Shall We Gather At The River?

Baptism in the River Jordan
Baptism in the River Jordan | Source

The picture above is of Dr. William E Anderson, a pastor of Calvary Baptist here in Clearwater for 25 years, now semi-retired to his home in Texas. He often travels to the Holy Land. On this occasion, he is being baptized by his son, Rev. Mark Anderson and his son-in-law.

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One by one

River Baptizing

It’s been a long time since I witnessed a river baptizing in a countryside setting. New converts line up along the bank of the river in their bare feet and street clothes. Then one by one, they wade out to a waiting preacher, using their arms to balance their unsure footing. Sometimes a shout of redemption from a fresh dipped convert would cause a gathering crowd to break out in song. 'Shall We Gather At The River', was a favorite. As the line proceeded, a woman stood at another point along the river bank handing out towels to wrap around them. It was reminiscent of bible times, peaceful and reverent. I never mentioned it to anybody, but I always wondered about snakes. Once in a while, our church in Clearwater will have a river service at the beach, so I went from wondering about snakes to wondering about sharks. I chose to have my ceremony in the church baptistry.

John the Baptist and Jesus
John the Baptist and Jesus | Source

Old Hymns and Traditions

Times change. Traditions evolve. The church baptistry has replaced the river. But the River of Jordan will forever remain symbolic of rebirth by water and spirit.

Early hymn composers were inspired to write about bibical events. Although music trends have changed through the years, the simple easy-to-sing hymns are still reminders of God's word and the impact of religion in the world.

Down to the river to pray

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Comments 17 comments

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Sunnie Day 5 years ago

Hello Ann...I was raised on the old hymns and have wittnessed many baptisms in the river...there is nothing more moving. Thank you for sharing this beautiful hub!

mary615 profile image

mary615 5 years ago from Florida

Having grown up in the country in the south, I witnessed many baptisms in the river. They were very moving. Good Hub.

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

This was wonderful Wouldn't mind witnessing a river baptism myself.

Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

When you say Times change, traditions evolve, I believe you. Religion, culture, tradition all are ever changing phenomena. I enjoyed reading your experience.

anndavis25 profile image

anndavis25 5 years ago from Clearwater, Fl. Author

Well, blest be the tie that binds...Sunnie. I knew I liked you for some reason. We've both been down to the river. lol.

Mary615, wouldn't you like to go again? I would.

Vinaya, seems like about every 10 years there is a new trend, we speak of music as in the '50's, 60's and 70's etc....

Oh Gypsy, I hope you get to witness a river ceremony. It will make you think your in bible days.

ROBERTHEWETTSR profile image

ROBERTHEWETTSR 5 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

Gread write Ann. It brought to mind the story of the Texas Bap[ist minister who preached a sermon against drinking, closing his sermon with the words, "We should take all the liquor in our county and dump it in the river". As he sat down the choir began to sing "Shall we gather at the river....." to much applause. Fun aside, I loved the history of the song and we sang it often in my little country Baptist church in Texas. Robert

anndavis25 profile image

anndavis25 5 years ago from Clearwater, Fl. Author

Robert, love that Texas Baptist. Thanks for the visit.

kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama


GREAT read! Amazing presentation. Informative and very helpful. Voted up and away for I love your writing style and I am now honored to FOLLOW you.

I remember the creekbank baptisings. Thank you for helping me to relive a wonderful memory.

Please keep up the great work and I Invite YOU to check out my hubs, that is if you need a good laugh.

And I would love for you to be a follower. That would make my day. Highest Regards,

Kenneth Avery,

from Hamilton, a small (but proud) town in northwest Alabama that reminds you of Mayberry, that sweet town we loved on

The Andy Griffith Show. Much Peace and Success to you!

anndavis25 profile image

anndavis25 5 years ago from Clearwater, Fl. Author

Hi Kenneth, glad to have you as a follower. We are both from the south, and should have many things in common. I'll check out your hubs today. Looking forward to the communication. Ann

kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Hello, dear ann! IM GLAD to have YOU as a Valued-FOLLOWER. What part of the south are you from? If I may ask. And THANK YOU, KINDLY, FOR CHECKING MY HUBS. I appreciate it. And I too am looking forward to much correspondence with a TRUE southerner.

Your Friend, Fan, and Follower,


anndavis25 profile image

anndavis25 5 years ago from Clearwater, Fl. Author

Grew up on a strawberry farm, Kenton, Tennessee. 11 Children. I'm the youngest.(and smartest) Moved to Memphis when I was 17.

Back-up singer. Sun Studios...You've heard me.."When A Man Loves A Woman" Percy Sledge.

And Johnny Cash..."I Walk The Line."

I'm proud of my Southern roots!

Eiddwen profile image

Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

Hi Ann,

Thank you for sharing this wonderful hub ; so very interesting and inspiring.

Here's to many more to share on here.

Take care and enjoy your day.


Dim Flaxenwick profile image

Dim Flaxenwick 5 years ago from Great Britain

What a wonderful hub. I have seen a baptism in the Ocean once , but not at the river. It looks beautiful.

So lovely to hear the song at the end too.

Up and awesome.

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

Beautiful song. Great Hub. I was rebaptized three years ago in the River Jordan! It is quite an experience. There were no snakes but tiny fish nibble the dead skin off your feet while you are in there. It tickles!

After looking at your profile page, I just wanted to say that I too love documentaries and politics; I lived in Florida 18 years (Orlando mostly) including one year in Clearwater on Bay Drive (1987) but left there two years back; I was a rock singer professionally for 20 years; and my daddy is from Tennessee (though I'm not—I grew up in Michigan). So there. We have much in common. :-)

anndavis25 profile image

anndavis25 5 years ago from Clearwater, Fl. Author

There ya' go. We're practically kin. About the Jordan River...a long way to go for a pedicure...(they use these little fishes in California in a pedicure salon)

A rock singer? Are you on Youtube? I'd be willing to bet your dad likes some country music. You have heard me James...I was a back-up singer on When A Man Loves A Woman (Percy Sledge) '70's.

Thanks for the visit....have a wonderful day. Ann Davis

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

You are welcome. You sang on "When a man loves a woman!?" Awesome!

Yea, my dad played some Earl Scruggs type of finger rolling banjo around the house. Two of his brothers were in a real old-style country group (before drums) that traveled the country and did radio shows. One of my uncles was a Nashville session player on steel guitar.

My band was called White Summer. I have written half a dozen Hubs about my band experiences, each one of which has a few links to YouTube videos of our music. Here is one:

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