German Christians celebrate Baptism Day
Baptism services will be held across Germany on Saturday. According to the Protestant Church, the sacrament of baptism is at the heart of the Christian faith. And this is especially important in these uncertain times.
Sabine is looking forward to Saturday. Then, the 52-year-old from Germany will be baptised. Not in a church, as usual, but in the river Elbe. “I was afraid to take this step in front of my parish”, she says, according to the Protestant Press Office(EPD). That is why she goes to the larger and more anonymous baptismal ceremony in Arneburg in Eastern Germany. “The thought of a river baptism has charm and a special appeal.”
She is not the only one who will be baptised on Saturday. Across Germany, the German Protestant Church (EKD) is celebrating its first national Baptism Day. In numerous places in Germany, people are baptised, or services are held in which people commemorate and celebrate having once been baptised.
The EKD site features videos of baptisms. Pastors and baptised people discuss what baptism and baptismal ministry mean. “Baptism is the core of the Christian faith,” says Annette Kurschus, president of the EKD council. “In it, God promises man on his head to guide him throughout his life.” The council president said this promise is of particular importance in uncertain times.
The baptismal services and celebrations to which the EKD invites people are “also aimed at those who did not have the opportunity to celebrate baptism during the corona years,” the German church reported.
Sabine already knew for a long time that she wanted to be baptised. “Faith was always there in our family, but my mother left the church after personal disappointments,” she says. Nevertheless, faith was talked about in the family. And last year, after some personal issues, she decided to go through with the baptism.
According to Janette Obara, a pastor in Arneburg, the river Elbe is an ideal location for baptisms. “It comes very close to the biblical testimony”, she says to the EPD.
It will be the first time Arneburg celebrates a baptismal festival on the Elbe. A service will be held, and a gospel choir will perform. According to Obara, over forty people registered to be baptised. “Everything is represented, from babies to those over 50.”
That image rises from across Germany. The website deinetaufe.de features a map of Germany showing hundreds of congregations participating in the national baptism day. People interested can click on a place to see the activities.
The site reads: “You are loved! That is God’s promise to every human child. Baptism confirms this: whether small children are baptised, adults or young people for confirmation - through baptism, it is promised to them all: You belong to Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ has redeemed you,” the church states.
The initiative for a national baptism day was partly prompted, the EKD says, by the Protestant church’s continuing high membership loss. According to preliminary figures, 19,150,000 people belonged to one of the EKD’s 20-member churches on 31 December 2022. This is about 2.9 per cent less than in the previous year. During the last year, the decline was 2.6 per cent.
The number of people who left the church was 380,000, about a third higher than in the same period last year. However, there was a significant increase of 37 per cent in baptisms compared to the previous year. At 165,000 baptised, the number is back to pre-corona levels.
Sabine wants to savour the river baptism. “I will stand in water up to my knees. Our pastor will pour the baptismal water over my head with his hands,” says the 52-year-old. That reminds her of the baptism in the Jordan as it is handed down in the Bible. She has only one concern: “I hope I don’t fall into the water”. According to Pastor Obara, some people to be baptised will even do this voluntarily: the very courageous can fall backwards in the deeper Elbe water and submerge completely.
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