Easter Sunday a popular day for Baptisms

Saturday, April 11, 2009 | 6:32 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — As the Earth tilts away from winter and approaches a warm spring verve, nature is reborn in a stream of color and new life.

In many ways the unveiling of spring illustrates the rebirth of Easter, the season observed by Christians. And some like David Hoffelmeyer, 21, are symbolizing their spiritual renaissance in the tradition of baptism.

"Easter is our holiday to celebrate Jesus' resurrection from the dead," Hoffelmeyer said. "And baptism is something that we as Christians do to remember Christ — our resurrection into our new life, putting to death our old self and being raised with Christ in his likeness."

Hoffelmeyer said he will be baptized Sunday morning at Stephens Lake Park by the head elder of his church, Karis Community Church, and with the cold weather of recent days, he is pulling for sunshine.

"Hoping for good weather," Hoffelmeyer said. "I'd like it to be sunny at least; not raining would be ideal."

The baptism is a symbolic expression of repentance and the beginning of a new life.

The St. Thomas More Newman Center also will mark the significance of Easter by baptizing eight people during its Easter vigil Saturday night, according to Lisa Rose, director of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. 

"It's more of a conversion process than an academic process," Rose said. "It's more of a coming to faith. There's no test that they take, that they know X, Y and Z of Catholic theology in order to be baptized. It's more discernment that they feel called to do this."

The process ideally takes a year, but Rose said the process has been shortened to accommodate the academic calendar.

"If we were to say, 'You have to be here in the summer,' that would exclude students," Rose said. "We don't want to do that."

Rose also said adults are typically only baptized on the night before Easter.

"The church would say that is the time to baptize adults," she said. "The RCIA process is modeled after the way people joined the church in the early church and that lends itself to Easter."

Adults who have already been baptized and wish to join the church will be confirmed during the Easter vigil as well.

Although the Christian ritual of baptism is well-shared and traditionally done with water, it has come to mean different things and occur at different ages among denominations.

A Presbyterian baptism is an initiation into the church and has five parts, including a presentation, profession of faith and promise, thanksgiving and prayer, washing with water and a formal welcome into the church.

Kathie Jackson, associate pastor at First Presbyterian Church, said the church recognizes baptisms in other Christian denominations, as long they were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This practice is not replicated in all denominations, however.

Jackson also said baptisms on Easter have a special significance since they represent the dying to sin and rising to new life with Jesus. By being baptized on Easter, she said there is a special emphasis on its symbolism.

“In the ancient church, baptisms were held early Easter morning,” said Jackson.

Members of Assemblies of God churches are not baptized until they have reached the age of accountability, which is usually between 8- and 10-years-old. For members of these churches, a baptism is a public statement of the end of a person’s sinful nature.

Baptists and several other Christian denominations baptize by fully immersing the person in water.

“We baptize by immersion of believers because it represents the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus,” said Pastor Scott Sutherland of Forum Christian Church.

However, Episcopalians and Methodists pour water on or immerse the person, more so representing the washing away of sins. Many times the parents and godparents of the youth being baptized will be asked to guide the child through a Christian lifestyle.

Lutheran theology teaches that baptism is how God creates and strengthens faith and how God assures the forgiveness of sins. Infants to adults are baptized into the church.

While the conditions, traditions and nuances surrounding baptism can travel different rivers, they all eventually flow to the same place: faith.

"I believe it is an expression of that faith that he (Jesus) commands in the Bible," Hoffelmeyer said. "I just love God."

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