Waterslide Baptisms

I’d do it! Because joy isn’t sin. Joy is what faith is all about.

Satirical new website Babylon Bee made a joke article a few years back that Elevation Church had a waterslide instead of a baptismal service.

And everyone thought it was real and made memes saying, “The church can’t get any further away from the teachings of Jesus… oh wait!”

And it went viral enough this year for me to think, some people resonate with faith being very consumeristic and entertainment driven, I get all of that.

I was chatting to someone at church about this, and they asked (I think this is a good question),

We sing the Christmas song Angels We Have Heard on High, and the gloria has about 20 notes in it.  What’s the purpose of that?  Glo-o-o-o-o-o…. It’s all just for fun.  It’s just for entertainment — pointing toward a beautiful scripture.  Like a waterslide pointing toward the joy of baptism.  That’s all it is.

And my church probably can’t afford one, and probably wouldn’t use it often enough, but if you ever want to be baptised on a waterslide, and you can organise the logistics, I’m the pastor you should contact, I think it’s a great idea! 

Because: joy isn’t a sin, joy is an attribute of God, and it’s a fruit of the Holy Spirit, But sometimes, we have an attitude that says faith and spirituality can’t be fun, and I love pushing the boundaries.

That’s why I’d do it.

If you want to celebrate your marriage, your faith, your newborn child, your new identity… and you want it to be fun, I’m your celebrant! Check out what I offer right here. Or just enquire with me directly at karlhandcelebrant@gmail.com, and we’ll get something set up!

Celebrating a New Identity

“I’ll always remember a moment during the baptism renewal.  Karl was pouring water onto my head, which was streaming down my face. I was laughing and felt so alive, and then I caught Karl’s eye and saw him enjoying the moment as much as I was.” ~ River Gmur

We know the importance of publicly acknowledging someone’s name and identity.  This often happens when a child is born, at a christening or a naming ceremony.  But if not, we still feel the significance of that the moment when family and friends first meet the new baby.  They say, “hi there, little Emma”, and the child is recognised as a member of the community.

Someone’s identity can change over the course of life.  “I’ve gone by a lot of names in my life,” River told me.  “A few years ago, I knew I needed a non-gendered name, and I came to understand that God was leading me to the name River – which was also an image for understanding myself.”  

When an adult is in this position, we don’t yet have many culturally appropriate ways of publicly celebrating it.  This leaves some wondering whether their new identity is “real”.  

River describes how this can feel, “For legal reasons I had to wait two years before I could legally change my name to River.  But even then, the change didn’t always feel real to me.  I would have moments when I wasn’t quite sure who I was, what my name was. I wanted a naming ceremony where I would be given the name River so that I could experience it as something solid and permanent – as a name and as an identity.”

River’s baptism is still meaningful to her, so we decided to use a renewal of baptism vows.  It would recognise that the original ceremony applied to her current identity.

River reflects how “I was baptised as an infant, my parents deciding this and making baptismal vows on my behalf.  I wanted to declare my baptismal vows for myself, as myself in my new name and identity. The symbol of rebirth into a new life was also important to me.”

So, River stood and said her own vows in front of the congregation.  I poured water over River, and the community accepted her.  With some creativity and understanding, the recognition many of us take for granted can be shared with everyone.

Celebrating in a Pandemic?

Easter Sunday is my favourite. Every year, I go with a small group of people from my church to a dawn service run by by our friends at Spark Church, before we go to our own CRAVE church service.

Until 2020 that is.

When the coronavirus epidemic came, public gatherings were cancelled, and I felt stuck about how to celebrate Easter properly.

I had a lightbulb moment when I heard my friends at Church in Progress were replacing their annual Good Friday supper with a live-stream cooking show from their Facebook page! They showed everyone how to make the special carrot, lentil and cumin soup that they share on this special day.

“Easter is not cancelled”, was the slogan they used for this event.

I made a call and asked if our churches could collaborate. Many of us in Sydney learned how to make the soup. Then on Easter Sunday, I shared my own favourite Easter breakfast in another livestream on our social media: a toasted, hot-cross bun ice-cream sandwich. Decadent, and (I feel) a worthy way to celebrate the triumph of life over death.

It’s so important that we find ways to celebrate important moments during these isolated times. A ritual can be done in private, but traditionally, major transitions and milestones in life call for witnesses. Birthdays, weddings, graduations, carry more weight when loved ones stand with us, acknowledging the joys and losses that come from change.

If you’re celebrating an important occasion in isolation, think about finding ways to include witnesses. Maybe on social media, in a Zoom meeting, or a conference call. If you don’t know how to set one up, you probably know someone who can.

Just think of the potential freedom this gives you. Nobody will know if you have five different parties. You can have a special meeting for your more polite friends and family, and another one for more loud, boisterous people. Or one intimate cocktail party with toasts at 5 p.m., and then a larger party for dessert and coffee at 7:30.

It’s also a chance to invite people who are overseas, or unable to travel much; people who you lost touch with, or moved to another city. Celebrations aren’t cancelled during a pandemic, they just call for a little more creativity.