How an Easter Baptism Occurred in the Most Surprising Place

On Resurrection Sunday, a Navy chaplain conducts a baptism aboard the USS Arlington in the Mediterranean Sea.

Posted in , Apr 30, 2019

Baptism aboard a Navy Ship

My Instagram feed was full of bunnies and colored eggs and chocolate and bright spring dresses and Madras jackets (yes, even one of those), but my favorite Easter picture was one that came from the U.S. Navy. From a boat in the middle of the Mediterranean.

It shows Navy chaplain Lt. Saul Burleson baptizing Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Ricci Polen from Salem, Ohio, on the flight deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington. It was the sunrise service and there she is, coming up out of the water—with a lot of water behind her.

I emailed Chaplain Burleson to hear a little bit more. He explained how they improvised a baptismal basin from some duct tape, a plastic liner and reused mailing material. It takes a little creativity to hatch a church on board a ship!

“It was a cool crisp spring morning on the Mediterranean Sea and God’s Holy Spirit hovered over the waters,” said Chaplain Burleson. “Powerful service and amazing God!” 

Chaplain Burleson likes to do baptisms on Easter Sunday, harkening back to Easter celebrations in the early church. “I find baptism fits perfectly in Resurrection Sunday,” he says.

This baptism was certainly tricky, as the good chaplain concedes. “We had to time everything out with our ship’s navigators regarding the precise location of the ship,” he says. “The command was supportive in every way imaginable.”

Guideposts has a special ministry to our military chaplains, and I was pleased to hear that Chaplain Burleson has found a lot of support and encouragement from Guideposts' Daily Devotions. He’s been deployed since December, his third deployment over the past three years. 

Prayers for a safe return, Chaplain Burleson. And prayers for all our military, at home and abroad.

For more information about the ways Guideposts supports the military, go to Military Outreach.

To buy a copy of Rick’s latest book, Prayer Works, click here.

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