Updated: HUNDREDS of people gathered in the blazing sunshine outside the Minster to watch the annual open-air Easter baptisms led by the Archbishop of York.

Thirty people were totally immersed by Dr John Sentamu in a deep pool of water outside the west end of the cathedral.

Saturday’s service was organised by One Voice York, a network of churches of different denominations working together across the city. One of the first to be baptised was Julianne Phillipson, 39, a member of Acomb Baptist Church.

She said: “I have recently been seriously ill and I have had a sign that God wants me to be baptised.

“It was fantastic, but the water was that cold I couldn’t breathe. This feels like the start of a new life.”

She was soon followed by 23-year-old Lovely-Anna Louise Belfen-Kaaba, a University of York student.

Lovely-Anna, who attends York Elim Pentecostal Church, said: “To be baptised at this special time of the year, I feel I am so lucky and I feel proud to be publicly declaring my love, trust and faith for Jesus. It was amazing. This was the best opportunity – to be outside of the Minster. My family were there.”

Church officials said the total immersion in the water represented the death of a person’s old life.

Graham Hutchinson, of One Voice York, said: “The weather added to the quality of the event, although it has always been a great atmosphere, even on the year it snowed.”

But it was touch-and-go as to whether this year’s open-air baptisms could go ahead as organisers were unable to find the standpipe needed to fill the pool.

The fire service eventually saved the day following an arduous attempt to fill the pool using a tub and a cart.

Mr Hutchinson said: “David Caswell, the vicar of Clifton parish, suggested the fire brigade. Sure enough, they turned up and pumped the water in quick as a flash.”

York Press: The Press - Comment

Tub of tradition

THE Archbishop of York dunking people in a big tub of water outside York Minster has become something of an Easter tradition.

The open-air baptisms are a typically colourful speciality of an archbishop who doesn’t do things by halves.

But of course, he’s only doing what John the Baptist did 2,000 years ago.

Whether you’re of a religious persuasion or not, it makes for a great spectacle. And it’s all done with Dr John’s trademark sense of fun. Long may it continue.