What a spectacle to see the new Anglican Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, immersing four people in a specially erected open-air pool this Easter morning. This 8am service in the cold wind was watched by 300 people but it also received extensive coverage in major British newspapers. I saw it from the Middle East on television news. The Archbishop stood knee deep in water and immersed each of the adults outside the York church St Michael-le-Belfrey.
This was reported as being something new for Anglicans but John Setamu said it has been an option for Anglicans for years. Church officials who were interviewed said the ancient service symbolised death by drowning as the adults went under the water and a reunion with Jesus Christ in his resurrection when they emerged.
When asked to explain the watery drama Dr Sentamu said Christian commitment is "a matter of life and death – [it is] that serious." He should know. He said in a BBC interview ‘Have Your Say’, also on Easter Sunday, that he was a marked man during the brutal regime of Uganda’s former dictator, Idi Amin.
The four members of the congregation were greeted with applause and cheered before being offered towels when they emerged from the inflatable pool. One of those baptised and confirmed at the Easter morning service was 19-year-old Emily Swiatek, from Derby. "It's been fantastic," she said. "It's an amazing congregation here, I felt so welcomed into the church. Baptism signified the initial step of following Jesus but the presence of the joyful congregation, the applause and the welcome indicated that the new life isn’t to be lived on one’s own.
As she emerged from the water and still dripping Emily said, "I think the message is, 'Don't be ashamed of your faith, don't be ashamed of being a Christian, or any other religion.' Show what you are and do it publicly."
Image: Dr John Sentamu baptises Emily Swiatek in York (courtesy of BBC)
Source: BBC News, 16/4/06