By Carl Stagner
Every Sunday in the United States and around the world, a Church of God congregation celebrates the baptisms of a new believer. Though exact figures are difficult to determine, the social media savvy rejoice in the weekly reports of known baptisms across the movement. This spring, one unique report came from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, where a special baptism service spanned three generations.
“It was an incredible, electric moment,” Pastor Greg Smith explains, “a beautiful and living example of Psalm 78:6, “…that they should teach [God’s truths] to their children, that the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born….” This moment—defined by the baptism of one grandmother, daughter, and granddaughter—ignited church-wide celebration and worship. While the ordinance of baptism is something inherently memorable, the presence of three generations of family members made it something First Church of God will never forget.
“All three entered the baptistery at the same time,” Greg recounts. “All three gave a testimony.” Among those baptized were Caryn Stoll, grandmother; Erin Morrow, daughter; and Reese Mingle, granddaughter. Smith says that “Caryn’s and Erin’s testimonies were particularly moving as they shared how they had come to Christ and of God’s grace and redemption that brought them to the moment of baptism, as well as the significance of being baptized together.”
Grandmother Caryn was overjoyed to partake in such an experience. “There are few things in life more exciting for a parent than hearing one’s child and grandchild express a desire to follow Christ’s example and be baptized in the name of our heavenly Father,” she reflects. “My eight-year-old granddaughter actually initiated the idea by beginning to ask questions about baptism. Isn’t it just like God to allow a child to lead the way? I actually think my granddaughter’s decision to be baptized gave my daughter the courage to say she also wished to publicly acknowledge God’s presence in her life.”
Caryn first gave her heart to the Lord when she was in fifth grade. She grew up in a Christian home, but when her daughter and granddaughter expressed interest in baptism, she knew it was time. Erin’s experience with divorce ultimately brought her closer to God. She explains that she wants to be more focused on the things of God and teach her children to do the same. Erin’s daughter Reese recalls hearing her parents and others talking about Jesus when she was very young, but baptism wasn’t a part of the conversation. As her peers discussed getting baptized, she knew she had to do the same.
Sometimes it takes a child. Sometimes God speaks through children—children like Reese. “The aspect of God’s grace that is so amazing to me is his faithfulness,” Caryn concludes. “He just never gave up on me, even though I had a pattern of backsliding into sinful choices for years and years. I guess the line in the song ‘Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing’ describes me perfectly because I am ‘prone to leave the God I love’—yet God has forgiven me. How patient he has been with me! I am so grateful for his grace.”
Two other baptisms occurred on that amazing day at First Church of God in Punxsutawney. What a wonderful experience for a church also celebrating one hundred years of ministry! “It’s just one example of how the church continues to minister through successive generations,” Pastor Greg joyfully concludes.