Waters of baptism

As we come to the end of a month-long celebration of water and the many ways it touches our lives as people and as people of faith, finally a post on baptism.

“Whenever I hear the sound of water flowing or see the water poured in the sacrament of baptism, my soul is deeply moved and built up as I remember the promises claimed at my own baptism and those of my children. The signs and sounds of that gesture speak profoundly to me of the renewal we have in Christ Jesus, claimed in baptism and claimed again each time I remember the promises of my baptism.”

— A worshiper (from Reformed Worship)


In researching the topic of baptism for this blog post, two key themes stood out for me.

Firstly, baptism has been a fruitful topic in ecumenical relations, helping foster dialogue and reconciliation.

Secondly, there is much to be gained by “keeping baptism front and center” (Arlo D. Duba) in our church life.

According to Arlo D. Duba:

Too often we neglect baptism’s missional focus to go into all the world to make disciples, baptizing them (Matt. 28:19). Or we overlook the element of entering into the death and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:3-6). Even when we introduce something like the Paschal (Easter) Vigil, we sometimes downplay or miss altogether its integral relationship with baptism.

Luther urged Christians to practice the daily renewal of the baptismal covenant by placing a hand on the head each morning and saying, ‘I am a baptized person, and today I will live out my baptism.’ And Calvin says that our propensity toward evil never ceases, but we take courage because what ‘begins in our baptism’ must be pursued every day until it is perfected when we go to be with the Lord (Institutes, 4, 15, 11).

Baptismal renewal must also be reflected in our services of worship. This means baptism, in all its power, must again become visible in all our worship services — not only when the sacrament of baptism is administered, but every Sunday.

(for full article, see 2. below)

Recommended reading/listening

1. Ecumenical resources on Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows and Liturgy,
Church of Scotland website
2. Take Me to the Water: Ideas for keeping baptism front and center,
by Arlo D. Duba
3. Worship Ideas on the Sacrament of Baptism,
by Howard Vanderwell and Norma de Waal Malefyt
4. Talking with Children about the Sacraments (audio, 01:08:56),
by Sue A. Rozeboom and Carrie Steenwyk (2012 Calvin Symposium on Worship)


O Christ, you humbled yourself and received baptism at the hands of your friend and cousin, John, showing us the way of humility; help us to follow you, and never to be encumbered with pride.

O Christ, by your baptism, you took our humanity into the cleansing waters; give us new birth, and lead us into life as sons and daughters of God.

O Christ, by your baptism the material world became charged with your holiness; make us instruments of your transformation in this our world.

O Christ, by your baptism you revealed the Trinity, your Father calling you his beloved Son, and the Spirit descending upon you like a dove; renew our worship, rededicate us in the spirit of our baptism, and mould us into our true nature, in the image of God.

For your love’s sake,

after the Chaldean Rite

from The Book of a Thousand Prayers by Angela Ashwin, p. 393

Environmentally water-wise

River Kelvin, Glasgow, where Rev. Norman Hutcheson grew up

Rev. Norman Hutcheson served 2 terms as locum during a recent vacancy in my home congregation in Rotterdam. During his second stint in September 2015, with the Paris Climate talks due to take place in December 2015, he chose as overarching theme for the month “Climate Time”.

The Paris Climate talks proved ground-breaking. “Representatives from 196 nations made a historic pact … to adopt green energy sources, cut down on climate change emissions and limit the rise of global temperatures — while also cooperating to cope with the impact of unavoidable climate change.” (http://www.npr.org)

On a local level, Norman inspired us as a congregation to consider our environmental footprint, and we’ve made good headway in that regard, with 48 solar panels on order (as we speak), and other measures in place to reduce energy costs.

Recently the Paris Climate Agreement was once again in the news when President Trump announced that the U.S. would cease all participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement. How this will all pan out in the long run, we will have to wait and see.

What can we do to play our part for the good of the planet water-wise?

Norman’s reflections:

Haves and have nots

For years I took water for granted – always pure, straight from the tap. I now know that safe water to drink and adequate supplies for sewage and irrigation remain a far off dream for half of the world’s population. Often it’s the result of the rich and powerful taking more than their fair share of the water resources.

Will we play our part to work for equity and justice where water resources are concerned?


Two years ago I represented the Church of Scotland at a meeting on Environmental matters organised by the Church of South India. I was astonished to learn that it takes 600 gallons (2500 L) of water to produce a 6-ounce (150g) hamburger. A hidden cost we should be aware of.

