I was training a class of young folks in the basics of ministry in the fall of 2001. They were each called, as are we all, and were committed to finding their unique area of giftedness and assignment.
So I crafted a curriculum of ABCs beginning with their own salvation, pulpit decorum and serving with grace at the Lord’s Table. We talked about visiting the sick and planning worship services of all kinds. As we neared the class on water baptism, I was led to conduct what I called a baptism lab. I sought out one of my colleagues with a baptismal pool, the Rev. Virginia Wise of New Rose of Sharon Baptist Church in Baltimore, and she responded with extravagant hospitality.
I love that phrase, coined in my life by Apostle Stanley Butler, to describe the hospitality of God that the church should strain to imitate as much as humanly possible. I digress.
Anyway, we scheduled the lab. I informed the class members and invited a few friends who I thought would enjoy the lab.
When we arrived, it was impressed on me to open with a few old songs, like the ones we would have sung at a Friday evening baptism service. It was, after all, Friday evening. And we always had baptism on a Friday evening at my home church. And we were conducting a baptism lab. Or so I thought. My plan was to have the students feel the weight and the grace of letting someone down into the waters of God, knowing they would rise into the newness of life.
As we began to sing…Oh how I love Jesus, Down at the Cross, Wade in the water, Take me to the water…it became apparent the Holy Spirit had another plan for our Friday evening. The fire fell on us all and we sang with the same gusto as in any worship service. Not everyone wanted to baptize or be baptized. Everyone wanted to be baptized in the power and presence of God’s Holy Spirit.
And after a brief extemporaneous word from the Lord, I had the pleasure of baptizing the daughter of one of my students. Totally unplanned. I had the pleasure of baptizing my own daughter at her request. Not her first time. Totally unplanned.
And ultimately the joy of baptizing Rev. Wise’s little granddaughter who was visiting from Virginia and refused to leave without having been baptized.
What an evening! What an experience! What a lesson!
Our best plans for a baptism lab were completed “bested” by the Lord himself and we were all blessed beyond anything we could have imagined.