Eight-year-old Delton Taylor, son of Charlie and Courtney Taylor, was baptized May 31 at FBC Silas by Pastor Randy Byrd. Delton made a profession of faith just as the coronavirus hit and had to wait to be baptized.

Alabamians find creative ways to keep people from waiting months for baptism

When 94-year-old Eunice Case knew it was time to be baptized, it didn’t matter to her that a global pandemic was taking place.

Before the COVID-19 crisis hit, Paul Brasher, pastor of New Hope Baptist Church, Pell City, had been preaching at the retirement home where Case lives.

“I’ve known Mrs. Eunice a little while,” he said. “She called me after COVID hit and said, ‘I want you to know something. You were preaching a few months back, and I realized I never got baptized. It was never really emphasized in the churches I was in.’”

Case had been thinking on that, and around the same time, she was also diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Brasher said she told him she didn’t know how much time she had left, and she wanted to do it as quickly as she could as a witness to her family.

So Brasher contacted Joe Karr, pastor of Cook Springs Baptist Church, Pell City, a nearby church that didn’t have as many stairs to the baptistry as New Hope. They met on a Wednesday afternoon with members of Case’s family, sang a little, spoke a few words and baptized Case just as she wanted.

“It was really neat,” Brasher said. “She called it a recognition of what had happened in her heart. It made her feel like she did what she was supposed to do.”

All over the state during the COVID-19 crisis, churches have found creative ways to keep people from waiting months for baptism, if that’s what they desired.

Clinton Branch, pastor of Old Providence Baptist Church, Goodwater, got a text in the middle of those weeks of social distancing from a young man asking if they could talk — and talk now.

Couldn’t just sit still

And Branch couldn’t say no.

Before the COVID-19 restrictions, the man had come occasionally to services at Old Providence. But when the church pressed pause on meeting in person, he watched the church’s messages streamed on Facebook, and he found he couldn’t just sit still.

“He sent me a text one day and asked if I would come by and talk to him because he had a lot of questions, and of course my answer was yes,” Branch said. “I knew that he was really searching for some answers.”

Profession of faith

So Branch went over that day — a Friday — after the young man got off work, and the two men spent three hours in Bible study and conversation.

“As a result of that, he gave his life to the Lord,” Branch said.

And when they talked about baptism, the young man said he didn’t want to wait until the church was back meeting together again. So the following Monday, they gathered a few of his friends and family for a small baptism ceremony there at the church.

“I told him, ‘If you don’t want to wait, I don’t want to wait,’” Branch said.

First Baptist Church, Chickasaw, also baptized a young woman who heard the gospel through the church’s ministry on Facebook. Pastor Reid Guy baptized her one day at the church in a small group setting, then they played the video back during the church’s livestreamed Sunday service.

In a similar setting, First Baptist Church, Silas, recently baptized 8-year-old Delton Taylor in the church baptistry after outdoor revival services there.

And Jim Tate — pastor of Memphis Baptist Church, Dothan — helped take the baptistry to the Baptist Village, a ministry of the Alabama Baptist Retirement Centers, when a resident wanted to be baptized but wasn’t able to leave.

Tate said Marie Cook, manager of the Baptist Village, called him and “said she had a gentleman there who had been asking questions about baptism.”

“He got together with Marie and Shelby Battles, a member of our church who works there, and they talked with him about salvation,” Tate said. “They became convinced that he had received Christ, that there had been a demonstration of God’s work in his life in that he realized he’d never followed through with believer’s baptism.”

Unusual challenge

But bringing baptism to Larry Stokes was going to be an unusual challenge, Tate said.

“He’s on oxygen and limited in how he’s able to get around,” he said.

Even so, Stokes was determined — and because of that, so were Tate and Cook. Tate talked to a local supply store, and they sent him away with a trough he could use out on the Baptist Village’s patio.

Cook and Battles heated water and filled it up little by little, then they fitted Stokes with a mask and helped him into the makeshift baptismal pool.

“It was just a special, special time,” Tate said. “He was able to identify with the body of Christ, and that was so important to him.”

At Bethel Baptist Church, Jones, some church members who were also volunteer firefighters came to the rescue with a giant water tank from the fire department.

Water tank baptism

“We had a young man who had gotten saved, and he said, ‘I just want to be baptized,’” said Regina Coburn, whose husband, Rob, formerly served there as pastor. “Because we were out of the building during the COVID-19 crisis, we thought, ‘How are we going to get this young man baptized?’”

When the firefighters in the congregation mentioned the station’s water tank, she pictured a dunk tank, she said — but what they showed up with was something that held 3,000 gallons of water. They filled it up right there on the baseball field where the church was conducting drive-in services, and Rob Coburn baptized the young man — Dylan Pairrett — on the first base line. As he came up out of the water, church members honked their car horns.

And when they were finished, the firefighters just pumped the water right back into the truck.

“It was a very special day,” Regina Coburn said. “And it was a very creative way to do it that worked out great.”

River baptisms

And at Siloam Baptist Church, Marion, they just made use of something they already had in their back pocket — river baptisms. For the past eight or nine years, at some point during the year they’ve made their way down to the Cahaba River for a baptismal service.

COVID-19 just gave them an even more convenient reason.

“It went beautifully and wonderfully well,” Pastor John Nicholson said of the day they baptized two young women. “It was a joyful day for us.”