Will we play our part to use the earth’s resources in a responsible way?

Signs of hope

Where I come from we have little experience of water scarcity. I do know about the effects of water pollution, though. Until the mid-19th Century the River Kelvin in Glasgow where I grew up had salmon swimming up the river. Then industrialisation ruined their habitat and the fish disappeared for 150 years. In recent years there have been initiatives to restore the habitat and to bring the salmon back, with success.

Will we play our part to promote good water management where we live, for the benefit of all God’s creatures?

Recommended listening/reading
The inside story of the Paris Climate Agreement (TED talk)
To make a burger, first you need 660 gallons of water …
The Hidden Water We Use


Lord of all, we forget sometimes that your love involves responsibility as well as privilege; a duty not just to you but to the whole of your creation, to nurture and protect rather than simply to exploit it.

Forgive us our part in a society that has too often lives for today with no thought of tomorrow. Forgive us our unquestioning acceptance of an economic system that plunders this worlds’ resources with little regard as to the consequences.

Help us to live less wastefully and with more thought for those who will come after us.

Challenge the hearts and minds of people everywhere, that both they and we may understand more fully the wonder and the fragility of this planet you have give us, and so honour our calling to be faithful stewards of it all.

In Christ’s name, Amen.

by Nick Fawcett, from 2000 Prayers for Public Worship (2008), Prayer #916

See also Water world news

Body of water

mary and elizabeth, jesus and johnJesus meets John
for the first time

based on
a Christmas card
I made years ago

In the womb

We start out life in the relatively safe confines of our mother’s womb, cushioned by a body of water, until the waters break and it’s time to show our face and let our voice be heard.

When my mother was 8 months pregnant with me, her appendix burst. My father, a recent immigrant to South Africa without any family nearby to provide support, faced the prospect of losing both his wife and unborn child. The medical team opted to leave me in place. I imagine the nuns at St Joseph’s Maternity Hospital, who knew my mother as a nurse and former colleague and now as a prospective mother and patient, prayed us through the crisis. I was born full term a month later.

Herb Lubalin's logo for a magazine that never saw the light of day,
Mother and child (1966) by Herb Lubalin

Fearfully and wonderfully made

Many times I come back to these words from Psalm 139 – a truth beyond comprehension, revealed to affirm us in the body and in the faith:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Psalm 139:13-16 (NIVUK)

In the body

The phrase “body of water” is also a reference to the role water plays in the human body. For more details, check out this educational video, “What would happen if you didn’t drink water?” by Mia Nacamulli:


“Lord, you have given me so much; I ask for one more thing – a grateful heart.”

after George Herbert (1593-1633)

This post is one a number on the theme of water, theme of the month for July 2017.

Water world news

BEARING THE BURDEN: Women carry more than their fair share of the world’s water

Below is a sample of news articles on the topic of water published in the last month. Good news, bad news, out of this world news (like the fact that they found water on the moon).

Whatever the news, may the Holy Spirit help us discern if the news story is also a call to prayer. Our planet needs all the help it can get.

Scientists Have Discovered That There is Water Under the Moon’s Surface: New research from Brown University suggests that huge amounts of water may be found under the surface of the Moon. The presence of water in the Moon’s mantle could provide insight to how water got to Earth and help sustain future deep space missions.

Venezuelans Stockpile Food and Water Ahead of Maduro Power Grab: Venezuelans are stockpiling scarce food and water as tensions mount ahead of a widely criticized Sunday vote that President Nicolas Maduro has called to elect an assembly of supporters to rewrite the constitution and strengthen his grip on power.

The Trump administration is ramping up its war on clean water: There is a serious, concerted effort going on to undermine clean water.

Why Some Western Water Agencies Are Writing 100-Year Water Plans: Climate change is causing water managers to think long term about their resources. Several western agencies are planning a century in advance, but that’s not without its headaches.

‘Drastic’ water rationing looms for Rome as drought blights Italy: Some of the driest weather to affect Italy’s in 60 years and Rome’s notoriously leaky pipes has left the city’s residents fearing water rationing.

India’s Water-Energy Nexus: India’s water crisis is impacting its energy supply. What can be done?

New, reusable filter cleans heavy metals from water: A chemist from Rice University and a high school student have developed a filter that can remove toxic heavy metals from the water.

Women carry more than their fair share of the world’s water: The task of providing water for households falls disproportionately to women and girls.

