This morning I had the very unique privilege of participating in an ecumenical baptism for one member of our team Mariah Hall and a woman from the Iglesia Evangelica Dominicana in San Rafael named Gleny Arias. We went to a natural spring called La Toma that’s just outside of the city of San Cristobal. It’s normally a tourist attraction with an admission fee but Pastor Carolina was able to sweet-talk the guys at the gate into letting us in for free.
Carolina is not yet ordained, so she invited Harold, the pastor of the IED church in San Cristobal to preside. We shared the liturgy which was a blend of IED and UMC tradition (the IED is currently a conglomerate of Methodist, Presbyterian, and Moravian tradition but they are apparently considering moving towards communion with the UMC family).
We started with a psalm which Carolina read. Then we sang a few hymns in Spanish. Then I read the scripture which was from Romans 6:1-4. Pastor Harold asked the questions which had a bit more of an “evangelical” tone to them (Do you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and savior, etc?) than the more “social-gospel-ish” questions in the UMC Baptismal Covenant (Do you accept God’s freedom to resist oppression, injustice, etc?). Pastor Harold asked me to bless the water for which I used my pocket Book of Worship translating on the fly into Spanish.
Then we got into the water where something really cool happened. I had thought that each of us were going to individually baptize our respective baptizees but Harold insisted that we both put our hands on both of them and do it together. So Mariah and Gleny technically speaking have now been baptized into both the Iglesia Evangelica Dominicana and the United Methodist Church. After we baptized Mariah and Gleny, Harold got a little playful and decided that we should dunk each other in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. It was a little sacrilegious perhaps (I felt the need to clarify for a crowd of people who didn’t care that we were “remembering” our baptism). But it was kind of cool that baptism could be playful like that.
After we got out of the water, I said the prayer of blessing which at least in “Baptismal Covenant I” has a mouthful of unnecessarily impossible to translate verbiage. But it worked out.
This baptism was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve had the privilege of being a part of. There’s a way in which even the pastoral mutual dunking at the end was appropriately sacramental. Baptism is our full immersion into God’s reality. The old world that we lived in before is dead. Similarly I have been baptized into the reality of God’s people in the Dominican Republic. This mission trip is becoming yet another moment of metanoia, another reason why my life will never be the same again.
Pastor Carolina has been saying that I should come down and be a pastor here. It’s hard to tell if she’s joking or not. I would love to do that, but in a naive, irresponsible gringo child of privilege kind of way. I’ve got mouths to feed and little boys to raise. I told her I am “sumitido a la voluntad de Dios y el movimiento del Espiritu Santo.” We’ll see what God has in store.