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The author is baptized at Central United in Calgary. (Photo courtesy of Al Coe)

Why I got baptized in a United Church at the age of 42

"I told myself that I didn’t need to go to church to believe in God. I found peace and the Holy Spirit in the things that surrounded me. But still, there was a nagging sense of something missing."

By Jacqueline Mercer-Livesey

Two years ago, I was baptized at the age of 42. It had been a long road getting to this place in my life. My great-uncle was a United Church minister, so I wondered why my parents never had me baptized. Looking back, I realize they did not think religion was important. My grandfather dropped my sister and me off at Sunday school, but neither he nor my parents went to the service.

Baptism stayed on my mind well into adulthood. I always felt in my heart that there was a God. And yet, I didn’t baptize my own children, Andrea and Eric. I tried taking them to church when they were little, but their father was not supportive.

I told myself that I didn’t need to go to church to believe in God. I found peace and the Holy Spirit in the things that surrounded me. But still, there was a nagging sense of something missing.

We moved around a lot: 20 times in 17 years. My husband would switch jobs and make a project out of new houses. He painted, renovated — desperately looking for something more as well. Eventually, he decided to pursue a career in Japan, and we divorced.

It was my daughter who suggested going to church. We decided to start with Central United in Calgary. When I saw the notice in the bulletin that there was an adult baptism coming up, I knew it was something I had to do. I never dreamed that my teenage daughter would want to as well.

I found peace and the Holy Spirit in the things that surrounded me. But still, there was a nagging sense of something missing.

I was so nervous and excited; it was all coming together. The night before, I asked Andrea if she was sure she wanted to do this. She told me that she was going to be baptized with or without me.

Even though this was a personal act, I don’t know if I could have done it without Andrea by my side. Each person was supposed to tell their story to the congregation before being immersed in a hot tub. Since then, I’ve learned that full-immersion baptism is not typical for the United Church. I questioned the process, as I don’t like to draw attention to myself. Thankfully, my daughter is the opposite.

When we stepped into the water together, I felt calm. The water was warm and comforting. As we received the blessing and were dipped into the pool, a sense of peace came over me. I could not stop smiling. I was so proud of my daughter as well. I didn’t want the moment to end.

This is how it felt to finally surrender to Jesus. It was very humbling. I believe that this was my test to prove my faith. Being baptized meant a new beginning for me, a step toward a better life for my family.

Prior to this day, I would say I had a relationship with God. But baptism was the beginning of my journey of being accountable.

This story first appeared in The Observer's July/August 2018 edition with the title "Taking the plunge." 

 Jacqueline Mercer-Livesey is a writer in Calgary.

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