We All Belong
My only comfort in life and death is that I am not my own but belong, with body and soul, to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.
As a female clergy leader in Christian church spaces that seemingly hate girls and women, as an African descended person in a country that assuredly despises Black and Brown folk, baptism and belonging are deeply meaningful to me, and I want everyone I encounter to get a little water on them.
I want all people to feel a sense of belonging because of how I move in the world.
May I always move in the world as someone who belongs to Jesus and works to make spaces of belonging for all God’s people.
I come at this topic hard because too many Christians live as if the tenants of baptism are fuzzy.
Though we profess belonging, we practice exclusion.
Though we use the language of family, we cast others out.
Though we are instructed to steward the planet, we destroy our home daily.
To live out the promises of baptism for a lifetime is recommit daily to staying wet.
The healing power of water gets me every time, whether I’m soaking in the bath, scuba diving in the ocean, or welcoming another person into the visible membership of the church.
In my Reformed tradition, we say, “water cleanses; purifies; refreshes; sustains; Jesus Christ is living water.”
As followers of Jesus, what does it mean for us to be the cleansing, purifying, refreshing, sustaining water in our communities and with our neighbors?
Our baptism is supposed to drench everybody!
Early in the Covid lockdown of 2020, my church could not serve the hungry neighbors who came to the weekly food pantry.
Sacred distancing made staying wet challenging.
Thinking creatively about how to continue the necessary work of food justice led us to leave food bins on the church steps, which eventually led to a partnership hosting the Brooklyn Heights Community Fridge. (https://www.instagram.com/brooklynheightscommunityfridge/)
More than anything, baptism teaches me that water is for everyone; it is primarily here for those we consider least likely to dive in.
I’ve gotten in the water with a mom and her kids who aren’t church people but who came to sing Christmas carols and share soup because of the fridge.
I swim regularly in the waters of baptism with Jewish seniors in my dance class at the local gym.
Rita and Miriam and all these 80-somethings think it’s marvelous that the neighborhood is working together to feed people.
I surf baptism water to land in the pulpit of my local synagogue and Rabbi Serge rides those same waves to stand in my church pulpit.
If you’re thinking, “those folks will never covert to Christianity,” you’re probably right but because they got wet, they can no longer say they don’t know the Jesus that lives in me.
Because of my baptism, they belong too, and that, for me, is a comfort.
The community I live in and partner with exists inside and outside the church walls.
We are hungry people for authentic and vulnerable relationships with one another and sometimes with God.
What I know to be true, after nearly six years of service, is that water still cleanses, purifies, refreshes, and sustains.
Baptism touches lives outside the pews, beyond the walls, and in the street.
The kingdom is coming. In their beautiful diversity, it looks like all of God’s children, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, class, politics, religion, or theology.
Together we set tables where folks are loved and fed. And we all get a little water on us.
Find out how much you belong in God’s world by participating in the Baptism and Belonging: Creating, Becoming and Being beloved Community course April 26-29.
Rev. Adriene Thorne, is a co-facilitator of the Baptism and Belonging course and serves as senior minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, NY.