Pentecostal Watersplash at St. Peter’s Chantilly

The 19th May 2018 was the day of the royal wedding: the fairy tale setting of Windsor Castle, a stunning white dress and train, and an electrifying sermon from Bishop Michael Curry.

I spent the weekend in a comparably beautiful place in France, at St. Peter’s Church just down the road from the picturesque Chateau at Chantilly. And at St. Peter’s Chantilly, the day before Pentecost will mainly be remembered for the joyous full immersion baptisms of four young people.

We gathered outside the church on a beautifully sunny afternoon with Chaplain Sarah Tillett and the four candidates: Jemima, Anna, Laurence and Pablo.

The large paddling pool had taken two hours to fill with water. A good congregation of supporters gathered, and the singing attracted passers-by to take a look.

The water was cold, but Laurence survived the experience with much joy and laughter.

As did Pablo. I presided over affairs from the safety of the pool side, not having brought the right gear for getting into the water.

Chaplain Sarah, by contrast, had just the right green waders from her days as a trout fisherwoman. Here she accompanies Anna in the water.

It really was total immersion. Jemima is submerged from head to toe.

Some of our congregation were surprised that the Anglican church does total immersion baptisms. I explained that, at the Reformation, the Anglican Reformers attempted to recover the practices and theology of the early church. If you visit a really ancient church, you see the font is big enough for a proper immersion baptism. Baptism symbolises dying and rising with Christ. Proper full immersion is a powerful and dramatic symbol of our identification with Christ.

After the baptisms it was time to get dry and warm… and to share in a delicious barbecue.

The next day was Pentecost Sunday. We gathered again for confirmation. Here is the whole group:

Jemima, Anna, Laurence and Pablo, together with Alice, Benjamin, Gabrielle, Liam, Philip, Natasha, Rochelle, Samuel, Tatiana, William and our one adult candidate Régis.

This service was the culmination of many months’ nurturing of a large group of candidates by the St. Peter’s youth group ‘The Way’, including a trip to ‘Soul Survivor’. Holding, developing and encouraging young people in Christian faith through their teens is a vital ministry. The beliefs we adopt in our teens mostly stay with us for life. So congratulations to the St. Peter’s team for their excellent work and for the fruit it will surely bear in these young people’s lives.

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