The feast of the Baptism of Our Lord takes place on January 13 this year, and at the 10:30 a.m. service we’ll be privileged to baptize the children of one of our new families. The feast provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on the beautiful symbolism of our newly restored baptistry.
Pools of color: You will notice how the baptistry’s clear and colored glass looks a lot like the surface of water, with pools of light created by the sun. As we stand inside the baptistry, our perspective is one of being underwater. The colors from the surface of the water pass through and strike the floor or—if you will—the bottom of the river.
The walls and floor: The walls and floor enhance our sense of being underwater, especially as they are painted a blue-green color. As Jesus was submerged and held under water at his baptism, so in baptism we participate in his death. The colors move with the sun and pass across the floor and up the wall, creating a sense of moving water.
A rainbow: The colors not only suggest light reflected underwater, they also remind us of the great rainbow of Noah. The bow in the sky was God’s covenant to sustain life for all time. The rainbow in the baptistry speaks of God’s promise to Noah, but even more powerfully proclaims Jesus’ resurrection. The two covenants overlap when the colored light illuminates the resurrection figure in the Mark Adams tapestry.
The Resurrection Tapestry: The tapestry rounds out the features of the baptistry. It’s almost as if the baptistry, designed by Mr. Adams in the 1960′s, was waiting all these years for his tapestry to be hung on the north wall. For the symbolism of dying with Christ in baptism is now complemented by the image of resurrection. Jesus was submerged in baptism and then resurfaced to breathe again. His emergence from the waters of baptism prefigured his emergence from the tomb at Easter.
The baptistry as a separate space: Finally, the baptistry is clearly a separate feature, having been added in memory of Polly C. Firestone about fifteen years after the church was constructed. After his baptism, Jesus turned his back on the river, gathered followers, and began his earthly ministry; likewise, after our baptism, we leave the River Jordan, and immediately enter into the life of the community. This is enacted as the baptized step into the nave and immediately participate in Holy Communion. Then, as part of the anointed, they are sent into the world to bring God’s message to all people.
The feast of Jesus’ baptism takes place on the first Sunday after the Epiphany, and the remaining Sundays of this season tell the story of the Light of Christ shining in powerful ways. We will enjoy the baptistry through Epiphany, but during Lent the tapestry will be taken away to be cleaned. During Easter we will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony through the Chamber of Commerce to give thanks for both the baptistry and the tapestry, and for Mark Adams, whose faith and artistic expression brings to life the meaning of baptism. Furthermore, the E. Mark Adams and Beth Van Hoesen Adams Trust also generously donated a rose window designed by Mr. Adams, and we hope to display the window panels during the season of Epiphany.