Shall We Gather At The River?
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
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.
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.
A modern version by Alison Krauss
- Down To The River To Pray - Alison Krauss - YouTube
Produced by David Webb www.newtestamentchristians.com Free online video Bible study courses available at newtestamentchristians.com