New Castle News

October 1, 2013

Photos, Story: Local pastor takes baptism to the Neshannock Creek

Dan Irwin
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Jesus turned water into wine, and a young boy’s lunch into dinner for 5,000.

The Rev. Randy Crum can’t match that. But he can turn a swimming hole into a baptistery.

In fact, Crum has done it twice already, including Sunday, when he baptized seven people in the waters of the Neshannock Creek, just below Paper Mill Bridge. Although it was a time of celebration, the service was conceived in mourning when Crum lost his father early last month.

“I’d been wanting to baptize in the city somewhere,” said Crum, pastor of Wayside Emmanuel Church and director of Vision Ministries of Lawrence County. “But it’s hard to find a place that’s clean enough, that doesn’t have pop bottles and things like that.”

After his father, Raymond G. Crum Jr., died Sept. 6 at age 84, Randy Crum began sorting through his dad’s belongings and came across some old photos of himself as a child, swimming in the Neshannock Creek by Paper Mill Bridge.

“That gave me the idea that that maybe I ought to come back to this place,” he said.

While many churches that practice baptism by immersion have a bathtub-like facility called a baptistery as part of their sanctuaries, the Bible tells of John the Baptist performing the ordinance — even baptizing Jesus — in the Jordan River.

“Since we’re trying to do something in the city of New Castle, I wanted to do it there, and get back to the way it was done in biblical times, right in the river,” Crum said. “It’s actually really neat to do it that way. I think it’s the greatest thing in the world.

“I’ve done it in lakes, I’ve done in baptisteries, but  there’s nothing like a dip in that cold water to know what you’re doing. It’s kind of an awakening, and it’s really significant to the people who do it there.  I think the meaning stands in our minds for a longer period of time, that we remember what we’ve done.”

Prior to Sunday’s baptisms, Crum gathered a flock of about 20 people on the bridge to explain the act.

“It does not impregnate you with the Holy Spirit,” he said. “It is an outward sign of an inward condition.We our identifying ourselves publicly as as his.

“Buried in baptism with Christ (the immersion beneath the water represents Jesus’ death and burial) and raised in newness of life (the re-emergence signifying Christ’s resurrection).”

Those who came intending to be baptized were Bob McCandless; his father, Paul (baptized with creek water on the bridge because he could not make it down to the water); and Ken and Beth Riedel and their 10-year-old son, David. Upon professing a faith a in Christ to Crum, a couple who had been fishing at the site — Olajuwon Wilkins and Stephanie Fullwood — also received baptism.

“If it was good enough for Jesus, its good enough for me,” Ken Riedel said of the creek immersion. “This is the way it was done in the Jordan River, with John the Baptist.

“I just need to publicly proclaim my faith. It’s a way to show that I belong to the Lord.”