Sometimes religion can feel abstract or intangible, but when we hear someone's story it puts flesh on the theoretical and animates concepts that may have previously seemed inaccessible or dry. Baptism is a declaration of resurrection in real-time. The symbolic dunking in the presence of community has less to do with theories and dogma and much more to do with tasting real Transformation and feeling drawn to relinquish old patterns of living as a result. Baptism proclaims that resurrection is not only something that happened... but that it's something that HAPPENS.
On May 22nd Watershed baptized six of our community members. May their stories of hope and renewal remind you that you, too, are endlessly pursued by Love!
Interested in participating in our next Baptism? Check out our Baptism FAQ's or fill out a Baptism Interest Form.
I found Watershed about a year or so after my divorce. Through the experience of having my marriage end, I was starting to develop a much clearer picture of my true self. However, I also arrived wounded and somewhat lost due to a lack of support from some people who I thought would be there for me through the pain. Going to church, and especially joining and sharing in a community, wasn’t fully comfortable. I felt ashamed to say I was divorced. I felt like I didn't fit in with early 30-somethings who were all settled, married, and having children.
Watershed was the first place I felt something new start to grow. I felt I could be who I was and let people know my circumstances without judgement. It felt so good to be able to do so. Over time, the embarrassment, guilt and self-consciousness that once occupied parts of my life started to dissipate. And, ultimately, it became the space where Christ started to grow inside of me. In our most recent series, I’ve started dealing with the idea of truly forgiving myself.
More and more, awareness of God's presence started to grow in my life. I started being drawn to this community: I decided to go through Preface... I joined a bloc... I started engaging the Bible... I invited others to Watershed.. I became a tutor at Byers... I volunteer as a greeter... I’m friends with the leader of the band (I’ve never really had “church” friends!). When I traveled for work, I stayed connected through podcasts and the Watershed app. I've gone to church for most of my life (except for college/early 20's), but often I wasn’t fully present and certainly was never a full-fledged part of a church community.
Coming into a greater intimacy with God has been both freeing and challenging. There’s a happiness and peace that I have started to experience. I’ve been given permission to be myself. But it’s also challenging me to look at others and myself differently to remain open-minded and compassionate toward others in the same way.
When I was a child I was baptized, but I love the fact that as an adult I have a choice, kind of like renewing your vows in a marriage: even though you did it once I'm re-confirming this is my choice. It’s my choice to seek God, community and a life with Christ that I want to continue being intentional with. I am also moved to be able to have my grandfather be a part of this with me, as he and my grandmother are the clear spiritual leaders of our family and have probably had the most impact throughout my life in keeping me close to God.
I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church. I went to church religiously every Sunday as a child and teenager. My father is a Baptist Deacon and my mother was raised Catholic, so God and Christ were important to our family. When I was seven I prayed to accept Jesus so that God would forgive me of my sins and I could go to heaven. As a child, often you haven’t developed enough to ask questions about things. But as I grew into adulthood, things changed. To the extent that for the past 13 years, the idea of God, church and religion wasn’t as simple as I remembered it. In fact, it became rather confusing and less than compelling.
And so I drifted into a life that was more about me than it was about God. I lost track of what it meant be “Christian” anymore. My views about life also changed. In some sense… I felt lost.
I think I arrived at Watershed longing to be closer to God. However, I didn’t feel that my life was “good enough." Preface helped me realize God’s expectation of me wasn’t perfection. I started recognizing that getting closer to God was more about understanding that He was already here… with me and in me... in the first place. I realized that part of what Jesus was inviting us to do was to see God in everything. If you focus on seeing, the being will come.
My life just before arriving to Watershed, I think, was marked by quite a bit of stress and anger. I felt out of sync, as though there should be more to what I was experiencing in life. I embraced the belief that more success, money and experiences would somehow satisfy me in the deeper places of my life. What I’ve realized is that because God loves me and is close to me, my life is already meaningful. And that I am OK being by myself, sitting in the quiet, sensing that I’m a part of something larger than myself.
I’m getting baptized because I’m awake to everything I just described after being asleep for the better part of the last 13 years. My hope is to continue to grow and to learn and follow in the steps of Christ. The more Christ teaches me about God, the more I realize how impossible it is to ever understand his immensity. But I want a deeper, more awake, more vulnerable and stronger relationship with God. And I want my life to matter such that the change and peace I’ve discovered and experienced, others can begin to experience too.
My first experience with Watershed was in 2005 through a Watershed-sponsored event called Movies in the Park. I remember meeting Matt at a local coffee shop to talk about Watershed’s view of life, God and Christianity. Watershed was in its first year and meeting in Actor’s Theatre in Uptown back then. I decided to get involved. I attended on Sundays, joined a bloc, served and led in various capacities. I even led Watershed’s ROVE Bloc for a while.
