This past summer, Benjie Slaton, planting pastor of Grace + Peace Church, hosted a study on baptism. Through selected readings, monthly discussions, and one-on-one meetings with each participant, Benjie led the church as they studied covenantal teaching on infant baptism and the purpose of this symbol together. Brent and Hannah Fiddler were two of the participants.
The Fiddlers came to Grace + Peace from Calvary Chapel just over two years ago, when the church had about 50 people filling the pews. “We loved Calvary, but it was so big, and we wanted more opportunities to serve. Grace + Peace is also much closer to our home in Ooltewah,” they say.
Hannah grew up in a Baptist church where adults, children, and everyone in between knew each other. She says, “We want our kids to know the church, and we want people in the church to know our kids.” Brent came from a Methodist background. “I was predisposed to believer’s baptism because I was familiar with it, but I’d also done some reading about infant baptism and was starting to lean toward it.”
Benjie’s teaching style leaves room for people to disagree with him. According to the Fiddlers, he shares what he believes but never forces you to agree. “Benjie approaches topics like baptism as important issues but not ultimate issues,” says Brent. “It was never, ‘Baptize your child or leave our church.’ Benjie is also okay saying, ‘This is what we believe and we’re not really sure how it all works, but we’re leaving it to God’s mystery.’ I really appreciate that.” Hannah adds, “At our church, it’s okay to not know all the answers or agree with everyone else.”
The Fiddlers appreciate that people from many different opinions and backgrounds participated in the study and asked thoughtful questions. “It was a good representation of our church overall,” Hannah reflects. “There are a wide variety of people at Grace + Peace, and when new people from any type of background visit, they feel welcome and keep coming back.” In the baptism study, people of all ages participated. “We were actually the only ones with an infant.”
Brent and Hannah’s first child, Ellie, was born just before the study. They plan to have her baptized at Grace + Peace this March, realizing that while she won’t remember being baptized, their local body of believers will take a vow to support Ellie and point her to Jesus. After going through the study, this is especially significant to them.
Through the baptism study, Brent and Hannah fully grasped the connection between circumcision and baptism and came to appreciate the communal aspect of baptism. “Something I hadn’t really thought about until recently is how baptism is tied to circumcision,” says Brent. “To understand infant baptism, you have to understand circumcision. Circumcision wasn’t about giving you salvation but bringing someone into the community, and that’s what baptism does. Baptisms impact the community as much as the person being baptized.”
“I don’t think many people in America are going into what baptism is and its purpose,” Brent continues. “They’re still fulfilling the covenant symbol, but do they know what they’re really fulfilling? Baptism seems so simple but it has a really deep meaning. As a culture, we’ve left the meaning behind but kept the symbol.”
The importance of children to Grace + Peace extends far beyond infant baptism. The pastors are intentional in teaching children, and in the service, Benjie calls all the kids to the front, engages them with questions, and prays for them. As parents, Brent and Hannah are thankful that they get to watch Ellie grow up in this body of believers.