The church hosted its Great Vigil of Easter service Saturday evening. Attendees entered the sanctuary holding candles, which provided the only light for the ceremony until infants were baptized. After that, bright light filled the room and bells rang inside and outside the church.
The light also reveals hundreds of flowers decorating the sanctuary, a contrast from two days earlier, when the altar was stripped of all ornaments as part of Good Friday services.
“We transition from the darkness into the full brightness of Easter celebration,” said the Rev. Daron Vroom, associate rector at St. James’. “The way we get to that is through baptism. Baptism brings us from the dark into the light.”
While some denominations are known for baptizing adults, the Episcopal Church primarily baptizes infants and young children. St. James’ senior rector the Rev. Roger D. Allen said baptism is a gift from God, rather than something that is earned.
“We believe infants, no less than us, should be able to share in the covenant God has made for us,” Allen said. “We are human beings, requiring food and sustenance even before we know what food and sustenance are. We, as infants, have no less need for God in our lives as adults, even though we may not know what it means.”
The Book of Common Prayer, used by Episcopals and members of other churches that come from the Anglican faith, says that infants are baptized to allow them to share membership in Christ and be redeemed by God. While it requires infants to renounce Satan, repent their sins and accept Jesus Christ as their savior, it allows for parents to make the promises on the condition that they raise the children in the church.
The baptisms highlight several days of services from Maundy Thursday until today.
“They’re all different,” Carroll Ann Putzel of Marietta, a member at St. James’ since 1972, said of the services. “The Easter vigil is lovely and very beautiful when you’re lighting the church with your candle. They are all beautiful.”
While St. James’ uses a ladle to drop water on a baby’s head, other churches go for full body immersion.
The Rev. Bill Ross, senior pastor at First Baptist Church Marietta, said Easter is a great time for baptisms because it allows others to follow Christ’s lead in resurrection.
“It’s symbolic that the sins are washed away, and we are resurrected into a new life,” said Ross, who plans to have baptisms at First Baptist’s 11 a.m. service today.
The Rev. Ike Reighard, senior pastor at Piedmont Church, said his church is too busy on Easter Sunday, when the 9:30 and 11 a.m. services draw around 2,000 people, to have baptisms. But he likes the idea of baptisms on Easter so much that he baptized his two daughters on the holy day.
“I think it’s a wonderful tradition,” he said. “It is something we do on occasion. I think it’s a tremendous opportunity, the date certainly sticks in your mind.”
While many churches have images of baptisms in a river, Ross said he will use the church’s indoor immersion pool today. But it does have outdoor baptisms at First Baptist’s property on Lake Allatoona — usually during warmer times of year. He does recall an exception in October.
“I remember it was a cold day, I had a young couple in their 20s or early 30s, and they wanted to be baptized in the water,” he said.