Shortly after immigrating to Canada following World War II, Evelyn Aukema and Harm Riepma were married. Sometime after that they began a tradition that portrays a faith heritage lovingly passed down to their children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren. Most recently that heritage was evident in the baptism of their great-granddaughter Brynn Emily Thompson at North Hills Christian Reformed Church in Troy, Mich.
Brynn was baptized wearing a gown crafted generations earlier by Evelyn. Recognizing the significance of the baptism of her children, early in her marriage Evelyn fashioned a beautiful baptism gown from her own wedding dress to be used at each of her children’s baptisms. The gown’s use extended much further than Evelyn’s immediate family, however. Over the years, many of her 24 grandchildren and 43 great grandchildren have been able to wear the gown at their baptisms as well. As of little Brynn’s baptism on April 30, 33 babies have been privileged to be dressed in what had been Evelyn’s wedding dress. The name of each child who has worn the dress has been embroidered in white thread onto the gown’s wide hem.
Brynn’s mother, Rachel Renkema Thompson, and grandmother Teresa Riepma Renkema, noted that the gown “is a family symbol of how the Lord has blessed and been with our family. This family is built on a firm foundation of faith in the Lord that has been passed down through all of the generations, and we hope that Brynn will pass it down to her children as well.” Thompson added that her grandmother sees the gown as a sign of the covenant promise for each of the children baptized in it.
Evelyn, now 90, lives in Chatham, Ont., and attends Grace Christian Reformed Church. She is still the one who launders the dress following each wearing of it and keeps it between baptisms.
Brynn’s baptism included another family connection. She was baptized by her grandfather Rev. William Renkema along with Rev. Randall Engle, pastor of North Hills CRC.