Hot Waters of Baptism

With so many men away [at war in 1942], 13-year-old Wally was offered the job as janitor in the little Baptist Church in Drexel Hill, where his dad was a deacon. 

coal fire water heaterBaptism in the Baptist Church was by immersion, in a big tub in the floor in front of the podium. It was usually covered by a removable section of flooring and covered with an oriental rug. On a Sunday when there was to be baptisms, Wally was told to go to the basement and get the coal fire started to heat up the water the day before. That he did.

The Sunday service was started. The pastor got up to preach. As he spoke from the podium, the corners of the oriental rug started to flutter with poof sounds that Wally would mimic and make us laugh at the telling.

One of the elder men in the church came up to Wally. “When did you turn off the heat, Wally?” he asked realizing that it was the steam from the baptismal underneath that was causing the rug to dance.

“No one told me to turn it off,” Wally replied. He ran down to the basement and turned off the furnace, but obviously there was not enough time for all that water to cool down.

The pastor had his fishing boots on, oblivious to the temperature of the water. As he prepared to do the baptisms, he read from his Bible. Starting to sweat beads of perspiration from the heat, he reached for one towel from the pile reserved for those getting baptized. Then he reached for another.

As the first lady entered, she gingerly dipped her toe into the too warm water.

I can only write from my imagination and from what Wally told me about that day, but those baptized came out a little pink and had more than a baptism of water.

written memories of Wally, contributed by Barbara (Wally’s wife), December 12, 2012

Can you add to the story? Please do. Write in the box below (You may need to click “Leave a Reply” above to make the box, name, and address fields appear.).

  • Do you remember this story? What other details can you add?
  • What was the name of the small Baptist church in Drexel Hill? Or was this Wayland Baptist Church in Meadville that the family attended briefly before moving (see Virginia Accepts the Lord)?



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