Moving Faith From a Microwave to a Crockpot

A baptism journey at Hillcrest Mennonite Church

online conference screen left background blurry, green plant on rightThe Zoom screens come to life and connect across six computers, bringing the friends into each other’s living rooms and dorm rooms. ‘What is God doing in your life? What are you going to do about it?’ These questions have changed the lives of these friends.

girl logging onto computer, knapsack in backgroundSeveral young people at Hillcrest Mennonite Church were interested in baptism in the fall of 2019. Hillcrest planned to begin faith exploration classes after the Christmas season as a way of preparing for baptism. “And then we started hearing about this global pandemic,” says Kevin Peters Unrau, co-pastor at Hillcrest Mennonite Church. “Everything was shutting down.”

Pastors Jan Steckley and Kevin found themselves wondering what to do. Do they wait until life goes back to normal? How long will this COVID-19 last? There were many questions at the beginning of the pandemic and very few answers. As they pondered options, they asked each other, “What happens if we make baptism not the conclusion of something, but the start of something?” They planned the baptism and told the youth, “We will meet with you every two weeks to help you live into your baptism.”

Hillcrest held an online baptism in August of 2020. “It was very meaningful,” says Kevin. “Because it was an online baptism, the parents were the ones who were present, poured the water and baptized their children.”

After the baptism, the group, Jan and Kevin met online every two weeks. “It’s about microwaves and crock pots,” says Kevin, with a smile. “Pre-baptism faith classes in a way feels as though we microwave faith for three hours every Friday night for eight weeks and then hold a baptism. It works, but moving to a huddle model after baptism feels as though we drop faith into a crockpot where all the flavours can take time to meld together.”

“Reflecting on your life and paying attention to God is what it means to be a disciple."
- Kevin Peters Unrau

One of the young people had decided that they were not ready for baptism in August but continued to be a part of the huddle every two weeks reflecting on how God was moving in their life and what they were going to do about it. A half-year later, they felt ready and another service was planned. “The youth influenced each other’s lives differently because they met intentionally every two weeks,” reflects Kevin. “When the fourth person was baptized, the other three were involved in meaningful ways.” They continue to support each other, meeting every two weeks, even two years later.

abstract water image with word BaptismIt was during ReLearning Community that Hillcrest heard about “discipleship huddles.” A huddle is a place of discipleship, to give and receive encouragement and a place of accountability. This particular huddle, one of four at Hillcrest, relies on some of the principles and teachings of a ReLearning Community huddle, but also blends in some spiritual direction principles and practices as well. It is a way of practicing a spiritual discipline together.

“My hope is that the youth see that whether you do this with us, with someone else or in another format, this is what you need to do for the rest of your life,” says Kevin. “Reflecting on your life and paying attention to God is what it means to be a disciple. My prayer is that Hillcrest be a place where disciples are made – a place where people are able to live a life of Christ.”