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New Canaan member creates hydraulic baptistrycomment (0)

February 16, 2012

By Julie Payne


New Canaan member creates hydraulic baptistry

Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘Jack of all trades, master of none?’” asked Bill Martin, pastor of New Canaan Baptist Church, Jasper. “Well [Paul] is a jack of all trades and master of most.” 

The Paul he was referring to is Paul Tesseneer, a member of New Canaan Baptist.

Tesseneer retired from a career installing phone systems worldwide for Western Electric and has since put his “jack of all trades” skills to good use at the Walker Baptist Association church, managing electrical, plumbing and carpentry projects. One of his most significant projects to date also may be the most unique.

One morning about three years ago, Martin arrived at the church and immediately noticed that water from the baptistry system had leaked and the heating element was boiling the remaining water. Steam was rising as a result of the malfunction, and he knew it was time to get rid of “this dinosaur” of a baptistry.

“When you’re running 750 gallons of water and running an element with … real high wattage … for over 24 hours to heat 750 gallons of water, it becomes fairly expensive,” Martin explained. 

So the baptistry was removed from the front of the sanctuary, and a series of remodeling projects ensued. After conducting research on portable baptistries and examining the limited sanctuary space, Tesseneer suggested installing a baptistry beneath the floor.

“If we put it in the middle of the stage, it was in the way,” he explained. “I said, ‘OK, let’s put it under the floor and raise it up on hydraulics.’” 

Having never designed something of this nature before, Tesseneer relied on his experience installing phone systems in Third World countries for more than 10 years. 

“In that system, you’re always having to come up with an idea to fix something,” he said. “So that’s how I came up with [the idea].”

Tesseneer scrapped the initial design, but his second design, implementing a scissor lift, was a success. The project took about two months, and individuals donated most of the supplies. 

The baptistry is concealed beneath the floor by a carpeted cover. Once the cover is removed, the baptistry is raised slowly by a key-operated control box in a hallway adjacent to the sanctuary. It remains low enough for the person being baptized to step in as Martin guides him or her, and then it is raised up further for the baptism to take place.

Tesseneer did not set out to make a rising baptistry for its uniqueness. 

“It was something we needed [because] space is limited,” he said.

In addition to saving space, the baptistry is more cost-effective. It has an internal heating system and holds about 90 gallons of water, compared to 750 gallons in the former one. 

“It takes 45 minutes to fill up and it’s already heated,” Tesseneer explained. “So we can get ready to baptize someone in 45 minutes.”

Martin knows of no other baptistries like this in the area and said it was well received by the congregation. 

“They love it,” he said.

Martin said its rising function has even been implemented in some of New Canaan’s drama presentations. 

As well as being a work close to Tesseneer’s heart, the baptistry has taken on an additional special meaning for him. His two granddaughters, ages 9 and 11, were both recently baptized at the church. 

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