From the beginning Watershed spent time and energy attempting to help hurting people. I was drawn to get involved with some of the pursuits to make things better for people, whether in West Virginia through Habitat for Humanity or building homes in Mexico. I like doing things with my hands and I love being outdoors. These are some of the ways I feel most connected to God, so those were very meaningful experiences for me.
Life took me in a different direction several years ago, but Watershed has always been a place marker for a true season of growth. I learned things about myself and my relationship with God that were building blocks for my life with Christ today.
These days I’m part of a church within the community where I live in South Carolina. It’s a church I really love and it’s a community that’s really starting feel like home. However, recently I became aware that when I was baptized as a child it was a decision that was more driven by my parents than by my own convictions or relationship with God. I’ve been reflecting on this for a while and decided that, as an adult, I wanted to embrace this for myself. I wanted to mark this moment in my life because of how truly loved and accepted by God I am.
Because so much of my journey was informed and instigated during my season at Watershed and because God used this community and the people here to impact my life, when I made this decision I felt drawn to return here for baptism.
I want to be baptized because, after looking back over my life, I’ve noticed that God has consistently been present with me, patiently growing me and walking with me even during those less than desirable times of life. I want to be baptized because I want to continue identifying with Jesus, building community and being a part of helping others connect to the God who has been so vital to me personally. And what makes this really special for me is being baptized surrounded by so many people in a place that has always felt like home.
Since childhood my spiritual life has definitely ebbed and flowed. It really flowed as a kid. I grew up in a church that was right up the hill from my parents house. I was very involved in our youth group at every level. It was a really enjoyable experience and I feel fortunate to have grown up with a church and church community so close to my home.
I think a lot of the ebbing had to do with being an unaware college kid, allowing myself to be influenced by people and situations that were not the safest or healthiest. I hate to say it but it was kind of like a "sex, drugs, and rock & roll" phase of my life... when I really lost touch with God. It's like my love for Him was always there but I was clouded by bad decisions and toxic relationships. In college, I remember sometimes searching for a church or attending some random Bible study but nothing ever stuck. It wasn't until I moved to Charlotte that my life really changed.
I had just moved here and didn't know a soul so I started going out and drinking as a way of fitting in. And so, unfortunately (and in an odd way, fortunately), I was out one night drinking and I chose to drive home intoxicated. However, I didn’t make it home. Instead, I was pulled over and arrested for Driving Under the Influence.
I don’t know how others handle something like this, but for me it was a horrible, embarrassing, humiliating experience. It left me emotionally drained and emptied. Thank goodness I didn’t injure anyone or myself. But that night in 2013, everything changed for me.
There was a sense that I always knew ABOUT God before that event, and that I even felt he was often near. But that experience (as painful and demoralizing as it was) also woke me up to the desire to know God in deeper more meaningful ways. I longed to know God loved me even when I was unable to love and forgive myself for what I had done.
Then, in 2015, Tracy (a friend and co-worker) invited me to come to Watershed. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but over time I got involved in a bloc, started contributing to GreenHouse, and started really searching into deeper parts of myself. At Watershed I entered into a pursuit of following Christ in the process. I started feeling God's love me more and more. I started noticing that parts of my story and life became easier to describe and more redemptive to tell. The pursuit of Christ has had and continues to have a huge impact on my life. I think I've always had a love for God and have always known I need Him. But I think the more I forgive myself for my actions and let God in the closer I feel to Him.
I’ve only really been focusing my life this way for a little over a year, but today I feel more alive, content and in tune with who I am and who I want to become. I still have insecurities of course, but the more I’ve moved through this, the more the insecurities go away. I used to spend a lot of my time in other people’s shadows, feeling like I had to measure up in order to be liked. In my pursuit of Christ, it feels like I've come out of the shadows. And I believe I did because God used the worst moment of my life to open this sort of door. It feels like He pushed me out of the shadow. “I feel like He was like, "no kid, enough of this, you need to shine! You need to become who you were designed to BE. Not this other person you’ve been all these years."
So I want to be baptized today, because this is the moment in my life when I’ve hit the reset button. I want the metaphorical death of old Carole to know a new, more alive, more real, more transformed Carole! The one Jesus keeps reminding me is real. And I want this to be the way I live from this day forward.
amanda & ryan
Church has always been a part of my life. I was raised Catholic and attended mass most Sundays with my family. Those early experiences with religion and spirituality were satisfying and gave me a strong value foundation that I still use to navigate life.