Murray-Darling Basin Plan: SA Water Minister ‘shocked’ by upstream revelations: SA’s Water Minister has launched a scathing attack of the New South Wales Government’s conduct of Murray-Darling Basin water management and repeated calls for a judicial inquiry.

Thirsty city: after months of water rationing Nairobi may run dry: The rains have been poor while demand for water grows along with the city – there are solutions but they will mean radical action

Sweden’s water shortage: What you need to know: It may not be something commonly associated with a northern European nation, but Sweden is currently fretting over water shortages in several parts of the country, and there are already visible consequences. Here’s everything you need to know about the situation.

How Conservation Helps Keep Water Costs Down: Water rates may be rising in some places, but new research shows that they don’t rise as much with conservation, says Mary Ann Dickinson of the Alliance for Water Efficiency.

Israel, Palestinian Authority reach water-sharing deal: Israel and the Palestinian Authority have reached a water-sharing deal to bring relief to parched Palestinian communities, in a breakthrough announced during the latest visit to the region by the US Middle East envoy.

Global hotspots for potential water conflict identified: More than 1,400 new dams or water diversion projects are planned or already under construction and many of them are on rivers flowing through multiple nations, fueling the potential for increased water conflict between some countries.

Forget Sharks: 7 Things in the Water Swimmers Should Actually Fear: Shark attacks are rare, but watch out for these nasty parasites

How then shall we live?

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord
and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat
or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green,
and they never stop producing fruit.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 (New Living Translation)

All month I’ve been publishing posts on the theme of water.
Here’s an overview.

Ancient Irish Prayer

celtic tea light

Here is an Ancient Irish Prayer, selected for its multiple references to water, our current theme of the month.

The prayer incorporates Latin phrases from the Gloria, an ancient hymn of praise to the Trinity that has been in use in the Church since the second century: Laudamus Te, benedicimus Te, adoramus Te, glorificamus Te. In English: “We praise You, we bless You, we adore You, we glorify You”.

Glorificamus Te!

I offer Thee
Every flower that ever grew
Every bird that ever flew
Every wind that ever blew
Good God!
Every thunder rolling
Every church bell tolling
Every leaf and sod

Laudamus Te!

I offer Thee
Every wave that ever moved
Every heart that ever loved
Thee, thy Father’s Well-beloved
Dear Lord!
Every river dashing
Every lightning flashing
Like an angel’s sword

Benedicimus Te!

I offer Thee
Every cloud that ever swept
O’er the skies, and broke and wept
In rain, and with the flowerlets slept
My King!
Every communicant praying
Every angel staying
Before Thy throne to sing

Adoramus Te!

I offer Thee
Every flake of virgin snow,
Every spring of earth below
Every human Joy and woe,
My love!
O Lord! And all thy glorious
Self o’er death victorious
Throned in heaven above

Glorificamus Te!

from The Open Gate: Celtic Prayers for Growing Spiritually
by David Adam, p. 44-45


Recently a friend remarked that the song “All things bright and beautiful” is like a 2-minute walk through nature. This prayer is also a walk through nature, but, without the music to keep us moving, it’s up to us how long we take to cover the distance.

See also Theme: Come to the waters (Prayer sheet)

Theme: Come to the waters

This prayer sheet is inspired by the July 2017 theme of the month: Water.

The prayers reference different aspects of water we find in the Bible, to help us connect with the giver of this gift that is so vital to our health and well-being, and to pray for those who thirst.

For personal use or to share.

Continue reading “Theme: Come to the waters”

Tips for using a Prayer Sheet

List of prayer sheet blog posts

I’ve been compiling prayer sheets for some years now. It’s my way of “preparing the way for the Lord” (Isaiah 40:3) when asked to lead a prayer meeting. The prayer sheet serves as a framework, with prayers and responses to share, as well as room for silence, personal concerns and spontaneous prayer.

I’ve repurposed some of the prayer sheets to share via the blog, with more in the pipeline. I’m also keen to compile prayer sheets to complement the theme of the month.

Prayer sheet blog posts include all the individual components, as well as a link to a pdf version in a handy format you can print out for personal use or to share.

My friend, Margriet, has a whole collection of prayer sheets that I’ve compiled over the years. She often has one tucked in her diary to refer to when she needs a moment for contemplation in her busy life. She says: “I draw strength from the prayers and readings so I can better help others.” For my part, I’m grateful that the prayer sheets continue to bear fruit.

