On Sunday morning approximately 40 members of St. Nicholas Episcopal Church gathered together on Ferry Beach in Scarborough for its annual beach baptism service, which has become a tradition at the church.

“It’s very special. All of my sons were baptized here,” said Cynthia Nye. “They remember it very clearly, being baptized at the ocean.”

Once a year the church closes its doors for the Sunday service and transports its altar, cross, chalices and other necessary accoutrements to a local beach for a baptism and service.

“To get out of the building is always a nice statement,” said Rev. David Matson, who conducted his second beach baptism Sunday. “It’s a little glimpse of the sacred.”

Church members are not sure how long the services have been conducted, but, according to member Cynthia Nye, they have been held for at least 10 years. Vicar Gil Birney, who had an appreciation of the outdoors, is credited with starting the services.

Over the years the beach service has undergone as many changes as the church. St. Nicholas began holding services in Old Orchard Beach and then shared space at the Blue Point Congregational Church before it purchased it own land, where it held services in a former store while raising money to build a permanent home on Route 1 in Scarborough, which opened last March.

The beach services have moved around with the church. They were first held during Memorial Day weekend at Pine Point Beach and later at a parishioner’s beachfront home in Old Orchard Beach, where beachgoers would often attend. Last year the services were held at Ferry Beach and the date moved to after Labor Day to attract more parishioners and avoid the summertime beach rush.

“It really is a nice event to get the congregation here and welcome the newly baptized members,” Nye said.

The weather on Sunday was perfect, with comfortable temperatures and bright, sunny skies. In fact, it seems that during every beach service the weather has always cooperated and no one can remember one being cancelled.

Following the brief service, which was accented with the squawk of sea gulls and the sounds of children splashing in the water, the congregation moved up to the parking lot to enjoy some coffee, food and the pleasant morning in a picturesque location.

The beach service is so popular with the congregation that perspective pastors were asked their opinion of it during interviews a couple of years ago. The parishioners wanted to ensure that the church would continue holding the outdoor services.

The service is causal, with some attendees wearing shorts and windbreakers and others without shoes. But the casualness of the service is not unusual for the church, according to members.

“Our regular services are friendly and informal and this is just more so,” Nye said. “People invite their friends and relatives because it is such a fun, unique service.”

The beach baptism has become the preferred service for parents and some families wait until the beach service to get their children baptized. One family who decided to wait was the Erbs of Scarborough, whose daughter Kelsey was the only baptism conducted on Sunday.

“It’s unique,” David Erb said. “We have been looking forward to it.”

Kelsey, David, Nancy and Lyndsay Erb with Reverend David Matson at Ferry Beach on Sunday during KelseyReverend David Matson with Lyndsay//// Erb following SundayRev. David Matson preaching to members of St. Nicholas parish during the churchRev. David Matson performing communion at Ferry Beach in Scarborough on Sunday.

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