ByChaplain Tom Bingol
CNSL Ministry Center

It was a surprisingly warm January morning on the 11th, something that has been in short supply in recent weeks.  With family, friends, and shipmates gathered, little Thomas Grapentine III, was baptized on the Foc'sle of the USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) in one of our Navy's oldest traditions, using the Ship's Bell as the Baptismal Font. 

Years from now, young Thomas may not remember the weather or that the commanding officer was in attendance. He may not remember the candle that was burning or the charge to "Let his light so shine before others." He may not even remember the sign of the cross that was made on his forehead or the laying on of hands and the petitions for spiritual gifts; but hopefully, his baptism will be remembered with photographs and stories.

When I was growing up my grandmother used tell stories of growing up in Norway and going to church.  When she came to America she brought her Norwegian hymnal, Small Catechism, and Bible with her.  Today, I keep these items protected from the elements as the binding have cracked and the pages yellowed over the years. For me, they are a touchstone that connects me to a part of my religious heritage.

From time to time, I have Sailors inquire about baptism and how this sacrament is also tied to our Navy heritage.  While each denomination that endorses military chaplains may vary in their perspectives, I believe that Baptism is not simply a mechanism for forgiveness but also a vehicle for establishing a "Faith" identity. 

Sometimes claiming that identity can be deeply moving and powerful, for example, there are days when even the chaplain can be grumpy.  Yet even in the midst of that grumpiness, through the waters of Baptism, I lay claim to the spiritual gift of Joy in God's presence.  When my brain is a little scattered (haven't we all had a time when we couldn't find our keys?) I lay claim to the "mind of Christ."  And even when the chaos is circling around us, with uncertainty and doubt - I have laid claim to "the Peace of God which passes all understanding" and found safe harbors during life's storms.

Perhaps one day, when Thomas Grapentine III is a little older he will visit USS Roosevelt and see the ship's bell.  Perhaps he will look inside the bell and see his name stamped into the brass and know that he will always be connected to that ship, to our Navy, and to God.

Blest be the tie that binds!