Religion

New life: Baptism at Peace Presbyterian full of symbolish

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The emotion was overwhelming the day Wellspring Olson Thomas was baptized at Peace Presbyterian Church.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the place,” said Rev. Elizabeth M. Deibert, who performed the baptism of the son of Rev. Clay Thomas and Rev. Tricia Dillon Thomas.

When Wellspring -- his parents call him “Wells” -- was born Sept. 8, it was a relief and a joy not only for his parents, but the entire congregation at Peace Presbyterian. A year earlier, the Thomases had lost a baby at five months of pregnancy.

Wells is the first to be baptized in the church’s new baptismal font since the congregation moved into its leased space in the Manatee Association of Realtors building.

The congregation took the loss of the first baby, and the arrival of Wells, very personally.

Tricia Thomas is associate pastor for youth and families at Peace Presbyterian. Her husband, Clay, is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Sarasota,

“Clay had said all along he wanted to name the baby Wellspring,” Tricia Thomas said. At first she wasn’t so certain, but came around to the idea.

“In the Old Testament, there are things about the wellsprings of life and people gathering about the wells to talk. In our personal and Christian walk of life it summed up where we had been. His birth was a celebration for a lot of reasons,” she said.

The Thomases have been active in interfaith outreaches over a period of years, helping build bridges between Christians, Muslims and Jews.

At the time of Wells’ birth, Pastor Terry Jones was making worldwide headlines in Gainesville with his plans to burn Qurans on the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

“Wells was born on Sept. 8 in the midst of all this turmoil,” Tricia Thomas said.

Clay Thomas took part in an interfaith service of reconciliation in Sarasota on Sept. 11 to share a message of hope, love and tolerance, a stark contrast to what Jones was preaching in Gainesville.

The Thomases saw Wells as a glimmer of hope and blessing for all.

Although the newborn Wells was too young to attend the interfaith service, his arrival in the world was acknowledged in a special way.

“It was fantastic to re- ceive a blessing from an iman and a rabbi,” Clay Thomas said.

When it came time to baptize Wells months later at Peace Presbyterian, four ministers -- Richard and Elizabeth Deibert and Clay and Tricia Thomas -- wrote letters for the sermon to the child.

“It was a remarkable day,” Elizabeth Deibert said.

After the baptism, the baby was passed down the aisle to congregation members.

This is your child, too, Clay Thomas said.

“It was a beautiful symbol of redemption,” Elizabeth Deibert said.

The baptismal font was donated by New Life Presbyterian Church in Naples after it closed down.

“New Life really didn’t die,” Tricia Thomas said.

Peace Presbyterian was chartered in 2009 and originally met in leased space at the State College of Florida campus at Lakewood Ranch.

In September, the congregation of about 125 moved to the Manatee Association of Realtors building at 10902 Technology Terrace. The congregation plans to eventually build on property near the northeast corner of State Road 70 East and Lorraine Road.

“We believe that peace comes to us through Jesus Christ. We believe we are called to extend that peace to those of all faith traditions,” Elizabeth Deibert said.

IF YOU GO

What: Peace Presbyterian Church

Where: 10902 Technology Terrace, located off Lakewood Ranch Boulevard

When: 10 a.m. Sunday worship, followed by fellowship at 11 a.m. and education 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

Pastor: Rev. Elizabeth M. Deibert; Associate Pastor Tricia Dillon Thomas

Information: www.peacepcusa.com or (941) 753-7778

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 745-7021.

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