Bay offers healing, rebirth
Community baptism held in North Beach
For 20-year-old Ashleigh LaPerch of Deale, a quiet stroll in North Beach turned into a life-changing event.
“I just came out on the boardwalk and it led me here — to God’s grace,” emoted LaPerch about her personal journey that day.
LaPerch was one of two walkons who joined 53 candidates in the inaugural Community Holy Baptism in the Chesapeake Bay on Saturday. The faith-based event was dedicated to rebirth, forgiveness and renewal.
Organizer Karen McConell-Jones said she received a calling well over a year ago to host the baptism.
“I was on my 40-day fast and I always try to make sure I listen to God to hear his message and his purpose for me,” McConnell-Jones
said. “It was a time for peace and healing in our community … because of corruption, violence and the shooting in [Newtown, Conn.]. I thought of a baptism and I’m from the South and what better way to do it than the ole fashioned way — to go to the river so we can come together as a community.”
Multiple churches were invited to participate in the community baptism. Seven churches of many denominations participated in the Christian event. Apostle Dennis Powell of the Heaven on Earth Worship Ministries in Laurel officiated over the interfaith ceremony.
“You are part of something great,” said Powell, greeting the crowd of more than 100 participants and onlookers. “It’s better when we do it together. One thing that we are forgetting to do as a people, as a nation, is pray. We must come back to a place of prayer.”
Prophet Macxin Mwamba wa Ngoy, senior pastor of The Revelation Church in Silver Spring, performed a scripture reading in French from John 3 where he told the crowd that in order to enter the kingdom of God they must be born of water and the Spirit for a “miraculous healing.”
Maryland Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Anne Arundel, Prince George’s) and Del. Darryl Barnes (D-Prince George’s) presented individual citations from the Maryland General Assembly. North Beach town council member Jean Hagan welcomed the group and read a proclamation from Mayor Mark Frazer applauding the group’s efforts “to promote peace and healing in the community.”
Retired airman and College of Southern Maryland Associate Professor James Dula testified about the power of God and his personal experience with prayer during a severe illness.
“When you wake up tomorrow, wake up with new shoes on. Wake up with a new attitude. Wake up with joy in your heart. … Wake up and thank Jesus Christ for saving you,” said Dula, speaking to those being baptized and encouraging them to find a mentor to guide them on their new path.
Members of the faith community released 15 doves over the bay to signify the purity of Christ and God’s promises.
“As soon as Jesus was baptized he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was open and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove and lightening on him...” Powell read from John 3:16-17.
Scores of people descended upon the beach to watch as candidates one by one were baptized. Watching the ceremony from the dock was 89-yearold Ella Jacks of North Beach. Jacks was accompanied by her daughter, Sue Jacks, who held an umbrella over her mother during the entire ceremony to shield her from the sun and the 96-degree temperatures.
Each baptism participant was ministered to by a leader of a church community before being dipped into the warm waters of the bay. For the Rev. Joe Jimerson of the Springs of Living Water in La Plata, the event was truly a family affair. Two of the nine candidates for baptism were his family members, including 9-year-old granddaughter Tamara Jimerson and his adult daughter, Leah Onuoha. Onuha had been baptized as a child, but renewed her faith and commitment during the day.
Celebrating her rebirth on her 14th birthday was Kiera Robinson of Waldorf. Robinson and her mother, Marie Thomas, had planned to get baptized together. Sixteenyear-old Kevon High and his mother, Mary High, of Chesapeake Beach were introduced to the event through the Chesapeake City of Praise Church in North Beach under the leadership of Pastor Violet Jones, took the lead on the reception and reserved the boardwalk with the Town of North Beach.
Young and old alike participated in the rebirth. Seventy-nine-year-old Prince Frederick resident Robert H. Wills, who learned about the event from his daughter, became overwhelmed with emotion as he approached the water.
“I always wanted to get baptized. So, I came out to get baptized,” shared Wills, who is now looking for a church home.
McConnell-Jones initially planned this as a onetime event but has now been encouraged to make it an annual celebration.
STAFF PHOTO BY TAMARA WARD Leah Onuoha prays moments before her baptism in the Chesapeake Bay at the Community Holy Baptism event held in North Beach on Aug. 13. Onuho, who was renewing her baptism, gave the honors to her father, the Rev. Joe Jimerson, right, of the Springs of Living Water Church in La Plata.
Sixteen-year-old Kevon High of Chesapeake Beach emerges from the Chesapeake Bay during his baptism. High and his mother, Mary, both got baptized at the Community Holy Baptism event in North Beach on Aug. 13.
Tata Illunga rises out of the Chesapeake Bay immediately after being baptized at the Community Holy Baptism event held in North Beach on Aug. 13. Pastors Tony Massamba and Assani Saidi of the Revelation Church in Silver Spring officiated over Illunga’s baptism.
A group gathers in North Beach to be baptized in the Chesapeake Bay on Aug. 13.