Peace Lutheran Church in Seattle is using technology to assist in what is one of the most traditional rites of passage in ELCA congregations—baptism.

As part of Peace’s 75th anniversary celebration in 2019, the congregation commissioned a new font to emphasize the symbol of baptism within the Lutheran practice and to express hope that it would serve its members for generations to come.

“We make a big deal of baptism here at Peace,” said Erik Kindem, pastor. “When the world tries to tell us who we are and what ought to matter for us, we point to the font as the place where our core identity is formed.”

The inaugural use of the font took place last summer with the baptism of two infants, each of whom had relatives or sponsors who couldn’t be physically present. Soren Smith’s grandparents were based in Alaska. None of Logan Bliss’ four baptismal sponsors could be there.

“But through the use of a device, they also were able to be ‘virtual’ witnesses,” Kindem said.

Sarah and Paul Bliss, Logan’s parents, had chosen as sponsors Sarah’s sister and brother-in-law, who were in North Dakota with their infant. The other sponsors, a couple from Peace, were in Germany visiting family.

“The experience helped us see the body of Christ has no geographic boundaries.”

“While I contemplated having a member of our congregation stand in as a ‘surrogate sponsor,’ it occurred to me we might have another option,” Kindem said. “When I proposed the idea of trying to have both sets of sponsors virtually present for the baptism, the parents thought it could be a good solution.”

When the time came for the ceremony, video calls were made using iPads and an iPhone so sponsors and grandparents could participate in real time, sharing in their public promises.

“It was a profound moment, hearing the voices of sponsors across the miles and becoming present despite a geographically challenged situation,” Kindem said.

“We were all glad that they were able to witness and participate,” Sarah said. “I know it meant a lot to his sponsors that we made the effort to include them that way.”

Soren’s and Logan’s families and friends weren’t the only ones changed by the experience. “The congregation seemed transfixed,” Kindem said. “Something new was happening that we as a congregation had never experienced before.

“Virtual presence proved itself to be a great alternative to no presence at all. The experience helped us see the body of Christ has no geographic boundaries. Space and time are transcended through this sacrament, which links us to the larger community of saints across the globe.”

Jay Saunders
Jay Saunders has more than 20 years' experience writing for television, newspapers and magazines. He is a member of Fox Point Lutheran Church in Fox Point, Wis.

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