Yesterday we had the opportunity to go to the Jordan River and reaffirm our baptisms. Let me start off by saying that the Jordan River was not what I had expected. I had always pictured it as a wide river with almost clear water. Oh was I mistaken! While it may be wide or clear at some points, it is very narrow at the spot traditionally recognized as where Jesus was baptized. As you will see from our pictures and video the river was narrow enough that we could have easily swam over to Jordan if it were not for the fence in the middle of the river.
Before entering the water we read the story of Jesus’ baptism and prayed together.
Then Fr. Mike (our chaplain) led us in renewing our baptismal covenant and invited each of us to interact with the water as we wanted to. Some people fully immersed themselves in the water, others went in to their knees, and still others just got their feet wet. With each person Fr. Mike made the sign of the cross on our foreheads and reminded us that we are “sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.”
I was especially looking forward to our time at the Jordan River for two reasons. The first reason is that we know without a doubt that this is the river that Jesus was baptized in. All of the holy sites we are visiting on this pilgrimage have to do with Jesus’ life and ministry, and most have churches built on top of the places that Christian tradition has honored. I have prayed in these places and felt connected with the many pilgrims that have been there before me. But being in this water was when I felt most connected to Jesus and felt my call as priest and wife reaffirmed as well. The second reason is that as the person who prepares children and their families for baptism, I spend a lot of time talking about what being baptized means and why we have baptisms during public services. Reaffirming our baptismal covenant with one another has bonded the 18 pilgrims and 3 leaders together into cohesive group. With more reflection, I hope to add some of what we experienced into how I prepare families at Saint James for baptism.