Guest post today from my mother-in-law, Vivian. As most of you know, she lives in Kenya, and she attended an African baptism service the other day. Her houseworker's youngest son Kevin was baptized during this service. She writes:
About the baptism. It was quite a sight. Florence (their houseworker) said that they were at church all night praying and repenting, so that when they came to the river this morning, they would be clean. They like to baptize in a stream, because they like to think of their sins being washed away and flowing down stream. They had dammed up the stream to make a pool about waist deep. One of the pastors told us that they baptize one time a year--in October--because that is when it falls for their liturgical calendar. He also stressed that it is a once in a life event and that it must be by immersion.
When we arrived, the congregation was already by the stream and the 5 pastors (maybe elders as well?) who were going to do the baptisms were already in the water. They were holding hands and jumping and dancing in the water. There were drums being played on the shore, and everyone was singing and swaying. The baptismal candidates were lined up on the shore. All but one were teens or adults. As they approached the water, the candidates would begin to dance a sort of back and forth shuffle. The banks of the stream are very steep, so they had one man on the bank helping people into the water and another I dubbed the catcher in the water to steady them in the current. Once in the water, the catcher would hold on to them and sort of pull them back and forth while also guiding them to the 2 who would do the baptizing. The 2 who were doing the baptizing would be on either side of the person, holding on to the shoulders and arms. Then in a rather violent jerk the person would be backwards into the water and then right back up. As he came up, there was another person I called the wiper with a towel to wipe his face. Then he was handed off to the booster (my word) who would help boost the person up the opposite shore from where he went in. There were strong men on the bank to pull. From the top of the bank to the water was probably about 5-6 feet. Then they were hurried into the tall reeds to be helped to change into dry clothes.