AUGUSTA — Eleven people were given a spiritual fresh start Saturday as the First United Pentecostal Church of Augusta, for the first time in at least 40 years, held baptisms in the Kennebec River.

Pastor Rick Stoops, who has served the church since 1982, said this is the first time he’s ever seen the church host such a baptism ceremony.

“Since 1982 until now, we’ve never done it,” he said. “We have a baptismal pool in our church, but we felt with all the stress and things going on today that we’d do something that would perhaps draw peoples’ attention to something more friendly and biblical, and hopeful.”

He said this inspired the decision to hold baptisms at the Kennebec River, just as it was done in the days of Christ and his disciples.

Normally, Stoops said the church holds baptisms in a pool at the church.

“This is an opportunity not just for people who attend our church, but for anyone who would like to get a new start spiritually,” he said. “They’ll wade out into the river and we’ll baptize them; we want to be sure we’re doing it exactly as they did it in the bible, so we’ll be following that very closely.”


Kevin Wing, center, prays Saturday with the Rev. Shane Stoops, right, after being baptized Saturday in Kennebec River. The public baptism was led by First United Pentecostal Church of Augusta at the East Side Boat Landing in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The pastor said baptisms represent a “new beginning.”

“In the bible it was considered to be something that happened after people reflected and repented for previous wrongs and errors,” he said. “It was all in the Good Book. It was always something that was done when people wanted to get a fresh, new start.

He said the church bases this on the words of Peter in Acts 2:38: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Primarily, Stoops said the idea of baptism is about turning the page on past mistakes and anxieties.

“There are a lot of fearful people right now, so this is a step that says we are going to put our trust in the Lord. Not that we’re going to disregard common sense, we’re still going to follow good common sense, but we’re making a statement to God.”

He also cited Acts 22:16, “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”


“There’s something powerful about the name of Jesus,” he said. “I’m a pastor that believes in miracles, signs and wonders. I’ve seen God open blinded eyes. I’ve seen God unstop a deaf ear, and numerous other miracles, and in each and every case the name of Jesus Christ was invoked. There is something powerful about the name of Jesus Christ, so we will be following the example left to us.”

The Rev. Shane Stoops, left, Dan West, Caroline West and the Rev. Rick Stoops stand in the Kennebec River during a baptism Saturday at the East Side Boat Landing in Augusta. The event was led by First United Pentecostal Church of Augusta. The Wests were rebaptized together to celebrate their 12th wedding anniversary. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Kevin Wing of Monmouth, who was baptized with wife Louise, said they came to get baptized together.

“I was baptized as a baby as a Methodist,” said Wing. “Then I was baptized again probably six years ago in Jesus’ name. This is a rebaptism; we wanted to get baptized together.”

He said while the water is usually “super cold” during baptisms, on Saturday it was surprisingly warm.

“This time it was a much better feeling. I knew I was much more able to repent for my sins,” he said.

Dan and Caroline West took part in the baptism as a way to celebrate their 12th wedding anniversary.


“We didn’t plan it,” said Caroline. “We visited the church last Sunday night and heard about the baptism and thought ‘Hey, that’d be great to do on our anniversary.’ It’s a fresh start to our lives, a new chapter in our lives, and it made sense.”

Dan said he was also baptized in 1981 as a teenager.

“I’d fallen away from the Lord,” he said, “I’d done other things out there in the world, and this is just a way to cleanse those sins off in a new way. We wanted to do it together.”

The Rev. Rick Stoops, left, addresses the crowd Saturday at beginning of a baptism ceremony held in the Kennebec River. The service at the East Side Boat Landing in Augusta was led by First United Pentecostal Church of Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

The couple recently moved from Raymond to Windsor in June, for Dan to be closer to his parents who he said are “getting up there in age,” closer access to TOGUS, and to be near a small church they attend in Chelsea.

“It’s a fresh start,” said Dan, “a new area and a new house. We’re just grateful we had the opportunity to do this together.”

The church asked participants to bring a pair of dry clothes, and also supplied water shoes and fresh towels. They also gave guests the opportunity to sign up to receive an official baptismal certificate from the church.

“We’re not doing this to add to the rolls of our church,” he said. “We just feel like baptism is a very good and helpful thing that a lot of people could benefit from. There’s no charge, and we’re not expecting anything in return. We’re just doing this as a community service.”

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