The hug was not unexpected – Trent Nolan is a hugger, and he dearly loves his pastor – but Rodney Knous was not prepared for it. Nor for the pirouette they did together, locked in that embrace, before Knous, pastor of First Baptist Castroville, was finally able to baptize Trent.
And he definitely wasn’t ready for what happened when Trent resurfaced.
“He took it upon himself,” said Lisa Nolan, Trent’s mother, “to baptize Pastor Rodney.”
She laughs at the memory, just like everyone in the church did that Sunday last November. The transcendent joy in the moment, though, should not be minimized. The baptism was a celebration of Trent’s evident love – not just for his pastor, but for Jesus.
Trent Nolan is 23. He has cerebral palsy and is nonverbal, with some developmental delay, but he does not struggle to communicate excitement and affection. His relationship with Knous, which developed over time, is expressed with various signs – and, of course, in hugs. Sometimes, they’re full-on bear hugs. At times, Trent jumps into his pastor’s arms.
“I’m grateful that Rodney is strong,” Lisa said. “He sure does love his pastor. They have a really wonderful relationship. Pastor Rodney is really great with him.”
Trent’s baptism came about as his mom, who had been raised in another church background, recognized that although she had come to Christ earlier, she had never participated in believer’s baptism. When she met with Knous, they realized Trent wanted to be baptized, too. He has always been expressive during worship, raising his hands in praise (and sometimes playing air drums). When he indicated he wanted to be baptized, too, Knous asked Trent a couple of questions and became convinced that despite his limitations, Trent has a relationship with Christ.
Trent’s example encouraged another young woman to do the same. Although a Christ follower, she was struggling with making a public profession through baptism.
“If Trent can do it,” she told Knous, “I can, too.”
She was baptized that day, too, along with Trent and his mom.
“It wrecks me,” Knous said, “to see how God uses everyone that is willing.”
The moment was recorded in part because of a plan outlined by Jonathan Smith, director of Church Strategy for Texas Baptists, during a workshop on church revitalization at the 2022 Texas Baptists Annual Meeting. Smith’s desire, which grew from his personal experience in pastoral ministry, is to celebrate and elevate baptisms. He offers a plan as part of training for church revitalization.
“I realized we were taking 60-90 seconds for the most significant life event ever,” Smith said. “We do better than that celebrating birthdays.”
During the workshop, when Smith suggested recording baptisms on video, then replaying them for the congregation, Knous’ wife Melanie nudged him.
“Hey, I told you that’s what we should be doing,” she told him.
Knous said he has always been cautious, because he never wants to manufacture or “try to make something (spiritual) happen.” But he saw the value – and he has continued to see it.
“People really embrace what is celebrated,” Knous said.
A couple of weeks after the Annual Meeting, Trent was baptized. And then, of course, he baptized his pastor.
“He was not going to leave until he did the same for me “Knous said. “I just think in his way, he’s saying we’re the same.”
As she watched Trent “tackle” Knous, Lisa was initially a tad concerned. But then the pastor emerged from the water,and laughter mingled with joyous tears.
Because of Smith’s suggestion and Melanie’s nudge, it was all captured on video – First Baptist Castroville’s first baptism video.