The church baptized 10 people at Edward Medard Park on May 5.
Hopewell Baptist Church didn’t have as much time to baptize people on May 5 as Pastor Justin Kirksey would have liked, but he and the congregation made it work.
Celebrating 149 years of Hopewell’s existence, the members wrapped up this particular Sunday service with plans to go to Edward Medard Park and baptize people in the great outdoors. They managed to get 10 done before an afternoon thunderstorm forced them to call it a day.
“We were scared we weren’t gonna get it in,” Kirksey said. “Once we dismissed church we started seeing all the rain reports. We had nine people scheduled. As soon as I got out there our radar told us we had 10 minutes before the bottom was gonna fall out.”
It wasn’t the most old-school baptism ever — Hopewell used a horse trough rather than walk into a nearby body of water — but it still made for a special occasion. Hopewell members gathered at Pavilion 8 at the park, its choir sang “I Went Down to the River to Pray” and then the baptisms began.
The decision to go outdoors was also done to draw the public’s attention and give passersby the chance to come pray and receive Christ. Kirksey said one non-member of the church, a young woman, approached the congregation to pray and ask to be baptized. Though the rains had just begun, the church obliged.
“As soon as we said that, the rain stopped, we baptized her and it started raining again right after,” Kirksey said.
Kirksey, who joined the church toward the end of February as its newest pastor, is new to Hopewell and Plant City in general but is nonetheless excited to use events like this to honor the church’s long and storied history.
“Being there for 149 years, I know the church has done a lot for the Lord and done a lot in the community,” he said. “What I stressed from the time I came in was, I wanted to help them where they are and keep them going forward. Some of our best days could be in our future.”