It is a steep climb down into our church baptistry! It is only three steps, but they take you down deep fast!
I am curious if it was based on another architectural/theological feature of baptistries – that there should be three steps to represent being baptised, “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” or whether they just wanted more room to move in the baptistry!
There is a wealth of fascinating architectural detail in baptisteries. In her book, A Place for Baptism, Regina Kuehn, writes about how throughout Christian history, baptistry shapes and features have spoken baptismal truth without words. As one member of the congregation commented after Sunday’s sermon, “I loved the idea of a baptistry at the entrance of the church. It made me think of washing away our ‘yuckiness” and a new start as you enter a place of peace and reflection.”
Here’s some other info on baptistry shapes from Kuehn’s book:
Womb. Many Christians refer to “Mother Church.” An unborn baby floats in darkness within its mother’s womb. In the early church, people were baptized after the long dark (northern hemisphere) Easter Vigil. Baptism births a person into a new Christian life.
Cruciform. Kuehn quotes Saint Chrysostom, who said, “Baptism is a cross. What the cross was to Christ and what his burial was, that baptism is to us.”
Tomb. The oldest font known to still exist, from a 3rd century house church in present-day Syria, is shaped like a coffin. Churches that practice adult baptism identify the tomb with being joint heirs with Christ in his dying and rising (Romans 8:14-17, Romans 6:4-5, Ephesians 2:5-6).
Step-down. Ruins of 6th century baptistries in Jordan and Turkey reveal step-down cruciform pools. Walking down into the water and up out of it helps the baptized person experience dying with Christ, being buried with Christ, rising with Christ, and living in Christ. We wondered on Sunday whether we should return to using both sets of stairs for baptisms at Canberra Baptist Church to symbolise this as well!
Octagonal. Eight-sided fonts recall the eighth day, the first day of resurrection. Saint Augustine writes about “the Day of the Lord, an everlasting eighth day.” Saint Ambrose explains that a certain font is octagonal “because on the eighth day, by rising, Christ loosens the bondage of death and receives the dead from their graves.”
Hexagonal. Ambrose and Augustine also link the number six to Good Friday, the day on which Christ died (the sixth day of Holy Week).
This Sunday we continue to think about Baptist Values – exploring the value of community as we gather at the communion table.
And we are engaging in a very modern reflection on community as well – as we participate again from the 13th to the 20th February in the National Church Life Survey.
This is a survey conducted every 5 years in Australian churches (for the last 30 years!). Its goal is to resource us to build healthy and vital churches, to equip effective leadership and to connect churches with their local communities. There will be more info about the survey on Sunday. Please have a device handy – computer, iPad, phone – to complete the survey or contact the office this week about receiving a paper form.