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Let the Children Come

May 27, 2023

Another Way for week of May 19, 2023

Let the Children Come

The little tyke (somewhere between 15-18 months) was wiggling like most kids do at that age if they’re held captive in a parent’s arm. His mother was trying desperately to contain his energy.

The occasion was the little fellow’s baptism in a large church that practices infant baptism (along with baptism at any age—but starting with babies). While many parents choose an early baptism for the very reason of wanting to avoid a wiggling, or worse—crying—child, these parents, for whatever reason, had brought their son for the sacrament of baptism when he was a bit older. Fidgety older.

In this particular service, other young children of the church were invited forward to be able to see the baptism easier, and were even encouraged to come up to the glass bowl of water and touch the water. The pastor said they could put some water on their heads if they wished, in order to remember and learn about the sacrament of baptism—especially since they likely had personally experienced it also at an early age. Before they could remember much!

The sacrament of baptism, if you don’t know or recall, is based on Jesus’ own baptism in the Jordan River (between current day Lebanon and Syria). This church and many others practice baptism at an early age, declaring children to be beloved children of God. In baptism, God claims us as treasured children and members of Christ’s body, the church. The church in turn promises to help raise the children of the church by giving of their time teaching, playing with, and mentoring children as they grow.

That’s the background, but what happened on this recent Sunday morning was too good not to share (I watched it on a video recording). The little tyke continued his squirming, even trying to push on his Daddy, who helped hold and keep him confined as the pastor finished the longish statements the church’s guidebook uses for this ceremony. Finally, the pastor got down to the ritual of putting some of the water on the child’s head three times, using the words “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Then, Little Tyke reached out and put his own hand in the water and touched the top of his hair, which I had never seen happen before. The congregation erupted in spontaneous applause and probably a bit of laughter and smiles. I don’t know that congregations typically clap after a baptism, but maybe some do. At any rate, it touched my heart and made me remember our daughters’ own baptisms.

The baptismal and bowl at our church, Trinity Presbyterian.

I grew up in the Mennonite church, which typically does not practice infant baptism. Early Mennonites were known as “Anabaptists” (not “anti” baptism, but practicing “re-baptism” in the 1500’s.) The “state church” in that era had a rule of infant baptism for all. Those adults who held out in favor of adult baptism were harshly punished, sometimes including gruesome deaths as martyrs.

So my father, as a Mennonite deacon, couldn’t bring himself to support infant baptism of any kind. I never pushed him to drive 600 miles for the ceremony at our Presbyterian congregation. But when our third daughter arrived, Mom decided to take the train to Virginia so she could finally see one of her granddaughters baptized as a baby.

My own thoughts on the matter have widened to include baptism at any age, knowing that babies grow up to be teenagers and young adults. At that point they are better suited to make their own personal decision to follow Jesus and join or not join the church, and take a “confirmation or catechism class” that is offered to all.

The whole experience of watching that child with his parents and the other children around the pastor made me think of the Bible passage where Jesus himself said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14).


Do you remember your baptism?

Or were you or your children also “little tykes” or infants when baptized?

How and where does your church do baptisms?

I’d love your comments here, or write to me at Another Way, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834, or email

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of ten books, most recently Memoir of an Unimagined Career. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  


  1. The photo of pastor, parents, and child with the inquiring eyes is worth the read–lovely, expressive photo.

    Yes, I was baptized at age ten in the Mennonite church, which practiced believers’ baptism, not infant’s. One memory that stands out is the Bishop’s wife Elsie grinning with pleasure at me and the three girls I was baptized with, “You girls looks so nice!” What she probably meant was that all our hair was stuffed under large white coverings (prayer veilings) and we wore dresses with capes. I believe we all had two white ribboned covering strings too, attached to the bottom sides of the coverings. We met all the Lancaster Mennonite Conference rules for dress, which made her happy. I remember the cool water hitting the top of my head and feeling holy–and blessed.

    Our youngest grandchild was baptized in a Lutheran church when he was 6 months old. I recorded his 4-year-old brother Curtis’ words reacting to the spectacle of the pastor anointing the wee babe with oil and baptizing with water:
    Curtis observed Ian’s baptism and made up a monologue about what he thought Ian would say if he were able to speak: “I saw Pastor put oil on Ian (he pointed to the bridge of his nose) and then put water on his head.” And said, throwing up his hands in frustration, doing a perfect imitation of Ian, “What’s going on here! What are you doing?” He (Curtis) smiles and says, “He really can’t talk, you know, but I just know that’s what he was saying.” He chuckles, and repeats what Ian ‘said,’ again. “What’s going on, what’s this for?” “That’s what he said, I just know.”

    Presbyterians, like us, practice infant baptism, but also baptism at any age. Cliff and I have both been dunked, and I have been sprinkled and dunked. Ha!

    • That photo was taken in your used-to-be city of Charlotte NC. 🙂 We sure enjoyed our travels down there while they lived there.
      I love Curtis’ words about Ian’s baptism. So you have a copy of the words he wrote? Those two grands must make you smile.
      And I like your Lancaster description right down to the covering strings. 🙂 I didn’t have covering strings, but I did wear a little white covering, quite small at the time.
      Fun comparing notes here, and your lovely description of the expressions in the photo of parents, child, and pastor. 🙂

  2. I recorded interesting sayings and comments our four grandchildren made from the time they were tots to teenagers. A few years ago, I gave them individual copies of their sayings, made-up from my memory at the time and saved in a file on my desktop.

    Some of the expressions were really humdingers! I’d never remember the details (or even the occasion) without journal-ing way back then. (Two boys now aged 19, grand-daughter 17, and youngest grandson,15).

    • Ah yes, I remember you talking about those compiled comments and sayings from the grandchilden. How very special. I have my notes scattered here and there online and in files. Good job Marian! Maybe another book idea for you! When you catch your breath from this one. Of course, the stories of others, especially family members, can be dangerous water to navigate sometimes!

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