Wednesday, August 22, 2007


While all of North American Christendom is discussing baptism, allow me to contribute a somewhat lighter discussion topic: What's the most bizarre baptismal plumbing that you have confronted? When I served at First Baptist Church, Mill Creek, OK, I found quite a riddle facing me upon the occasion of my first baptism—how to get water into the baptistry. The fixture itself was constructed from pieces of plywood into a simple box rather than the molded fiberglass installations often encountered. A three-foot painting ladder had been sawn in half at its apex, the back portion discarded and the front nailed in place to form steps down into the baptistry from stage right. At the other side, a section of garden hose snaked into the baptistry. So, I traced the hose into an anteroom, where it terminated into an outside-type water faucet threaded into the top of a water heater. Good! We'll have warm water. I opened the faucet, but nothing came out. So, I started looking around, trying to diagnose the problem. The water heater input was plumbed into a section of PVC pipe. I followed the pipe along an interior baseboard until it turned a 90° elbow and disappeared into an exterior wall. I needed to determine where the water was being obstructed. I went outside and discovered, just where the inside pipe went into the wall, an external faucet on the outside of the church. "Good," I thought to myself, "I can check to see if there is water here by turning on this faucet." But I couldn't turn on the faucet. It had been jammed. Open. But no water was coming out. Now I was really puzzled. Obviously, there was no water to this point in the plumbing, and I couldn't find any other external faucets or internal fixtures in the area to check. In fact, there were no other signs of any plumbing at all in that section of the building. The bathrooms were far away in another section of the church. I went there to make sure that I hadn't happened to start trying to fill the baptistry when the water was somehow shut off to the entire building. The sinks in the bathrooms worked just fine. Then I happened to glance up on top of the water heater in the men's bathroom. I normally didn't pay much attention to the water heater, because it didn't heat any water—it was broken. The water in the bathrooms was all cold. But there, at the pressure-release valve of the water heater, was a severed section of garden hose connected with a hose clamp and then coiled neatly atop the water heater. The moment of enlightenment dawned—surely that's not how this is supposed to work! I picked up the hose on top of the water heater and found that it terminated in a female end. Stretching it out, it was just the perfect length to go outside the bathroom, out the external door, across the church yard, and to the jammed, inactive, external faucet near the baptistry. The hose neatly attached to the faucet. Returning to the inoperative water heater, I flipped up the lever on the pressure-release valve, sending water into the hose, backwards through the external faucet, through the pipe inside, and into the water heater. A light switch inside gave power to the only working water heater in the building (except for not having a permanent supply of water). Once the heater had time to bring a tank of water up to temperature, opening the makeshift faucet on the top sent hot water into the homemade baptistry. Some things they just don't teach you in seminary.


Malcolm Yarnell said...


I have had some interesting baptismal experiences, especially with regard to temperatures.

When I became pastor at Lakeview in Shreveport, the baptistry had not been used in a while. The two years I was there we baptized about 25 people per year. Somehow, after it was repaired, the baptistry was always a sauna. The deacon in charge just could not believe that tepid water was best for baptism. (Maybe he thought it would be a reminder that hell was hotter? Or maybe his passion for the book of Revelation steered him away from anything lukewarm.)

When I moved to North Carolina and became pastor of Tabbs Creek, the baptistry had exactly the opposite problem. The heater was broken. It was only after I baptized seven young people one Sunday morning and could no longer feel my legs while I was preaching that it dawned on the responsible deacon that the heater actually needed to be fixed. I imagine the fact that several of their children explained the frigidity of the situation helped. (Of course, this particular deacon had a highly active sense of humor, and probably took some joy out of keeping the preacher's attention.)

If we could use this situation metaphorically, it is also true that I was typically in more hot water with certain segments of the first church. I suffered, and still do, from what Alan Greenspan might call "irrational exuberance" about the gospel. However, I hope I have gotten better at allowing the gospel to be the stumbling stone, rather than myself.

Thanks for the prompting of good memories. I miss preaching weekly to the same congregation and watching God work in the lives of the auditors, including that of the proclaimer, by the incredible power of His incarnated/inscripturated/intonated Word. In this way, I envy you.

