Jesus is emphatic about the necessity of baptism. He told Nicodemus, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5, NIV). Deacons and deaconesses are major participants in this important service; they have the privilege of serving the baptismal candidates in many practical ways. The Church Manual states, “At the baptismal ceremony the deacons should make necessary preparations and also assist male candidates into and out of the water. The deaconesses should assist female candidates. Care should be exercised to see that proper attire is provided for the candidates, preferably robes of suitable heavy material. If robes are not available, the candidates should dress in modest attire.”1

From this, we can see that the role of deacons and deaconesses is invaluable to the candidates. The following are some of the preparations that deacons and deaconesses should make for baptismal services:

1. The deacons should clean and fill the baptistry in plenty of time before the service so that the water level and temperature are appropriate.

2. The head deaconess should make sure that enough robes (proper sizes), bath towels, wash cloths, bathing caps, and socks are on hand before the day of the service. (White is an appropriate color for these items.) If possible, items should be stored in a secure location close to the dressing rooms.

3. The head deacon and head deaconess should have extra clothing and robes on hand for persons who decide to get baptized at the last moment. The head deaconess should also have nail polish remover and wipes handy.

4. Before the service begins, the head deacon and head deaconess should privately call the pastor’s attention to candidates who are wearing colorful cosmetics and jewelry.

5. The head deacon and head deaconess should obtain instructions from the pastor regarding the order in which the candidates are to enter the baptistry. They should have each candidate place his/her name, address, telephone number, date of birth, and date of baptism on a 3x5 card before the service begins. All cards are given to the pastor in the order that the candidates will be baptized.

6. One or two deacons and deaconesses are to help the candidates get dressed in sufficient time for the service. If the baptism takes place during the divine worship service, they may sit with the candidates on the front rows during the worship service to make sure they feel comfortable. After the pastor reads the baptismal vows to the candidates, the deacons and deaconesses can escort the candidates to the baptistry.

7. As each baptized female candidate descends from the baptistery, a deaconess should wrap her with a sheet or heavy towel and escort her back to the dressing room. A deaconess is to be stationed outside of the dressing room door, to secure the privacy of the candidates. A deacon does the same for the males.

8. After the baptism, the candidates dress and are escorted back to the sanctuary to receive the right hand of fellowship.

9. Upon completion of the service, the deacons and deaconesses gather the church’s items so they can be laundered and properly stored until needed again.

10. The deacons are responsible for draining the baptistry. However, if the water is to remain for another baptism in the near future, chlorine should be placed in the water.

11. After sunset, a thorough cleaning of the dressing rooms and areas leading to the baptistry should be done by the deacons and deaconesses.

Other important items for deacons and deaconesses to consider are:

• The color of the baptismal robes (the preferred color is white or black).

• Heating and cooling in the dressing room. If possible, dressing rooms should have adequate space with heating and air conditioning; deacons should check the baptistry heater periodically to keep it in good operating condition.

1 The Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 39.

Vincent E. White, Sr., D.Min., is a retired pastor and author of The Twenty-First Century Deacon and Deaconess: Reflecting the Biblical Model; The Twenty-First Century Deacon and Deaconess: Reflecting the Biblical Model Workbook; and Problem Solvers and Soul Winners: A Handbook for Deacons and Deaconesses. To schedule training seminars, email [email protected].