The Pentecostal Holy Rollers gathered along the banks of the muddy river on that icy cold night. The women were in their high stacked beehive hairdo’s and long straight cut skirts down to their ankles and the men stood in their solid colored pants with their white starched collared shirts.
I was but a kid, but I stood there with my hand in fatmamma’s ’cause number one: I was afraid of the dark and
number two: I was equally scared of some of those Holy Roller women and what they could do with their jumping and screaming as the Holy Ghost jumped into them.
I still remember their off-key nasally singing, if I close my eyes,
I swear it is almost like i was back there:
“Shall we gather at the river…the beautiful, the beautiful river….gather with the Saints at the river that flows from the throne (sang….Thro one ) of God.”
As they sang, Maggie Sue and Jessie Bell lined up and headed with the preacher Bro. Georgie down at the muddy banks of the river.
It was a cold, cold night. If I blew out my breath it kinda looked like I might be smokin’ one of them long camel cigaret that the deacons would light up on the way home from the baptizing….
The started walking,
the preacher first,
then my friends holding hands.
The crowd started humming….
then there was dead silence as
I watched them stand there in the cold water
in the light of the full moon.
The preacher started talking…
something about washed in the blood of the lamb,
my mind got to thinkin’ about that
next thing I knew
one of his hands on Maggie Sue’s back with his other hand raised to the sky….
“I baptize you, my sister Maggie Sue, in the
name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost”…
he put a white handkerchief over her mouth and nose and
dunked her down all the while
dead, buried and resurrected….
the crowds started clapping and a saying Amen, hallelujah and the shouters, they held their hands in the air and spoke in them scary tongues that was a jabbering language that only God understood.
Maggie Sue came up holding her hands up and trying to catch her breath….
same thing for Jessie Bell.
The night was freezing and I kept thinking that they probably was gonna get sick but they didn’t.
The crowd started singing Amazing Grace
and they all came out of the water.
Bro. Georgie prayed
we went home.
That is the story of the first baptizing that I remember….
Now as an adult….we don’t baptized like that in the church I’ve been attending. So what is that thing…that baptizing thing…..does it really wash away our sins,
wash us in the blood of the lamb,
clean us up,
shine us off,
renew, restore,resurrect us?
Rituals of all kinds serve their place….
initiate us if you will into some kind of special group or and make us feel special.
I still don’t understand it…
I’ve been baptized,
water from ancient ancestors has rushed over me,
water that flowed over Jesus…..over my fatmamma, fatpa, littlepa, littlema, mama and daddy and finally over me….
it still flows…
that renewing water….
each time we step into it,
each time we gather around the river,
be it the banks of baptismal font,
God comes too us,
atoms of water,
Shall we gather at the river?
I’d do it again,