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Kim Baer, left, shows support as godmother for Christina Beck as Beck is baptized during the 2006 Easter Vigil by the Rev. Joe Culotta, former pastor, at Annunciation of the Lord Catholic Church. Beck, 30, said the baptism made her feel more a part of the church she has long attended. Her son was baptized at the same time.
Courtesy photo
Kim Baer, left, shows support as godmother for Christina Beck as Beck is baptized during the 2006 Easter Vigil by the Rev. Joe Culotta, former pastor, at Annunciation of the Lord Catholic Church. Beck, 30, said the baptism made her feel more a part of the church she has long attended. Her son was baptized at the same time.

Raised into glory
Baptism is 'resurrection night' for
new converts at Annunciation

By Melanie B. Smith
msmith@decaturdaily.com ∑ 340-2468

"And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3:16-17

It is a familiar Bible story, Jesus being baptized by John in the Jordan River.

The gospel accounts of the baptism seem to advance Jesus as a unique person who pleases God.

But the next scene does not show Jesus tenderly healing or patiently teaching. No, he suffers in a wilderness. He has no food. Satan arrives to tempt him.

For Jesus, baptism is a sort of turning point, a shift toward struggling to fulfill a greater purpose.

What does baptism do for people choosing to follow Jesus, especially for those baptized at Easter, the time established by the ancient church to take in converts?

The right time

Jack Palmer, 15, said he believes now is the time to strengthen his faith. That's why he's being baptized during Saturday's Easter Vigil at Annunciation of the Lord Catholic Church.

A sophomore at St. Bernard Academy in Cullman, Jack said it was his choice. He said he wasn't baptized as an infant, though his mother is Catholic.

Jack's mother, Anne Palmer, said her husband is not Catholic and requested their children wait for baptism until they were old enough to understand about faith for themselves.

Jack and his sister attended Catholic services and schools before and after moving to Decatur, their mother said. She said she saw her son become "religiously very ready" and talk to his father about his decision.

Jack said he believes his faith has already helped him face difficulties and baptism will reinforce it. "If I have a definite faith, it will help me make stronger decisions in life," he said.

A full life

Chloe Patterson, 19, said her upcoming baptism at Annunciation leads to a full life. Without God, she said, she was experiencing only a partial life.

"To me baptism means rebirth and living a Christian life with God, and I feel it was time," she said.

Patterson said she and sisters attended Catholic schools when living in Chicago. That experience gave her a foundation in Catholicism, though the family visited other churches after moving to Decatur 13 years ago.

Annunciation felt like home, she said. Last year, Chloe's sister, Ivori, 24, was baptized. This year their brother, Rhyne, 13, is going through the rite with Chloe. Their mother, Ella Patterson, will be confirmed.

"It's a continuation of what our family has always done. We've always worshipped together," said Ella Patterson, who grew up Baptist and was previously baptized.

Ivori Patterson said she likes the Catholic church's witness.

"Like St. Francis said, 'Always preach the gospel. If necessary, use words,' " she said.

Chloe said the church's explanations and reasoning impressed her. She said she learned that more important than going through rituals is "living the everyday Christian life."

Chloe, a student at Calhoun Community College, said she has sent invitations for her baptism to friends and family members. "I'm nervous, excited, a bunch of emotions wrapped up in one," she said.

Why baptism?

The Rev. Ray Remke, pastor of Annunciation, said Jesus didnít need to be baptized to wash away sin but he did it to show obedience and humility.

Jesusí baptism also prefigured his death and resurrection, the pastor said.

ďAll of the newly baptized are invited to die to self, to die to sin, to get a new life, to live abundantly,Ē Remke said.

Shirley Stone of Annunciation, who teaches Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, said the whole parish gathers outside the church around the fire. From it the priest lights a paschal, or Easter, candle. All take light for their own candles from it and process in. During the service, catechumens come forward for the priest to baptize them, dipping water over their heads as they lean over a font. Members also renew their baptismal promises, the guide said.

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