Water Baptism In The Age Of COVID-19
By: Joshua Long
Water Baptism is a core belief of every Christian denomination in the world. Not only did Jesus set the example of water baptism by being baptized himself, but he later commanded the Church to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
While arguably all churches practice water baptism, the mode of baptism differs across the church spectrum. Churches practice immersion, affusion (pouring), or aspersion (sprinkling). Some churches will baptize infants, others only professing adults; some require it for church membership, others do not; some tie it directly to salvation, while others believe it to be merely symbolic.
The specifics may differ across denominations, but the act of water baptism unites churches across the world and these same churches must now deal with the challenge of continuing in the ordinance while in the midst of a global pandemic. In jurisdictions across the country, mass gatherings of people are either prohibited or strongly discouraged. While it may be possible to teach online, tithe online, and even worship online, churches are struggling with the simple question of “How do we water baptize if we can’t gather together?”
Congregations are working together to come up with solutions.
Some churches are holding water baptisms with just the pastor and the one being baptized while live streaming on Facebook.
In one United Methodist congregation, after weighing the importance of the baptismal practice against the potential dangers, the parents decided to go ahead and baptize their children. The ceremony was ultimately performed by the pastor standing only as close as was necessary while the parents held the children in their arms.
It appears that most churches are placing their water baptism ceremonies on hold while they evaluate and pray this crisis ends soon and they can once again celebrate this sacred ceremony with their entire congregations.
One pastor, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, suggested they would begin performing water baptisms by throwing buckets of water at them from 6 feet away. Maybe not all that helpful, but in such a serious time of shortages, quarantines, and social distancing, it doesn’t hurt to laugh some.
How is your church managing the challenge of baptism during social distancing? We’d love to hear from you. Click on one of our social media platforms or email us to share.