Advice on Baptism

Advice on Baptism by Jeremy Blackwater

I have been asked several times to explain to younger kids what baptism is about. This is the letter I send them…

, My name is Jeremy Blackwater, a Navajo living in New Mexico. I was baptized at my request when I was 14. I had done some pretty stupid things before then involving alcohol and fighting. After being sent to Juvenile Detention for underage drinking and destruction of school property, I was pretty low. My youth minister visited me every week in jail and we talked a lot about what kind of life I wanted for myself. I began praying every night to get out of jail. Somehow I realized that I was a dead end and I had to stop blaming everyone else for my problems. My main hesitation about being baptized is that I thought that I had to be good enough before God would consider me. Finally my youth minister told me that baptism was the beginning of my journey and that I was already a child of God even when I mess up. My decision is to walk in the light rather than the dark side. I gave up being angry at my past and my darker self.

In the Native tradition we prepare for an important ceremony by fasting and praying. Elders talk to us about our decision. We sit in silence on the earth to be in contact with all of creation. So I was baptized combining Native and Christian traditions. I was instructed in the ceremony.  In our small town no one would sponsor a Native American so we traveled to a non- racist congregation. The youth missioner and two of our younger baptized native youth stood up with me. We had a sage bIessing and I carried an eagle feather. It was awesome. I felt like I belonged even though there are a lot of racist in the church who don’t like Natives or youth. Since then I have grown in faith.

I don’t know that much about Jesus and the bible but I am learning. I also began taking seriously my Native tradition to respect all people and to pray to our Grandmother God in thanksgiving dawn and dusk. On my desk I have an eagle feather, corn pollen, sage, a candle, a cross and a Book of Common Prayer. I use all of these symbols daily and find that my own tradition helps me to understand how my life of faith calls me to compassion, especially for the homeless. What I hope for you is that you take yourselves seriously in this ceremony. It is a chance for you to create a new identity in faith. By that I mean that you can look and feel deeply about things that are more than superficial and decide how you want to walk in the light. And when you mess up, you can in faith face up to it and accept God’s forgiveness and start over again. I hope that you find out for yourself what your symbols on your desk should be that remind you deeply that you are a child of God and that you can change as many times as you need.

Prayers, short or long ones, about anything are totally necessary as is finding something to be grateful for.

May you Walk in Beauty in your life on the journey.

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