More than 100 people gathered in Riceboro early Sunday for a historical baptism ceremony at one of the oldest, if not the only, traditional baptismal sites left in Liberty County.
The ceremony, sponsored by the Progressive Missionary Baptist Sunday School Convention and Association, was in a wooded area along Barrington-Ferry Road, only a block from the First African Missionary Baptist Church.
Members of the PMBA said they wanted to recognize the bequest of locals who had once been baptized in the same “muddy” water more than 80 years ago.
“When we saw that mother [Dorothy] Brunson, mother [Mary] Baggs and mother [Annie] Walthour were baptized there on the very same day some years ago, we thought it would be a marvelous time for the community to assert its legacy through them,” Modibo Kadalie said.
In 2002, Kadalie, and others then on the Riceboro City Council, fought to get the land that includes the baptism site back from International Paper Co. The group was successful after claiming eminent domain for the land to be included in a utility project.
“I grew up in this community and that site goes back to slavery time,” Kadalie said. “Everybody who I know knows somebody who used to swim there or who has friends or family that was baptized there. And this was just a beautiful occasion.”
With a procession of people following them, Brunson, Baggs and Walthour rode to the site from the First African Baptist Church in a black carriage.
Baggs and Brunson sported traditional white robes symbolizing what the event’s moderator, Pastor Edgar Timmons, described as a “transition from the old man to the new man.”
After singing and hearing a few words from Timmons, the crowd drew closer as Timmons symbolically dipped mannequins, and not the elderly women, in the muddy water.
Baggs said she was just happy to be alive for the event, but had little else to say.
Timmons filled the gaps for her.
“Longevity has its place. To be 100 years old and still be able to move and to do for themselves is a blessing from God,” Timmons said. “We wanted those in observance to see what the Lord can do for them, too, if they walk the walk and hold onto God’s unchanging hand.”
“And what we saw today and what we have in Liberty County, that is so rare is family,” pastor Neil Dawson added. “Family provides a place to look back to and family always holds on to their history.”