting his sheep.

Or of Jesus being baptized, which looked deeply inviting on a hot day, nearly inviting enough to evoke my response to the altar call for salvation if that total immersion offered by Baptists could immediately follow ... but the lake remained about five miles distant over rough ground, and only attainable along some narrow path that sounded not inviting but forbidding.

Better not to attempt it, I'd think, for doesn't the good book say that "strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it"? Surely that was a warning that a body might get lost looking.

Much later, I realized that this was very bad hermeneutics...

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At 11:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was raised a Baptist (of the North American Baptist "NAB" denomination), and I still remember my baptism by immersion at the age of 10. It was inside a tank in the sanctuary, though.

It was interesting that when I converted to Catholicism, my baptism was considered valid somehow. The parish priest asked for a copy of my baptismal certificate prior to the Easter vigil mass, which my parents sent him, and I was confirmed a Roman Catholic, just before I ceased to believe entirely.

At 5:28 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Interesting. I wouldn't have guessed that, for it implies that the Catholic Church believes that a Baptist-conducted ritual of baptism conveys the grace that Baptists deny that it can convey.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I still think that irony is an odd one.


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