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© 2023 Dr Margaret Sheppard

Baptism and Purification


The only type of Baptism recognised is total immersion. Even those from other types of non-Zion churches who have been christened must be re-baptized by total immersion, although one is not re-baptized if transferring from another Zion Church.

Baptism is carried out in the various dams near Kanye. I was invited to attend these services several times but on all except one occasion baptism did not take place due to a prophecy of dangerous water during the pre-service. For example at the special Easter service at Episcopal, it was prophesied that the waters would be too dangerous on that occasion for baptism. It should be noted in passing that when churches were asked the times and frequency when baptism took place, they either stated that baptism took place as necessary when there were baptismal candidates or that it took place two or three times a year, Christmas, Easter and Ascension being popular times. However the above example from Episcopal shows this is only an "ideal" and did not necessarily happen because still the service held prior to the baptism might reveal adverse conditions for that occasion.

B.U.C.Z. was one of the churches where I was informed baptism took place as necessary. On July 28th, 1978 I was invited to a baptism service where 5 new members were to be baptized at dawn at Mmakgodumo Dam on the Northern side of Kanye. We arrived at the church at about 8.30 p.m. (they were still holding their services in their temporary church uphill) for an all-night service which was to culminate in the baptism.

In fact this baptism did not take place either. During the pre-service when the baptismal candidate (the other candidates were absent) was called to kneel in the middle of the dance circle and the congregation danced around her, the prophets "saw" that she was not fully repentant and it was therefore impossible to baptize her. One prophet even mentioned that if she entered the waters of the dam to be baptized in this unrepentant condition she would be taken by the water snake.

I finally managed to observe a baptismal service the following week at B.U.C.Z.. The form of baptism used is taken from Matthew 3. The story of Naaman in 2 Kings 5 v 9 - 14 was read and used as a basis for preaching which emphasized how Naaman was ordered to wash in the River Jordon to cure his leprosy. Also the preachings compared Baptized members to the 5 wise virgins who had spare oil for their lamps, unlike the foolish ones who did not. In this way members would be ready and prepared for the Day of Judgement.

However members were advised that baptism alone did not guarantee they were saved from Hell - they should also observe the Zion church laws.

During the all night service held prior to the actual baptism in the dam at sunrise, the candidates were called in turn to the centre of the dance circle so that the prophets could "see" that it would be safe for them to go to baptism. During this pre-service the prophets were trying to ensure not only that the candidates were fully repentant of their sins, but that the waters and the water snake would not be dangerous. At the dam itself, the Evangelist prayed before he entered the water to start baptising, that they may all be protected from the snake.

Moruti enters the water first and prays that the water snake will leave them in peace during the baptisms

On arrival the congregation group on the bank of the dam. It is a chilly early morning just before sunrise so a fire is lit to warm up the baptismal candidates and Baruti after they have been baptisms and purifications.

Moruti and members dance and sing hymns to call Holy Spirit to give them power of prophecy to ensure that the baptisms and purifications will be safe  from e.g. the dangerous water snake that lives in the dam where the immersions will take place

The baptismal candidates are placed in the centre of the dance circle in turn, the prophets after dancing around them, ensure that each candidate is fully repentant and thus suitable to go to baptism

It should be emphasized that the prior prophesying of candidates is taken very seriously and also it is believed to be dangerous to be ritually impure or disobey prophetic warnings about the water. In February 1979, the Moruti of B.U.C.Z. related his church had recently been to baptism and one girl was told in the prophecy before the actual baptism that she should not go because she was not truly repentant, but she still went. Then at the baptism she disappeared under the water whilst being purified. They had all prayed hard and the Moruti himself had entered the water and found her in an underground cave where she had been taken by the water snake.

In April 1979 they had again gone to baptism. When one of the Baruti entered the water one candidate came out to him to be baptized. Then the water suddenly started rising in big waves and they ran away and left their things. This dangerous water was caused by the snake. They had not consulted their Spirit properly or they would have "seen" the snake. Apparently on this occasion the Moruti in charge had insisted on going during the late afternoon instead of the very early morning when the snake is supposed to be sleeping. In the afternoon it is dangerous because this is when the snake goes to Kwakwe on the other side of the village, to visit its wife who lives in the caves on that hill. (There is believed to be a tunnel under the hill which it uses to pass from the dam to Kwakwe Hill).

Again, at the end of November 1978, a big memorial service was held in Kanye Hall following the deaths of Zionists in a road accident. They were from a church called Head Mountain (one that associated with B.U.C.Z). Many churches attended to make Matshediso contributions. The B.U.C.Z. Moruti told me that one woman who had died from this church had been prophesied' that she should not go on this particular trip as she would die, but she had insisted. The lorry carrying them had been taking them to baptism; on the way back the lorry had over-turned and she had been killed.

At the dam itself, the Evangelist prayed before he entered the water to start baptising, that they may all be protected from the snake.

A Khosa escorted each candidate in turn, out to the Evangelist, who submerged each one at least three times. Then each was brought back to the water's edge and prayed on by the two Barapedi.

Candidates are escorted out through the chilly water one at a time to the awaiting Moruti. He then immerses them three times - “..in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost”. They are then brought back to the dam bank….

….. where they are helped out by the awaiting Baruti…..

…..who pray upon them…..

….they change out of their wet clothes and warm up by the fire.

In the meanwhile the rest of the congregation sang hymns at the water's edge, beside a large fire. Those who were wet changed and warmed up by the fire. The short closing service included a prayer of gratitude for protection from the snake. Then all returned to the village.

At this stage many of the candidates and those being purified, became strongly and uncontrollably possessed. They leapt high in the air, shouted, and some even fainted.

This total immersion during baptism and purification is believed to strengthen and protect the individual against adverse conditions that can result from a weakened seriti (shadow) due to e.g. the breaking of taboos, being in contact with those with “hot blood”, or sorcery. This is therefore another example of Zionist remedies of protection and healing.