For more than fifty years, Dr. H. Stephen Shoemaker has devoted himself to local church ministry as a pastor and as a student of theological, biblical, and liturgical studies. Currently pastor of Grace Baptist Church in Statesville, North Carolina, he has also pastored churches in Louisville, Kentucky; Ft. Worth, Texas; and Charlotte, North Carolina. He has also served as an adjunct and visiting professor at several universities. He is the author of nine books and a frequent contributor to journals and magazines.
What is your hope for your new book, Baptism: A Living Sacrament of the Christian Life?
I have four main hopes for the book. The first is the renewal of the meaning and practice of baptism in a time when baptism is playing a less important role in the church, even among Baptist churches. The second is for its use in preaching and teaching about baptism and in the preparation of those considering baptism. The third is the enrichment of the practice of baptism and the practice of the renewal of baptism vows in worship during the great seasons of the Church year, particularly during Lent to Easter. This is why I have included worship resources. Baptismal renewal begins in the local congregation. The fourth is that I believe baptism is the most complete emblem or symbol of the living of the Christian life, more than even the cross. My hope then is that this book can be used as a spiritual resource for individuals and groups who want to explore the meaning of their life in Christ. This fourth hope could easily have been the first!
How did you come to write a book centered on the “meeting place” of baptism?
The sacred action of baptism has always been what the Celtic Christians called “a thin place” for me, where heaven and earth seem so close as to be one. All sacraments are meeting places with God. God has promised to meet us there at the baptismal waters, as at the Table of our Lord. I have thought and preached about it for many years and wanted to put my work in book form.
In your introduction, you break down the structure of your book into ten key meanings of baptism with each chapter focusing on a myriad of quotes, anecdotes,
etc. Why did you put it together the way you did and how did you decide what quotations to use?
The development of the ten themes have been developed over the years. I love the constellation of them together to convey the fullest meaning of baptism. I use a number of quotes, anecdotes and illustrations to underline the sensory character of baptism. All our senses are involved. Baptism is not just a way of thinking. Often literature enhances the sensory quality of life, so I make use of stories, poems, songs and hymns. I use anecdotes because baptism is a deeply personal event placed in the midst of a person’s life. There is more going on than what happens in the pool.