In the north corner of the west lobby of Chestnut Mountain Church in Flowery Branch is an unexpected sight: a small heated swimming pool.
For people who may not have grown up attending a church, the sight may leave them to question why a pool is inside a place of worship, Chestnut Mountain Church senior pastor Jeff Benefield said. But for his congregation and most Christians, the pool is a significant symbol to the faith. It is the place for baptisms.
For Christians, baptism is the public expression of declaring their faith in God, becoming a follower of Jesus Christ and entering into the Christian faith.
“It’s a conscious decision to follow Christ,” Benefield said.
To mark the decision, Chestnut Mountain Church members are baptized in the heated pool with all of the fanfare of winning an award. Family, friends and others who want to be “close to the action” may gather around the pool in the west lobby as the person is baptized by being immersed underneath the water fully clothed. The rest of the congregation may watch the ceremony inside the worship center through video streaming.
For example, if five people are baptized in one day, 20 to 30 people can watch from next to the baptismal pool while 500 watch from the other room, Benefield said.
The senior pastor explained the church decided to build the baptismal in the lobby after learning about a California church that built its pool in a courtyard.
“It is where people could get physically close to what was going on,” Benefield said. “But in our tradition, baptism was away from the people ... and that’s a terrible way to do that. It should be an important moment to you and you want to hug someone when you come out of the water and they are right there.”
Benefield added most of the people baptized in his church are mainly adults and teenagers.
“A lot of people in our church have grown up as nonChristian and have come to faith as adults,” he said. “All baptisms were of people who were old enough to make the conscious decision of why they are doing that and why they need to do that.”
Chestnut Mountain Church, however, does not practice infant baptism.
“The infant doesn’t have the capacity to choose to follow Christ,” he said.
On the flip side, Prince of Peace Catholic Church in Flowery Branch traditionally baptizes infants and children by pouring water over their heads in a simple brief ceremony.
“For us, it’s the entrance into the faith and expression of being Catholic ... and it is to begin the sacramental journey,” Prince of Peace Catholic Church senior pastor Eric Hill said, noting baptism is one of the seven sacraments of the Catholic church. “You receive grace from God through baptism. And grace is God’s reaching into the lives of people and helping them in that journey.”
To help the children and infants in their journey, the church recognizes the parents’ influence along with the designation of godparents. In the football vernacular, godparents are similar to second string quarterbacks.
“They are called to be part of the child’s life and assist (the parent) with them being raised in the faith,” Hill said.
But while the ceremonies and style differ among churches and denominations, Hill explained two elements remain the same. All are baptized with water and the same phrase.
“We all use “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” Hill said.