By Sue Lowe
South Bend Tribune Staff Writer

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - "It takes a place like Granger Community to pull something like this off," a beaming Jodi Wagonmaker said as she stood ready to help people at the church's annual Baptism Celebration held Sunday, Sept. 9.

It's not every baptism where you can buy a hot dog and nachos while waiting to watch your friends and relatives be baptized.

It's also not every baptism where about 350 people are baptized.

Jami Ruth, communications manager for Granger Community Church (United Methodist), said the annual ceremonies had been held at Clear Lake in Buchanan since the church was founded by Pastor Mark Beeson 21 years ago.

But Coveleski Regional Stadium has more room for friends and family. The church has about 5,000 members, according to Ruth.

So the move was made this year with six small aboveground pools set up with baptisms taking place in all six at once.

It took a little longer than an hour for the names and pool assignments of those being baptized to be read.

And it was another half hour before everybody had gone through the lines at the pools.

Wagonmaker was one of many, many church volunteers wearing red baseball caps so those in need could find them. She was baptized last year at Clear Lake.

She said there's something to be said for baptism in a natural lake - "there's back to nature."

She thinks there's also something to be said for using the Cove.

It puts a little more attention on those being baptized.

Plus Wagonmaker likes the idea of church members patronizing the stadium concession stands and showing some appreciation for its place in the community. "Water is water," she said. "When you go down in it you're one person. When you come out you're another person."

Those being baptized included teenagers, younger children and adults. Some walked up to the pool with a friend or relative but were baptized alone.

Others went through the ritual in pairs or even family groups.

Jessi Coburn and Drew Bain came from Otsego, Mich., to be baptized. They come almost every Sunday to go to Granger Community Church where Bain's father and stepmother attend.

Coburn said being baptized together made the two feel closer.

One family of six from North Liberty was baptized together as a symbol of hope for the future.

John Marks Jr. had his last chemotherapy treatment for non-Hodgkins lymphoma Wednesday.

"This is a good chance to start over," his wife, Anna Marks, said.The baptism follows a lot of prayer.

The couple's three children, Jordan, Alicia and Gloria, joined them along with his brother, Thomas.

Before the sacrament started, Beeson thanked the "men and women across Michiana who have decided to go public with their faith."

After being baptized, participants walked down the third base line to touch home plate.

Beeson called it "a home run for Christ."

This story was used by permission of the South Bend Tribune c2007. All rights reserved.