Factoring in the tide, temperature and the fading light isn’t the usual setting for a church baptism.
But that was the case for Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church, which held a multi-person public baptism last week at the Old Town Dock in Gig Harbor Bay. The event, held at 8 p.m. Aug. 18 with daylight receding, was associated with the church’s year of Jubilee, which celebrates 50 years in the community.
“The idea of a public baptism was thrown out at a leadership meeting, and we ran with it,” assistant pastor Larry Hackman said. “The concept of Jubilee is freedom. The idea of open water, open air and an open invitation to the community seemed fitting.”
Twenty people signed up to be fully submerged in Puget Sound. Inviting the church and community to watch ceremony, the result surpassed what was expected. More spectators, fully clothed, accepted the call to be baptized than was originally intended, putting the number about 50 participants.
“People curious about the crowds followed us down to the dock to see what was going on,” longtime church member Delaney Harmond said. “It was wonderful seeing the streams of people in their street clothes, coming down to the water to accept the call to be baptized and join in.”
Harmond was baptized many years ago in the Jordan River’s open water.
“This water was cleaner but much colder than my baptism,” she said.
Hackman estimated the crowd at more than 200 spectators, many from the church but also community members who watched the momentous event.
The open-water baptism was the first for Chapel Hill church.
“This was an invitation to all of Gig Harbor to celebrate being part of the community,” Hackman said. “It was a unique opportunity for us being in Gig Harbor because of where we live and the surroundings.”
Hackman enjoyed the boats in the harbor that gathered to watch and honk in celebration as people went into the water.
“It created a memorable scene unique to Gig Harbor,” he said.
Chapel Hill will turn 50 on Nov. 17. The church has hosted many events as a thank you for its community support.Lifestyles Coordinator Kim Eibel can be reached at 253-358-4152 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.