Amy Carter was baptized into the Christian faith by full immersion yesterday in front of her mother and father, her nurse, and more than 1,000 fellow worshipers at First Baptist Church.
The red floor-to-ceiling curtains at the front of the gothic-style sanctuary parted as President Carter's 9-year-old daughter and the church's pastor, the Rev. Dr. Charles A. Trenthman, walked slowly into a heated baptismal pool behind the altar.
Amy, wearing a white robe over undergarments, stood with her right side to the congregation, her head just visible above the side of the elevated platform.
While President Carter sat with his eyes closed in prayer, Dr. Trentham placed his left hand behind Amy's head, raised his right hand and prayed:
"Amy Carter, upon your confession of faith in Christ as your savior and Lord and in obedience to his command, I baptize you, my sister, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."
She had her breath and the pastor lowered her backwards into the water until it covered her completely. He lifted her up, and Amy walked slowly up the steps to her mother, Rosalynn, who was waiting out of the congregration's sight.
Dr. Trentham, who wore a white robe and boots, repeated the three-minute ceremony for Gladys Silo Mbua, 16, of Cameroon in West Africa.
As Gladys walked from her immersion, the pastor prayed: "We are buried with him in baptism. We are raised to walk in newness of life."
Later in the service, Amy and Gladys, dressed in fresh clothes and their hair dried, rejoined the congregation with their mothers and took holy communion for the first time.
The President gave his youngest child a hug as she entered the Carter family per. Gladys sat further back in the church with her mother, Pamela Martin, who sings in the First Baptist choir and works at the Liberian Embassy.
Sitting with the President and his wife in the sixth pew from the front were Chip and Caron Carter, the Carter's middle son and his wife who also are members of First Baptist, and Mary Fitzpatrick, a convicted murderer who was released early from minimum security prison in Georgia last week so she could serve as Amy's nanny.
"I weigh my words when I say more people have thought of baptism this week than probably ever before," the white-haired Dr. Trentham said at the start of his sermon.
"You have come, many of you, to see the parting of baptism waters for the first time," said, in apparent reference to the large number of visitors present at the church at 16th and O Streets NW.
The baptism and holy communion "ordances" (symbolic rituals in the Baptist faith) were accompanied also by an "infant dedication" of Jared Lars Jorgensen, whose parents are members of the church. Baptists do not practice infant baptism. Rather, the rite is reserved to those who are old enough to understand the teachings of Christ, the difference between right and wrong and the meaning of church membership.
When the Carters joined First Baptist two weeks ago, Dr. Trentham gave the President a copy of his book "Daring Discipleship" for Amy to study in preparation for her baptism.
In a brief conference before the service, the pastor told Amy and Gladys to picture to themselves during the ritual what Baptists believe to be the results of the conversion experience: "repentance, sorrow for all wrongs, asking for forgiveness, God's grace not to repeat those wrongs and a long life of obedience to God and service to others."
"It also means being raised into a new kind of life through the Holy Spirit," Dr. Trentham told them. He also explained that the Lord's Supper in memory of Christ's body and blood were "symbolic of God's undying love."
"Amy was remarkably relaxed," Dr. Trentham said of the baptism.
"And you know, the President's last words to me as he was leaving the church were that Amy is going to talk to Mary Fitzpatrick about joining our church," the pastor said.
Fitzpatrick, who was scheduled to be paroled April 11 from her life term for a 1970 slaying, was reprieved at the President's request to continue the job she had as Amy's nanny when Carter was governor of Georgia.