By Lee Ann Sides Garrett
Larry Carden’s voice trembles as he speaks. “It was an amazing experience,” he says. “This is my family that I didn’t expect.”
Carden, 67, speaks of his baptism in High Rock Lake on June 1 and the family he found in church members.
“I held my emotions until I got halfway back to the car,” he says wiping his eyes. “I was baptized and when I turned around, there was my whole Bible study group standing in a line waiting to help me back to shore.”
Carden and members of High Rock Community were part of a mass baptism that took place at the home of Steve and Anita Reeder in Lake Pointe off Poole Road.
Senior Minister Ray Johnson says about 200 people gathered on the shore to watch as 41 people were baptized. This is not the first such baptism for Johnson.
“We primarily do it this way because we’re meeting in a former boat dealership and we have no place to baptize on site,” Johnson says. “We used to do it at the YMCA, until I was late for a baptism because there was no place for me to park.”
Steve Reeder decided to allow the baptism to be done at his house because his neighbors had done it and the church needed a place to do another one.
“It was a lot of people, but everyone chipped in,” he says.
The group enjoyed a covered dish meal and began the baptism. The first to be baptized was Johnson’s son, Tyler. Johnson says his church is unusual.
“We allow parents to baptize their children and people who led others to God can baptize them,” he says.
Annika Collins is one such person. Collins was preparing to be baptized herself, when her seven-year-old daughter, Bailey decided there on the bank to be baptized.
“I went and found Pastor Ray and he made sure Bailey knew what she was doing,” Collins says.
Collins, owner of Party Connection, had been sprinkled as a child. She was baptized by minister, Ronnie Pinyan, and then helped to baptize Bailey.
“Afterwards, Bailey called her friends to tell them about it,” she marvels.
“It was a really special day,” says Bailey’s father, Kent Collins.
Matt Whitley, 18, bass player in the church’s band, watched his parents’ baptism. He didn’t know his parents were going to be baptized the same day he was.
“I didn’t expect my Dad to be able to help baptize me,” he says. “It was an amazing feeling. I didn’t see that coming. My Dad started crying. We all lost it.”
Onlookers were emotional, also.
“I loved seeing the kids getting baptized,” says church member Terry Avalos-Taylor. “But, when Larry got baptized, I went hysterical.”
Johnson says the members of his church seem to prefer the lake baptisms because it mimics the baptism of Jesus. Three people, like Shelly Riley, who is eight months pregnant, were baptized in the pool, and 39 were dunked in High Rock Lake.
“It was an amazing experience,” says Riley. “I wanted to get it done while I was pregnant.”
“I didn’t come prepared to go in, but I went in with her,” says Riley’s husband, Briar. “It was a great experience.”
High Rock Community Church began in the former boat dealership at 7800 Bringle Ferry Road on July 4, 2004. The group has grown from 160 people attending on that first day to about 500 average attendance Johnson says. The church holds four services every Sunday to accommodate all attending. This Sunday, they will celebrate their three- year anniversary with “Hundred Grand Sunday.” They will attempt to raise $100,000 in one day as part of an expansion project for a children’s education building.
Carden happened on the church by accident.
“I didn’t stop by because I wanted to attend church,” he says. “I stopped by because I was nosy.”
He came in just to see what was going on.
“The Lord rode the rest of the way home with me,” he says.
Contact Lee Ann Sides Garrett at 704-797-4245 or news@ salisburypost.com.
By Lee Ann Sides Garrett