"Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ's Body the Church. The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble," says The Book of Common Prayer, p. 298. Full initiation means that nothing else will be required for a person to have full membership in the Church. Baptism is the sacramental rite that admits the believer to the Holy Eucharist and to participate in the life of the congregation.
The Prayer Book also says that the union established between the person baptized and God is permanent. Those who are baptized in the Name of the Holy Trinity are united to Christ and other baptized people forever. God remains faithful to the covenant that he made with us in Baptism even when we are unfaithful.
Why Do We Baptize?
Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ's Body, the Church. Baptism symbolizes our union with Christ in his death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-5). Baptism symbolizes our being washed clean of all sin and being reborn to new life in the Holy Spirit (II Corinthians 5:17-21). Finally, baptism symbolizes our incorporation into the mystical Body of Christ, the Church.
Who May Be baptized?
Anyone who desires baptism for the reasons stated may be baptized. Each candidate for Holy Baptism is to be sponsored by one or more baptized persons (BCP p. 298). Any infant or child may be baptized provided the parents and godparents (sponsors) are willing to ensure that the child will be brought up in the "knowledge and love of the Lord." Holy Baptism is full incorporation into the church. All baptized persons are welcome to receive Holy Eucharist in the Episcopal Church.
What Are The Responsibilities Of Those Baptized?
People baptized into Christ's one holy catholic and apostolic church are expected to grow in the faith into which they have been incorporated by this sacrament. This means that they will resist and renounce evil in their lives and wherever it is encountered, follow Christ as their Lord and Savior, and put their whole trust in the love of God as revealed in Christ Jesus. As Paul wrote, "If anyone is in Christ, that person is a new creation, the old has passed away, behold the new has come" (II Corinthians 5:17-21).
What are the Roles of Sponsors/Godparents and Parents?
Adults will normally have a sponsor who is a mature adult Christian willing to act as companion and mentor to the candidate. A sponsor provides encouragement and instruction and acts as a prayer-partner with and for the person to be baptized. In other words, a baptismal sponsor is a fellow pilgrim in Christ with the candidate.
Infants and young children are sponsored by both parents and godparents. These persons make the vows of the baptismal covenant in the name of and for the sake of a candidate who is not mature enough to speak for himself or herself.
While it is not necessary to have godparents, they can serve a critical role as a mentor and friend as their godchild grows in the love and knowledge of God. Parents are urged to choose godparents who are committed Christians and who will take an active interest in the godchild’s faith life.
Generally, two people (one person of each gender) stand as godparents. It is also acceptable to have two persons of the same sex as the child being baptized, and one of the other. They may be immediate family members, friends or other relatives.
The persons selected by parents to be sponsors should:
- Be Christians. Only such people can in all good conscience make the baptismal renunciations and promises on behalf of the candidate.
- Participate regularly in a Christian congregation.
- Enter into a long-term relationship with the person being baptized.
While the role of godparents is important, the role of the parents is paramount. Parents who bring their child to baptism are, in essence, stating before this particular church and the entire Christian Church that they will raise their child as a faithful Christian. This means, among other things, bringing the child to church on a regular basis.
If you, as parents, are considering having your child baptized at Grace Church, we invite you to come and worship with us on a regular basis for at least 2-3 months before you make this request. We want you to be comfortable with us and know us. The clergy will be reluctant to consider requests for baptism by a parents or parents who have not regularly been attending church, and who do not plan to bring their child regularly after the baptism.
When is an Appropriate Time for Baptism?
"Holy Baptism is appropriately administered within the Eucharist as the chief service on a Sunday or other feast" (BCP p. 298). In addition, there are special occasions during the liturgical year when Baptism is particularly appropriate. Those times include the Easter Vigil, the Day of Pentecost, All Saints' Day or the Sunday after All Saints' Day, and the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord (the First Sunday after Epiphany).
The dates of these occasions vary by year. They are spaced throughout the year in such a way that it should not be inconvenient to wait until an appropriate time to administer this sacrament. If there is another date the parent or parents desire, that needs to be communicated to the priest, who will discuss it with the parent(s).
Baptism is so important that the community is always part of this special day. Private Baptism is not the practice in the Episcopal Church and we do not schedule private baptism except under very special circumstances. Talk with the priest if circumstances make public baptism difficult.
The Day of Baptism
All members of the baptismal party will be seated in reserved pews nearest the baptismal font.
Members of the baptismal party and their family and friends are expected to participate fully in the service – prayers, hymns, and so on. Baptism is a sacrament and must be treated with reverence and solemnity – and yes, joy!
At the priest’s invitation, the parents and godparents will gather around the font in a manner so that the congregation will be able to witness the rite. Children are encouraged to come to the front so they may easily witness the proceedings.
While some churches practice full immersion baptism, Gracefollows the tradition of sprinkling with water. That is why our baptismal font contains a bowl that holds a small amount of water.
The sacrament begins with the Priest stating, “The candidate(s) for Holy Baptism will now be presented” (BCP p. 301). Following Baptism with water, the Priest seals the candidate(s) with the sign of the cross using Chrism. The service then continues with the exchange of the Peace, followed by Holy Eucharist.
The clergy will meet with the baptismal candidates, sponsors, parents and godparents for a baptismal rehearsal. The priest will officiate at baptisms in the parish except when the Bishop is present. At such times, the Bishop may elect to be the officiant or may delegate the baptism to the rector.The clergy will furnish a Certificate of Baptism to each baptized person.
Flash photography, with camera or cell phone, is not permitted during the service. It is important that family and friends are made aware of this requirement. Videotaping and non-flash photography are acceptable. Staged photographs (with flash) can be arranged after the service.
If you wish an Episcopal priest from outside of the parish to participate in the baptism, please speak privately with Grace’spriest before you speak with the other clergy person. If Grace’s priest approves the request s/he will coordinate logistics with the guest clergy well ahead of time. Also, it is expected that any visiting and assisting clergy be present for the rehearsal session.