Indicative of the convicting power that brought sinners to repentance every year was the number of converts baptized at the close of the annual camp meetings. The largest number recorded was in 1915, when 283 were baptized in the waters of the Columbia River.
A baptismal service, always a sacred scene, is especially impressive when scores of candidates for baptism follow the officiating ministers into the river’s waters, while scores more standing on the bank are singing the strains of some Gospel hymns, always including the old favorite: “Shall We Gather at the River?” Accompanying the singing, oft times, would be a group of musicians softly playing the melody on their different instruments. Such scenes were a yearly event in the early days of the Apostolic Faith.
At the close of every campmeeting, transportation had to be provided for the many who attended the baptismal services. In 1909, five trips were made with a launch to take the people from the river’s edge to the services held on Ross Island. In 1920 a boat, “The Blue Bird,” was used which accommodated all who desired to attend the service held that year on Swan Island. Other years, fleets of chartered streetcars transported members to the river banks.
As time passed it became more and more difficult to find a proper location and suitable waters in the Portland area for the baptismal service. This problem was solved in 1929, when a large baptistery was installed in the beautiful Tabernacle on Duke Street.
Every summer, on the last Friday of the camp meeting, hundreds gather in this lovely sanctuary, where God’s holy presence is pleased to dwell, and witness the sacred water baptismal service. A large number of young people, boys and girls, as well as adults, who have been born again, obey Christ’s command and are buried with Him in baptism, an outward symbol of an inward work which has been wrought in their hearts.
Truly the Lord is no respecter of places, for whether His people gather under the canopy of a canvas tent, in a humble church building, or a fine edifice, His presence is there. “For thus saith the high and lofty One the inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15).