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March Mania

Maple Lake, Minn., baptisms attract many

Cody Olson, 12, of Crookston comes up from his baptism Sunday morning in Maple Lake near Mentor, Minn. Olson was one of eighteen people who took part in "Wade in the Water" by Trinity Lutheran Church. The Revs. Greg Isaacson and Jo Gast, right, celebrated it with Cody's sponsor, Don Briggs, background. Cody said he wanted to do a full immersion baptism because "it seems more religious." Herald photo by Eric Hylden.

Cody Olson wanted to go the whole enchilada in his baptism Sunday in the waters of Maple Lake, choosing "full immersion," over having water simply poured over his head.

"It seems more religious," he said beforehand. "You're not only washing sins away, you're washing everything away."

It made Cody, 12, sputter a little, as the Rev. Greg Isaacson guided him down into the shallows off the beach at Trinity Point.

"In the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, in the name of the Holy Spirit," the pastor said, giving Cody a trinity of plunges with just enough time in between for a breath.

Cody was one of 18 who signed up for "Wade in the Water," a new venture by Trinity Lutheran Church's lakeside campground/ministry here at Trinity Point.

The Crookston congregation long has held summer worship services here, including the occasional baptism.

But in looking to extend the church's mission last year, Isaacson, as the new pastor, suggested holding an "open baptism" for anyone who wanted to come to the waters that lap the shore within 100 feet of Trinity Point's chapel.

New/old tradition

Coming under the waters of baptism to receive the grace of God always has been the tradition in the Christian church, long before Martin Luther, Isaacson told the 18 and their families and friends in a short class before the service Sunday.

But Lutherans usually do it IN a church, not standing in a lake or river.

Part of the gospel, however, is meeting people where they are, not simply expecting them to walk through the door of the church, Isaacson said. And more and more people seem uncomfortable with many of the formalities of church, he said.

So offering a new -- if old -- way of baptism, outdoors on a summer morning, might encourage some who had put it off for years or didn't get to church much, Isaacson said.

He explained to the candidates that it didn't mean they had to be members of Trinity or even Lutherans; that most Christian churches recognize basic Christian baptism.

The response was great, he said. Fourteen signed up beforehand and four came in Sunday morning, after seeing announcements for the "open baptism" posted by Trinity all over the region.

Before the baptisms, the Rev. Jo Gast preached, reading the New Testament scripture about Philip meeting a high-ranking Ethiopian official riding in a chariot on the road to Gaza. After Philip explained to him how Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah, the Ethiopian said: "Look! Water. What is to prevent me from being baptized?"

That's the spirit of Christian baptism, using the basics of this life to connect to eternal life, Gast said.

A cloud of witnesses

She and Isaacson ran a double line of baptisms in the lake, as a congregation of a hundred or more stood on the sandy shore, applauding and taking photos.

All ages came to the water.

One woman was Lutheran, and Scandinavian enough to not want any fuss made -- including her name published -- over her rather dramatic baptism so long after her birth.

The first born of the 18 baptized -- during the Great Depression -- she was first in the water, blinking while Gast performed the standing pour.

"My father was Catholic and my mother was Lutheran," said the woman.

Relatives were so sensitive about such a radical alliance at the time that the woman and her siblings were never baptized, although they attended a Lutheran church with their mother.

After so many years attending Trinity, the woman decided it was time to take the plunge.

"I thought this was going to be kind of a quiet thing," she said afterward, with a chuckle. "But it turned out to be kind of a big thing."

The young jump in

There was real enthusiasm.

As Lexia Waxler, 6, was being baptized by Isaacson, who cupped water in his hands to pour over her flaxen curls, little sister Lilliana, almost 2, and standing within splashing distance, couldn't wait for her turn and baptized herself, imitating Isaacson.

Their mother, Beth Carriveau, said she was baptized and grew up Catholic. But, as she and the girls' father, Heath Waxler, are getting married this summer, this was the time, she said.

"We wanted to get this done, and we figured two birds with one stone."

Grandparents drove a long way to see little ones baptized in the lake.

Dorothy Ramsey came from Park River, N.D., to see her grandson, Aaron Stroot, of Crookston, wade in to be washed in the water.

Baptized and married in her Lutheran church in Park River, Ramsey has been a Lutheran all her life.

"But this is the first time I've seen one before," she said of the lake baptism.

Cody Olson goes to a Catholic church in Crookston with his grandparents. But when he and his mother, Sheila Gaber, and her "significant other," Dan Briggs, heard about "Wade in the Water," it was what Cody wanted to do, Gaber said.

Briggs was Cody's sponsor, standing with him in the water, "because he plays a pretty big role in his life," Gaber said.

Afterward, Cody shivered a little in his wet clothes, under the partly overcast sky and mildly cool June morning.

"It kind of felt different than I thought it would feel. It felt kind of good."