1230 Hendricks Avenue
Jacksonville, FL 32207
||Students give testimony in FSU’s Westcott Fountain
June 27, 2012
Students standing at the base of the iconic Westcott Fountain on Florida State University’s campus on a drizzly April night gathered with a purpose other than gazing at the frothy, bubbling waters. Nor did they plan to reenact a time-honored FSU tradition of throwing students into the foaming fountain to commemorate a 21st birthday or other special event.
Instead, the 50-plus students assembled outside the campus main entrance were there to witness the ordinance of baptism as three Christian believers followed the example of their Savior.
Their actions in the center of campus were a clear, visible testimony of a changed life on the well-traveled, well-lit walkway, located on a hill high above the state capitol building.
It was senior Ryan McCraw’s idea to be baptized in the Wescott Fountain, a place that was particularly meaningful to him as a FSU student. Because of its location on campus, he believed his actions would “glorify God,” as well as demonstrate his “obedience to God” to other FSU students.
According to the Pensacola student, while he had made a profession of faith in Christ at an earlier age, he had never followed through in believer’s baptism. But after attending a Baptist Campus Ministry Bible study, he began to yearn to demonstrate his salvation decision with the act of baptism.
So he asked BCM director Lance Beauchamp to baptize him in the fountain’s flowing waters.
However, Beauchamp was reluctant to honor McCraw’s heartfelt desire, he said, because he believes baptism is reserved as an ordinance of the church.
“We are not a church. We are an evangelistic arm of the local church on the college campus,” Beauchamp explained.
But the BCM director was willing to explore other options to meet the student’s wish, and contacted McCraw’s Tallahassee pastor.
Believing that other students would have similar desires, Beauchamp discussed the biblical significance of baptism with students during “Illuminate,” a Tuesday night Bible study held weekly in the campus student center.
The study struck a chord in Orlando freshman Sam Wittek as well. He had become a Christian in his senior year of high school yet had never been baptized. “God laid the need for baptism on my heart and I felt convicted to show an outward expression that the ‘old me’ is dead and the ‘new me’ is alive,” Wittek said.
So the two men, McCraw, Wittek, along with Gainesville sophomore Tiebout McCrea took to the cascading waters to express their Christian convictions in front of friends and peers.
Carrying a towel, wearing swim trunks and a good natured smile, Pastor Dean Inserra of City Church (formerly The Well) arrived on campus, prepared to grant Beauchamp’s request to baptize two students who attend his church.
Looking over the baptism site, the pastor marveled at the fountain’s prominent location in the center of campus and the students’ symbolic statement to their peers. ”They are making such an impression here to other FSU students, giving evidence of their walk with Christ,” he said.
While church leaders often “criticize para-church organizations on campus for competing with local churches,” Inserra said, “That does not happen with the BCM at FSU.”
“Lance Beauchamp and the BCM on the FSU campus are all about the local church.”
Because of that, he added, “It is the policy of our church to do anything the BCM asks of us.”
Having planted City Church five years ago, Inserra said he could not invest in a staff person to minister to the spiritual needs on the FSU campus. But then he didn’t need to he said, because that is the role of the BCM.
“I see Lance Beauchamp as our missionary to the FSU campus and the BCM as our ambassador of the local church on campus.”
During the baptism, Inserra was joined by Tommy Hendricks, children’s and family pastor at Tallahassee’s Celebration Baptist Church, who baptized McCrea.
In a totally modern phenomenon, not only did parents and friends attend the public display, but the event was also Skyped live to friends.
When the evening came to a close, a wet but excited McCrea reflected on his actions, saying he was “letting go of his own reputation and taking on Christ’s instead.”
“I want to show that I trust in the plans the Lord God has for me and my life in a way that all of my friends can see.”