I come from a church tradition that baptises believers by full immersion. The word “baptise” is transliterated from the Greek word “baptizo” which means to dip, drench or immerse so that a change of identity occurs. It was an everyday word that was also used in recipes for pickling onions, dying a cloth or even sinking a ship! So it makes sense to baptise by immersing people!
We hire a facility so don’t have the luxury of a built in permanent baptistry. We need a portable baptistry! We needed a quick and simple way of baptising people
A portable baptistry needs to…
- Be portable and pack a way for storage
- Quick to fill and heat (in the UK cold water is bracingly cold!)
- Be big enough to baptise adults
Visually baptising people from a standing position works well, so a baptistry needs to be at least 6ft (2m) long and 75cm wide or 30in wide if just the baptisee is in the pool and much much wider if baptisers are in too. I’m an average height male at 5’11” (1.8m) – being baptised from a seated position comfortably requires a length of 160cm or 5’3″ – I measured it!
We live 20mins from the seaside, so we have baptised in the sea memorably, but that is restricted to the height of summer and the tide being in (as we have a very shallow beach!). Sadly not everyone came to see it too.
We have hired the local swimming pool, and baptised there. That worked well, but again it was not during our Sunday meeting and so not everyone came or could fit round the pool edges.
Birthing Pool Baptistry
The next solution we tried was a birthing pool. These come in varying sizes and will generally only fit the baptisee or at most one of the baptisers! Because they are inflatable, they can be quite a reach to actually baptise them too!
The largest I have found is “birth pool in a box”. It has the internal dimension of max length 142cm (56″), max width 114cm (45″), max depth 69cm (27″) and so many adults would need to be baptised from a seated position or kneeling and go forward (I’m not as flexible as I should be and that would be painful!)
If you want to try the birth pool in a box, they are available from Birth Pool in a box
Easyset pool as a baptistry
The cheapest solution which will fit three people too is the 8foot Easyset pool. It has an inflatable ring that pulls the side up while it fills. The only problem is that it takes about 3hours to fill and needs heating overnight, which with our current venue is impossible. The tweet below is our friends at Cornerstone City Church at Medway using one. They are available for on Amazon US* and Amazon UK* and Amazon AUS *
In the US agricultural stock tanks are easily available. I love this one at 6ft long, 2ft wide and 2ft deep (so the baptisee can’t be too wide!) from Home Depot
Since first writing this post, stock tanks have become popular with hipsters wanting an ice dip tank or even hot tub. So they are now available in Europe too – watch you get a wide one though – 75cm
Home made Baptistry
Really we wanted a baptistry that is long enough for a tall adult, wide enough for everyone, that was quick to fill, so it didn’t take too set up. I got in touch with a local tarpaulin company, who said it was possible, if I could make a frame strong enough. They thought it was hilarious I basically wanted a tarpaulin coffin, which gave me the chance to explain that they were good theologians and to share some of the gospel!
I plumped for 210cm by 75cm wide and 75cm high. That will fit most baptisees easily. That’s nearly two tons of water, so the challenge is to stop it bowing outwards! Mark 1 used steel square tube and plastic fittings. That works well, but is fiddly to put up. As you can see from the photo it is bowing in the middle, which has got worse each time we have used it.
We have now built a frame from constructional timber (3x2s which are load bearing). This is our perfect portable baptistry – strong, easy to pack away and relatively quick to fill and heat. The next stage is to buy a long PVC banner to wrap around the outside with our logo on it.
In 2021 we modified our home made baptistry to be less tall – for sitting baptisms, which has made it far faster to fill.
I got talking to a friend who owns a hot tub company and he suggested we bought ourselves an IBC tank and pump for much faster storage. IBC tanks are a pallet size 1000l tank – we got one from a local food production facility for £25. I cut a hole in the top to allow us to put a submersible pump in and our heater. We now fill the tank in our van the night before and pop the 3 kW heater so the water is a bit warmer!
This pump will fill our baptistry in about 30mins
Professionally made Baptistries
There are a number of companies that make portable baptistries, but they are not cheap!
Portable Baptistry UK – at around £1000
Baptistry UK at around £2000!
Heating the water
Thermal inertia means that it takes time and energy to raise tap water by 10 deg. Then it warms up quicker. But that first 10 degrees is often enough to make it comfortable for baptising. We have found a submersible 2.5kW heater will do the trick overnight – and plugs into a standard socket. You can help by lagging your tank with polystyrene.
SAFETY FIRST – use an RCD plug for protection and always unplug before anyone goes anywhere near the tank
To sum up then
- Cheap, but slow to fill – Easyset pool*
- Quick to fill, but maybe too small – birthing pool
- Super cool stock tanks – super cool stock tank
- Expensive but elegant – professional!
- Or DIY once you’ve found a tarpaulin company!
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