To say that yesterdays baptism/church service at Avila Beach didn’t go as planned would be an understatement. Since I had several people inquiring about what happened I thought I would explain and share with you what led up to one of the most memorable baptisms in Calvary SLO’s history.
11:00 am Moments prior to starting, two Police officers responding to a complaint told us that we had to completely unplug everything, and that we were not allowed to use any amplification above a 6 inch speaker. Even though I (and pastor James) attempted to explain that we had been doing baptisms here on this same weekend for almost 10 years with no problems or complaints, they politely held to their orders. Then the officers kindly allowed me to speak via amplification for 5 minutes to rally our people and quickly adjust our plans on the fly.
11:05 am Using my 5 minute window of amplified sound I told the multiple hundreds of people that were stretched over the beach that plans have been altered. Part of that last minute adjustment would involve getting everyone to cram in under the overpass forming a circle around the worship leaders so as to create our own makeshift acoustical amplification of concrete and human bodies…which worked pretty well!
11:15 am Hundreds of people laid hands on and prayed out loud for those who were going to be baptized. Then the songs of worship began. The singing was so loud and beautiful, how any could remain unmoved would be a mystery. Several people commented afterwards on how it felt like a “big intimate living room” where everyone was part of the same family and experience.
11:35 am We mobilized all the people to waters edge where everyone attempted to catch a glimpse of the many who were baptized. Due to the large amount of people swarming the coast and the almost debilitating chill of the water it was difficlut to think, let alone count, how many people were baptized. Conservatively, I would estimate that it was over 40 people.
Looking back over the day, I realized that due to my befuddlement in having to modify everything on the fly and the concern that I wouldn’t be heard anyway, I failed to unpack the reason for baptism (though we did have abundant information provided online prior).
So for those who had questions as to what we were doing, here it is:
Jesus changes lives by raising us to life from the grave of our sin, and baptism puts this reality on visible display. The water represents the grave in which one goes down, only to be raised to life out of it – like a new birth! Baptism presents the redemptive and transformative work of Jesus in a way that sermons, poetry and songs simply can’t. And for those who took the plunge, they will never forget the chilling shock of their immersion into the cold water and the exhilarating joy of rising out of it. The beautiful message of baptism quite simply is Jesus saves.
The baptism on Memorial Day Weekend 2013 will be in my memory as the most unexpectedly blessed baptism to date. Also, here are some of the Instagram photos that many of you uploaded and hashtagged #calvaryslo.