Waters of LIFE: Churches practice ancient ritual

Published 7:38 pm Wednesday, June 11, 2008

By By Lydia Grimes – features reporter
The English words “baptize” and “baptism” are derived from a Greek root: “baptizr” which means “to immerse.”
Within Christianity, according to Religious Tolerance's Web site, “baptize” normally refers to a ritual performed by a member of the clergy in a church. Most Christian faith groups agree that baptism is the method by which an individual is welcomed into the church. But denominations disagree on precise additional significances of the act, and the age when baptisms are performed.
Many Sunday afternoons in years past have found countless Christians hovering on the banks of rivers and creeks throughout the south.
Although many churches have changed their form of baptismals, one local church continues to practice baptizing in natural waters.
One area church continuting to practice those baptims is the congregation of First Free Will Baptist Church in Flomaton. Pastor James H. Henry recently performed baptisms for five people at Escambia Creek.
One other local church practicing the old-fashioned form of baptism is The River of Love. E.A. Millican, the pastor for the church, said the old form of baptism services are the kind he prefers.
Millican says the special services are usually planned far in advance and will have several participants.
The bygone practice is seldom seen in larger churches according to other area ministers.
Ron Headley, associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Brewton, said baptisms at the church are held in a baptistry located on the campus of the church.
Many churches have baptistries built into their facilities for using in their services. Others, however, rely on the offerings from members of their congregations or friends of the congretation to use privately owned swimming pools for their services.
Steve Smith, pastor of Cornerstone Community Church, said baptism services for the church are typically held at the pool of a member of the congregation.
According to the Clarifying Christianity Web site, the method of baptism varies from a sprinkle of water to a full immersion into the water. Baptism is practiced by most denominations although the method has changed.
Henry said his church doesn't have a specific schedule for the baptisms. Services are scheduled after members express a desire to be baptized.