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Church members ‘washed anew’ in Lake Michigan

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By Jim Hayden

Correspondent

The waves of Lake Michigan lapped around the legs of nine Community Church of Douglas members as Rev. Jeff Messner calmed their last-minute jitters.

“You’re in my hands and the hands of Jesus — there’s nothing to fear,” he said in preparation for the full-immersion baptism ceremony in the Great Lake.

Eight teens were baptized and an adult church member was rededicated in the ceremony Sunday morning at Oval Beach in Saugatuck.

This is the second year the church performed the ceremony at the north end of the beach. Sunbathers under colorful umbrellas watched and a group of women practiced yoga in the background.

“Usually, we baptize individuals in our worship services at the church,” said Messner, wearing shorts, sunglasses and a baseball cap. “But the visceral experience of being baptized in the ‘big lake’ seemed to be a real draw (last summer).”

This summer, Paris Demaat asked to be baptized in the lake and the church opened the event to other members and the community.

“It seems special to do this in the lake,” Demaat said, standing in the sand as the church choir began to sing “Down to the River to Pray.”

After she was dunked into the water, she wrapped herself in a towel and family members hugged her.

“It was really an eye-opening experience,” Demaat said, hair still dripping, adding she’ll remember it her entire life.

Carter Dvorak, holding a Bible given to him after the baptism by Messner, said the experience was “amazing.”

Brenda Monroe, the rededicated adult, posed for photos after the closing prayer.

“I wanted to wash myself anew,” she said about why she chose Lake Michigan for the ceremony.

“It seems getting baptized in a Great Lake can be an unforgettable, lifetime memory,” Messner said.