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Meeting space—or lack thereof—is key to ‘Missing Peace’

New worshiping community in Central Florida is always on the move

by Katy Steinberg | Special to Presbyterian News Service

In this reflection by Katy Steinberg, pastor of the new worshiping community Missing Peace, we meet a young woman ready to go deeper in her relationship with Christ.

Missing Peace might meet in a park, at the beach or in a primitive church building all in the same month. Wherever they go, they carry their Missing Peace sign.

November 2016 will always and forever be a special month in the life of Missing Peace, a 1001 New Worshiping Community in Ormond Beach, Florida.

It was over coffee earlier in the year, that one of our regular attenders told me she had never been baptized, although she had thought she had been until she learned differently in high school.

Her family regularly attended a Presbyterian Church at the time, but as a child they had not been active in any congregation. It just hadn’t come up until a Mormon friend asking about her baptism approached her. On the verge of entering adulthood, she now felt that it was a decision she should think through carefully, and that she would not participate in this ancient ritual until she felt confident it was right for her and her faith.

She floated in and out of various congregations through her college years and after, often sitting in the back, never fully committed, and certainly not ready to take the big step into the water. Over time, attending church at all became less of a priority.

Then came the day of our coffee and conversation last year.

“Have you been baptized?” I asked.

“Well, I thought I had for a while,” she said, “but no, I now know I haven’t. However, I’ve been thinking about it for over 20 years.”

“Wow! What’s kept you from moving forward?” I asked.

After explaining she said, “It’s something I take very seriously, and just didn’t find the right church, pastor and my own faith that all came together at the same time. But I think I’m ready.”

After several conversations about the meaning of baptism in the Reformed tradition, the logistics of the worship service, and educating our new worshiping community on these pieces too, it was time.

The Rev. Katy Steinberg (left), pastor of Missing Peace, a 1001 New Worshiping Community in Florida, celebrates with a regular attender who decided to be baptized.

Along with the rest of our community, and two young children who were also to be baptized, we headed down to the ocean shore. Nerves about rough water and cool temperatures melted away as we approached the shoreline.

“Do you desire to be baptized?”

“I do.”

“Do you, as gathered people, drawn together by the desire to seek and know truth, promise to guide and nurture her, with love and prayer, encouraging her to know and follow the way, the truth and the life, and to be a faithful member of her community living out who she is called to be?”

“We do.”

And after praying thanksgiving over the ocean, fully clothed and eyes wide open, we entered the cool waters of the Atlantic.

“Are you ready,” I asked. With tears streaming down her face, she nodded yes. With that, we leaned back into the waves, imitating the death and rising of our Lord. “I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

I have no words that can adequately describe the next few moments. But slowly, we emerged from the water, knowing the moment was meant to be fleeting. We had the less-than-traditional laying on of towels and hugs. The community then scoured the beach for a small memento of the occasion and presented them to each of the baptized with a few words. And with a few more words of prayer and benediction, it was over. People lingered. It was as if each of us wanted to hold on to the experience, wanted to continue to be in the presence of a God so obviously present that day, wanted to be together.

Most days at Missing Peace do not even come close to that day. But it reminded me what is possible. Remembering that day reminds me that God is powerfully at work in this beautiful and broken world, and constantly beckoning to us to join in that work.

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