In Christ,

Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Dr. Brother BB,

The DOM here in Fannin County, TX is a wonderful man named Dr. Jerry Christopher. When he was a young, inexperienced preacher, he was filling the baptistry for the first time, and forgot to put in the plug. It began to fill, but took a long time. When it was almost full, about 9:00 Sunday morning, Jerry realized the problem. While the water ran, it would stay ahead of the drain, but when he turned the water off, it would begin to empty. Brother Jerry was in his Sunday morning suit, and he was miles from home, so there was only one thing he could think of to do. He took it ALL off, dived in, and plugged in the drain plug. When he came up, he heard one of the early-arriving Sunday School ladies calling, "Brother Jerry, where are you? I'd like to tell you something."

Love in Christ,


Debbie Kaufman said...

Bart: You have a wonderful sense of humor. These stories are good and I'm sure that laughter being the best medicine, is doing it's job today. At least it is on me.

joerstewart said...

I remember the water being so hot we were carrying ice from the local convenience store to try and cool it down.

CB Scott said...

About thirty or so years ago an old preacher in Kentucky told some of us preacher boys a story about a preacher and baptism.

It seems that the baptismal pool in that particular church was rather high above and behind the choir loft. Long staircases from the choir loft went up into the changing rooms on both sides of the baptismal pool.

After a baptism the preacher and a "newly baptized" member of the church were dressing in the men's changing room. The new member slipped and fell backward on the wet floor. He fell against the preacher who was just stepping into dry pants.

The preacher was knocked out the door, right down the staircase, into the soprano section. The preacher jumped up and ran out the side door of the church.

A week later he sent a letter of resignation to the church and never came back.

The church bought wadders for the next preacher to use to avoid such an event in the future.

That was told for a true story. The son of the storyteller now teaches at NOBTS.


Jeff Richard Young said...

Dear Brother Dr. BB,

When I first heard the story about the first group of Particular Baptists who were baptized in the Thames in January 1641/42, it did not dawn on me until later what the temperature of air and water must have been in January in London!

Having grown up in SBC churches, I have always knows indoor, heated baptistries. Now I am pastoring a church that meets in a sanctuary built long ago by the Methodists. Guess what kind of baptistry we have---none! So, we have been baptizing in the nearby lake.

We are also committed to baptizing new converts on the same day they profess faith in Christ. I have only been here since April, so our baptisms have all taken place in pleasant weather. But our commitment may be tested if someone is born again this coming January!

Love in Christ,


Ron P. said...


Your post reminded me of when I came to Christ as child (January 17th, 1973). The church did not have a baptistry, so they used the Baptist Camp's lake that was just down the road. They did wait though, because there (Illinois) we had snow and very cold weather. We moved to another church, before it warmed up, but this congregation was so poor, they could not afford to fill the baptistry. So it was more than a year before I was baptized.


Ron P.

Geoff Baggett said...

Actually, we're facing that "plumbing" issue right now. This Sunday we are having baptism on our church land, under our new pavilion. The only problem is ... no water. We have a large galvanized cattle trough in place, and we had hoped that one of our farmers or farm workers could haul water to fill it up. But, alas, no one has the equipment.

So this morning one of our guys stopped by the local volunteer fire department and told them about the problem ... and right now, at this very moment, the fire truck is out there filling our very humble, country "baptistery."

Indeed, God does work in mysterious ways! :)

Bart Barber said...

Dr. Yarnell,

I have another funny story about REALLY hot water, but I'll share it another time. I think most of us have been there. That's why I thought this would make an engaging topic.

Bart Barber said...


Yikes! Unfortunately for him, some stories people are unlikely to believe, even if true.

Bart Barber said...


These things are so funny because so many of us share similar experiences in common. There is indeed much that binds us together.

Bart Barber said...


It takes an awful lot of ice to make a difference, doesn't it?

Bart Barber said...

Bro. C.B.,

Does the "man speech" address his behavior anywhere? :-) Thanks for the story.

Bart Barber said...



Bart Barber said...


Aren't you glad you aren't Campbellite? ;-)

Bart Barber said...


I'm glad that you guys worked things out. In the words of the Ethiopian, "Here is water..."