Stranger Than Fiction

Stranger Than Fiction August 8, 2007


baptismal icebaptismal iceBaptismal IceBaptismal IceI had the passing thought once that maybe I should try my hand at writing fiction.

But then, I thought, “What could I possibly make up that is weirder than my real life?”

Last Sunday we held a baptism. I love baptisms. I especially loved this one because it was the baptism of someone dear to me.

Administrative matters run pretty smoothly around here, mostly thanks to Paul our Church Administrator, but, as you might guess, this does not keep my Type A personality from kicking in as it did Saturday night when, pretty late, I called Paul at home just to double, triple check that the baptistery was full.

(For those of you who sprinkle you may not be aware: it takes several hours to fill up that big tub, you know.)

Paul calmly and kindly (while no doubt rolling his eyes) explained to me that, as I already knew, the baptistery is still leaking (that’s another blog altogether). Since the leak is temporarily fixed until the plumber can permanently fix it (when we have extra money in the church budget hahahahahahaha!), Paul felt it was safer to hedge our bets and fill the baptistery Sunday morning. Staff would be in, he told me, before 8 to begin filling the tank.

With that reassurance comforting me I was able to fall back asleep, rise early on Sunday morning and set off for church as usual.

While I trust Paul with (most of) my heart and mind and soul, I fully admit I went up first to the sanctuary where I saw with my own eyes that Paul was correct and water was filling in the tank.

And not that I obsess about things, but I just happened later to wander back into the sanctuary again around 10 am and stroll nonchalantly past the baptistery. Glancing at the water while trying to act like I was not checking on things I noticed something strange.

First, the tub was filled only about 1 foot of water.

And second, the water was not running.


It was me, then, who was running . . . to find a staff member who knows how to turn the baptistery faucet on.

When I found Demy, the man in charge of the water, he explained to me that there was a problem and he’d had to turn the water off. Remember when we replaced the hot water heater a few weeks ago, he asked? Installation went very well. It was the regulation of the temperature that was, sadly, overlooked.

So . . . the water pouring into the baptistery, he explained, was hot.

Scalding, really.

And there was no way to adjust temperature at this time. He felt it was better, then, to turn the water off and let it cool.

I said that I didn’t think it would work to baptize someone in less than a foot of water. Well, very easily, anyway. And, though not personally trained in the intricacies of plumbing, at my house when the water runs a long time, I told him, the hot water runs out and then it gets cold (and people who take showers after you get really mad).

“Turn the water back on!” I said (with desperation). “Please!”

And so he did.

And the water did not get cold.

So, imagine this:  it is 10:45 and worship begins in 15 minutes. There are already people in the pews. The baptistery, while not full, has a little more than two feet of water in it now and can probably be used for a baptism.

If the individuals in the water, of course, don’t mind 3rd degree burns.

(Did they teach us about this in seminary?  No.  Just add it to the list.)

It was into this urgent situation that my friend and fellow church member Amy Dale swooped to the rescue. Peering with me over the edge of the baptistery (and receiving a steamy facial in the process) she said: “Hey, Amy, don’t we have an ice machine in the kitchen?”

And so it was that Amy and I found ourselves rolling a metal cart laden with big stock pots filled with ice into the sanctuary. I said to Amy that the only way we could pull this off (AT 5 MINUTES BEFORE WORSHIP STARTED, PLEASE NOTE) was to march up on the dais holding the pots, maintain very holy and thoughtful expressions, and dump the ice right in the baptistery as if we were celebrating the holy rite of the baptismal ice.

(What?  Never heard of it?  What kind of Christian are you?)

Amy was a trooper. Both of us managed to proceed looking very, very holy (which is quite unusual in itself). And worship began.

When it came time for the actual baptism I have to say: it was pretty darned toasty in that pool–but not quite scalding, thanks be to God. Since the water was still too low I had to work extra hard to get Mary up (but, I was thinking reassuringly to myself: “She grew up in Florida! She knows how to swim!” . . . and she did eventually get to the surface), but in the end all baptisms were complete and no one needed an ambulance for either drowning or burns.

And then, after it was all said and done, I spent most of the afternoon sitting in front of the fan and wondering to myself: “How it is that my real life is stranger than fiction?”

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