However, upon entering college, I found myself searching for a more personal expression of my faith. I wanted a deeper intimacy with God and unfortunately just attending mass didn’t provide that relationship I was searching for. During my senior year of undergrad, a friend reached out and helped me start exploring my personal relationship with God. My friend attended non-denominational church. It was a bit of a struggle with the change from the Catholic Church, but I started spending time sifting through the Bible and talking to God on a daily basis, attempting to learn more about my faith on a personal level. I only attended my friend’s church a handful of times before I left Florida for grad school in North Carolina.
Upon arriving to North Carolina, I chose to return to my Catholic expression as often as I could. But ultimately, I struggled finding traction with God.
Then, last Christmas, my fiancé Ryan (who was unaccustomed to religion) started expressing an interest in finding a church. This was fueling for me personally because I saw it as a way for us bring faith into our lives. Ryan and I started to search together and the craving grew for my life with God to develop into more than just ritual. I wanted it to be a part of the fabric of my day-to-day life and I yearned for a life where Ryan and I could share faith. I wanted God be present to both of us.
Ryan and I found Watershed in January with a mere google search. They had just begun the Stogies and Stilettos series which seemed perfect for a newly engaged couple like ourselves. Watershed has been instrumental for me and for Ryan. It many ways, it’s become like a home where we’ve felt the freedom to explore and embrace God in a deeply personal way. We jumped right into Preface with only a few weeks under our belt and we started exploring our faith together within our group and at home. Embracing God has changed me. Christ has helped me look at myself and the world through a different set of eyes. It’s created a sacred space for Ryan and I in our relationship that is ours individually... but one that we also share with each other.
Our pursuit of God has helped us experience a faith more spiritually and emotionally entwined. It’s expanded our love and commitment to each other. It’s given our relationship more meaning and significance.
Baptism for me is has been about the start of something new that I want, always, moving forward in my life. I want my life and our marriage to be a picture of God’s compassion, mercy, justice and peace. For my life and my family to be a picture of the good news that Jesus embodied. I want to be able to give our children this way of knowing God, this type of community, this type of relationship and this type of faith. I hope to continue to grow and become more of who God longs for me to be. I want make a difference both in our Watershed community, the community of Charlotte, and the world. I want my faith to be an outward expression of God’s love and invitation to others.
I'm getting baptized because of how personal my life with God has become. It’s a relationship that has become real, alive and true. I am so happy to experience this with my fiancé Ryan by my side!
I grew up in Sarasota, Florida, in a family and with parents who were the most generous, loving parents I could ever ask for. I’ve never known what it’s like to NOT be loved by my mom and dad. I have a very high opinion of them both. Interestingly though, our family was relatively non-religious. Conversations about God, church or religion just never really came up. So my experience with religion and spirituality has been, to put it simply, absent.
All this started shifting for me over the past couple of years. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment where God came into my life but the biggest influencer in all this has been fiancé, Amanda. Amanda grew up with her own understanding of God and would often ask me to attend church with her. I was always open minded about going, but just never truly felt comfortable at the churches we tried. After spending Christmas with her family and attending church on Christmas Eve I expressed to her that I wanted to attend more frequently so I could gain some traction and understand more about what I was doing there.
Amanda had the idea of searching for the type of church where it would be safe for both of us to explore this in our own way and also together. We found Watershed through a Google search. It was close to home and so we decided to attend. That first Sunday was the first time I walked into a church without feeling anxious or apprehensive. It felt right. It felt good. In the way that Watershed has helped me make sense of myself and God, there seemed to be less obstacles in experiencing a presence and connection with God, something I’ve noticed growing stronger.
Recently, Matt asked me the question: “Has the idea, conversation about, or pursuit of Christ had some sort of impact or influence in you starting to feel closer or more in sync with God?”
It took me a few days to organize my thoughts about this. But, since really diving into my own spirituality I've definitely felt a connection with Christ and have been thinking about life in many ways that are different than before.
I’ve noticed caring more deeply for the people I love in my life. I’ve noticed this also in terms of the people I’ve met here in the Watershed community or people I work with or the people I desire to help in more outreaching ways through the schools Watershed works with. And I am certain it all comes from this new relationship I've just started with Christ. This is still all very new to me and I'm extremely excited about it all. I'm still learning to embrace everything in my own way but I feel like I’m growing everyday.
I’m drawn to the idea of baptism. Baptism for me has become this milestone where my resolve and bond with Christ and God are strengthened more and more. In my heart and mind my baptism is a powerful and emotional moment of celebration in my life because of the traction I’m experiencing in the beginning stages of my relationship with Christ and God. I do not want to put my life before Christ to rest, I want to explore and add more layers of love and spirituality to it with Christ and God. And I look forward to doing it here in this community.
Thanks to Liz Croby & Bill Thomas for taking the photos shown above!