Woman minister baptizes father

Their first baptism is a milestone for all Baptist preachers, but they don’t get more memorable than Brittany Riddle’s.

By Barbara Francis

A baptism is always cause for celebration in a Baptist church, but Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., witnessed a rare spectacle recently when a daughter of the congregation returned to the baptistery where she was immersed at age 12 to baptize her father.

The Dec. 30 baptism of Mark Riddle, who had recently professed faith in Christ and asked his daughter to perform the rite, took on added significance for Brittany Riddle, minister to adults at Vinton (Va.) Baptist Church, because it was her first.

riddle baptizeRiddle, a graduate of Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, said she and her father had talked about faith and God over the years through the ups and downs of life, but she had no idea that he would be her first baptism. She describes performing the act of faith in front of a congregation that raised and nurtured her as a child as a “holy moment."

“I began to sense a call to ministry as I graduated high school and began college,” she said. At Furman University in Greenville, S.C., she was involved in a program through the chaplain’s office called “Exploration of Vocation and Ministry.” It was through internships and ministry opportunities in this program that her call to ministry took shape.

“Every opportunity to lead worship or teach Bible studies led to other opportunities, and with each step I took I became surer that I was following God’s calling in my life,” said Riddle.

After graduation she continued to explore her calling at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, a theological-education partner of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. At BTSR, Riddle said students are prepared for that “first” baptism.

“As part of our internship class, we go to a local church and practice baptizing each other,” she said. “There is an art to leaning people into the water and lifting them back up so as not to drop them -- especially when you are only 5’3” like me.”

Riddle remembers it as one of her favorite internship classes, “not only because it’s not too often that you get to spend time in the water for a class assignment, but also because it is a reminder of the holy moments that are ahead of you in ministry.”

An affirming church

Growing up, Riddle says she was at Broadway Baptist Church “every time the doors were open.”

“My best friends and mentors were at church, and I was fortunate to be in a church that was affirming of women in ministry and that celebrated the gifts of everyone,” she said.

While she was not present when her father made his profession of faith, Riddle said they had talked about it over the phone, and her father had asked if she would come to Louisville to baptize him.

“God had blessed my life in so many ways,” Mark Riddle said. “It was time for me to affirm and acknowledge the truth of God’s love in my life."

Riddle had attended Broadway Baptist Church faithfully for more than 30 years. He said his decision to be baptized was largely due to the three strong Baptist women in his life -- his wife and two daughters.

Both father and daughter refer to the baptism as a “full circle moment.”

“It was an experience that I will never forget,” Brittany said, “standing there in the water doing what I was called to do alongside my dad and the congregation that raised me.”