Saturday 3 March 2018

Quaeritur : Are Baptisms in Frozen Water Valid?


Dear Archdruid
We have a baptism due on Sunday and every time we pour water in the font it freezes solid. Is a baptism legitimate if it takes place with ice?

Worried priests are writing to me. All asking the same question: is a baptism effective if the water freezes?

And it's a common concern out here in more rural parts. The heating in Husborne Crawley church is always on the blink. Normally they just close down till spring when this happens, and redirect everyone to Aspley Guise.

The important thing is that the candidate's head comes into contact with the water. And ice is, when all's said and done, water. Obviously there is great symbolism here - the flowing of water represents, among other things, the movement of the Holy Spirit. So I assume an ice-baptism is more suitable in the Church of England, where they have rules to slow the Spirit down.

Gently laying the head of little Chardonnay or Jack Daniel on the surface of the ice would seem to be the best compromise. Too fast a contact would result in their heads being banged on the ice. And too slow might cause them to stick. You might argue that all the godparents round the font, blowing on the candidate's head, would be another symbol of the Spirit. I suggest it would be better not to end up in that situation in the first place.

Adult Baptism with full immersion is another matter. Yes, the ice on the baptistry will never be so thick that they can't fall through it eventually. But the normal pattern of the newly-baptised nipping off to the vestry / lavs afterwards to get changed is disrupted in cold weather. Firstly their drips will freeze on the floor as they walk off - so you may need to grit the church. Secondly, on very cold days they may just freeze completely as they get changed. And finding a naked ice statue, solidified as they put their pants on, is not a sight any verger wants on Monday morning.

The best solution, I would suggest, is a little salt in the water to suppress the freezing point. However be aware that in that case you are making the water much colder. Get them in and out before they go blue. And that includes whoever is conducting the ceremony. No good having shiny adult converts if the minister's in hospital next Sunday.

Finally, people ask me what to do if someone, trapped in such a way that only their leg is sticking out, requests baptism im freezing cold weather.  Well, in these circumstances I'd roll ice cubes up their trouser legs. The ice should melt. OK, if it doesnt land on their heads they'll need a conditional baptism if they're ever rescued. But at least it will take their mind off things while you await rescue.

Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. By the creator of the Beaker Folk.


  1. Someone's been reading Fr Z!

  2. Just remember the Russian Orthodox practice. They immerse infants through holes in the ice - and teach that if the child doesn't survive it goes straight to heaven.

  3. I applaud the sacred use of the freezing point depression!

  4. I can recall my sons full immersion Baptism as a Morman before his marriage to a Morman.

    He looked incredible in pure white shirt and trousers and went under like a champion swimmer. All was well until he came out. The clothing was by than see through and he'd forgotten to wear underwear - all was revealed to a Mormon congregation as he had to go straight onto the stage to make his personal testimony of conversion. I won't say that he should have been arrested, but his new congregation knew him better than, than before his baptism.

  5. Just in case you haven't seen it ...


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