Posted on 09 June 2010.
Jett Reynolds, 11, of Runaway Bay, waded into the gently lapping waters of Lake Bridgeport last Sunday.
HOLY WATER - Runaway Bay Community Church held service on the water followed by baptisms last Sunday at Lake Bridgeport. Pastor Ollin Collins, right, lifts a drenched Kelly Kimbrough. Kimbrough wanted to "re-confirm" his faith before going to Alaska for the Air Force. Messenger photo by Joe Duty
A preacher stood waist deep in brown water. The congregation from Runaway Bay Community Church gathered on the sandy, beige shore under a bright, late morning sun.
Preacher Ollin Collins recited a brief prayer and immersed the child in the cool water. He quickly resurfaced, dripping like a fountain, sending ripples through the calm current.
“This is the outward expression of an inward happening,” Collins said. “As you start under the water, you are non-verbally saying you choose the Lord. Baptism means you choose Jesus to live in your life.”
Jett’s little brother Jonathan, 4, splashed ankle-deep after Collins had finished a series of baptisms.
“Jonathan is the only member of our family who hasn’t been baptized this way yet,” said his mother, Carrie Reynolds. “We want to wait until he is old enough to make his own choice.”
Jonathan is fortunate to have made it this far. In a sense, he’s already been born again.
“He was born with only half a heart,” Reynolds said. “He didn’t have the left two chambers. He was fine until he was 2, but then it started giving him serious problems and he had to receive a new heart.”
He was on a waiting list for five months before a heart became available. He underwent surgery in Houston. His mother remembers the successful completion of the procedure down to the minute.
“His new heart started beating at 4:32 a.m. on Jan. 7, 2008,” she said.
The only thing they know about the heart is it came from a 5-year-old girl.
Despite having a different story, Kelly Kimbrough entered the waters for the same reason as Jett.
“I just wanted to confirm my faith,” Kimbrough said.
Kimbrough is preparing to leave for Anchorage, Alaska, to report for duty in the Air Force. He’s served for 17 years as a reserve. He went back in after 9/11.
Before the baptisms began, the congregation gathered for a sermon on the water. Ten boats, each one brimming with church members, were tied together within sight of the Runaway Bay bridge.
He said the purpose of this different preaching approach was to create “a non-conventional way to get people to come to church.”
“This is definitely a non-traditional church,” said Tiffany Harrison. “That’s why I come to Runaway Bay Community Church. Because we’re allowed to do things like this.”
WATER WONDER - Jonathan Reynolds, 4, watches water drip from his fingers like rivulets. Jonathan, who was born with half a heart, is the only member of his family who has not yet been baptized in the lake. His mother, Carrie, is waiting until he's old enough to make his own decision. Messenger photo by Joe Duty
Surrounded by water, hills and trees, the sermon started in a brilliant environment.
“This is a first for us,” Collins said to the congregation seated in the array of bobbing boats. “We’ve never done this before.
“It was rumored we were going to have a wet T-shirt contest,” he joked, “but the guys didn’t want to do it.”
Collins then straightened his face and pulled out a pocket Bible. He went into his sermon, focusing on the story of Jesus walking on the water through a storm.
“Imagine the lake waters are like the life you live,” he said. “When the lake is smooth, we don’t always think about Jesus even though he’s with us all the time. But when the water is choppy, it’s easier to look to him.
“In the troubled times, keep your eyes on Jesus and not on the troubles.”
The sermon was analogous to the church. The church focuses on the Bible and the word of God, and not the particulars of its members.
“This church is full of sinners,” said music minister John Webster. “We believe God loves everyone, including sinners, and we encourage them to attend.”