Some ideas for using a prayer sheet in its printed form

1. Annotate the prayer sheet to personalize it, adding related verses, prayers and prayer requests.

2. Use the prayer sheet as a book mark, or keep a copy in your journal/diary, so you can refer to it when you have a moment for reflection.

3. Take a few copies with you on holiday to use as an aid to contemplation while out in nature or other quiet spot. On your own or with family/travel companions.

4. Take copies of a prayer sheet on an appropriate theme with you when you visit someone who might appreciate a time of prayer and reflection together. Possibly leave a copy with them.

5. Use a prayer sheet as a devotional with your Bible Study group or in family worship.

Some of the prayer sheets available

Theme: Sharing in Jesus’ ministry
Theme: Do not lose heart
Theme: God makes all things new
Theme: Ever sustaining

See the Index for a complete list.

If you have ideas or stories related to the use of prayer sheets, please share them in the comments.

Mightier than the crashing waves

Ocean north of Belfast, en route to Giant's Causeway
North of Belfast, en route to the Giant’s Causeway (photo: Irene Bom)

Theme: Water.

Here is a psalm featuring the majesty of the ocean waves, reminding us that their power is nothing compared with the power that God has to sustain all life and to bring about change.

The Lord reigns, he is robed in majesty;
   the Lord is robed in majesty and armed with strength;
   indeed, the world is established, firm and secure.
Your throne was established long ago;
   you are from all eternity.

The seas have lifted up, Lord,
   the seas have lifted up their voice;
   the seas have lifted up their pounding waves.
Mightier than the thunder of the great waters,
   mightier than the breakers of the sea –
   the Lord on high is mighty.

(Psalm 93:1-4, NIVUK)


About 10 years ago I was inspired by the words of Psalm 93 to write this song. I particularly enjoy the sensation of singing the words “crashing waves” and “pound as they sound”.


So strong, so majestic
The Lord reigns supreme
Ever constant, ever firm
His throne is everlasting.
Mightier than the crashing waves
He is worthy of all praise.

The floods lift up their voice
Hear the waves pound
as they sound out their praise.
The floods lift up their voice
Let us join the refrain:
‘Lord, you reign!’

For notation see website

More food for thought

A. From the “Born Optimistic” Podcast featuring Irish Singer, Wallis Bird (transcript taken from around 06:40 of the recording):

Interviewer: On the days when you find it hard to be positive, how do you cheer yourself up?
Wallis Bird: A little bit of sweating. There’s a lovely phrase: “Salt water is the cure of everything: sweat, the sea or tears.”

B. Water sounds by Bernie Krause

On Writing Prayer-Poems

Psalm-inspired prayer poems for LENT 2021 (Year B)
Not unless | Not forsaken | Sweet words | Talk about it | You are right | Cornerstone


prayer poems

PDF handout

I confess. I tend to borrow prayers from others. See the prayer sheets, for example, which are collections of prayers on a theme, sourced from books or other websites like re:Worship.

But sometimes you have to stretch yourself, so when I was putting together the series that became “The Gift” (Preparing for Pentecost) I decided to try my hand at writing some original prayers to accompany the Scriptures I had selected.

I’d like to share what I learnt from writing the twelve prayer-poems I wrote for the series. I hope you, in turn, will be inspired to write prayer-poems of your own.

Continue reading “On Writing Prayer-Poems”

From parched to satisfied

my God, I thirst ... satiisfaction

Mid-June our ladies Bible Group group reflected on PSALM 63, with its rich imagery and strong verbs. I was moved by David’s ability to use his physical circumstances (in the Desert of Judah) to inform his poetry. The theme of dry and parched established in the beginning (v.1) finds a resolution in v. 5 where the psalmist speaks of (true) satisfaction. Note that the act of praising God is an important catalyst. It is our connection with our loving, powerful, generous God that gets us through.

Psalm 63

A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.

1 You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.

2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

6 On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.

9 Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
10 They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.

11 But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God will glory in him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

Follow up #1

Some weeks later we used the words of Psalm 63 (arranged in alphabetical order) in a writing exercise.

This is what I wrote:

Remember being dry
Remember being satisfied
Those who cling to God
find the power to praise him
   even when parched
   even in the depths

by Irene Bom

Follow up #2

Since last week I have been chalking the word “remember” in different parts of the city of Rotterdam and have inspired and equipped others to do the same in their neighbourhoods.

Further reading
Also on the theme of water (theme of the month): The wells of salvation and Quiet near a little stream