Teenage girl to be baptised at sea in South Shields

Pastor Peter Jeynes reheasing the baptism
Pastor Peter Jeynes reheasing the baptism

A schoolgirl is to be submerged in the sea off South Tyneside in a baptism based not on fire but entirely on water – and possibly overseen by a coastguard.

Gabriela Machicado, 12, will go beneath the waves for a split second after being dropped from the safe hands of Pastor Peter Jeynes.

Gabriela Machicado

Gabriela Machicado

Watched by dozens of friends and fellow churchgoers - and on the turn of the tide - he will then pluck her from thigh-high deep water.

Both Gabriela and Peter, 63, who are members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in South Shields, will be wearing wet suits.

But Gabriela, of Hendon, Sunderland, will don a stunning white Alb, a garment worn by Church of England priests and servers, on top.

It is the first time in 35 years that Peter, a health and safety expert, will have performed a baptism in the sea.

Pastor Peter Jeynes

Pastor Peter Jeynes

To guarantee Gabriela’s safety, he has already carried out a trial run and has spoken to South Tyneside coastguards to make them aware of tomorrow’s event.

Peter said: “This kind of baptism, baptism by emersion, is not actually that unusual, although it is a first for me out of about 60 others that I’ve done.

“It is not just the sign of the cross on the head, it’s whole body immersion. The Bible teaches it, and so people want to do it.

“It is a believers’ baptism, it is for someone who understands why they are doing it and it’s a sign to the world and to God that they have made a commitment to God.”

He added: “Our church is in a former butchers’ shop and we don’t have a baptistry pool dug out.

“Last Saturday night I did take a member of our Newcastle church to the beach to do a run through, and it all went well.

“I expect there to be about fifty people there on the day, but I’m hoping to speak to the lifeguards again later in the week to see if they are likely to be there.”

Gabriela was born in Sunderland but her retired engineer father Freddy, also a member of the South Shields church, is from Bolivia, and her mother, Eileen, a student, is from Belgium.

The baptism takes place at 1pm tomorrow at Sandhaven Beach, close the Sanddancer pub.

Those present will include members of the South Shields church, based in Westoe Avenue, and those in Newcastle and Middlesbrough.

They will include members of the church’s Pathfinder youth organisation, who will wear uniforms.