Baptism Customary

"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" (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 insure 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).

How is someone prepared for Baptism?

Adults entering the church through Baptism are expected to participate in a program of instruction in the Christian religion. The Rector will be most happy to discuss the manner and content of the preparation with any adult who is interested in being baptized.

Parents and godparents are also required to participate in a program of instruction “in the meaning of Baptism, in their duties to help the new Christians grow in the love and knowledge of God, and in their responsibilities as members of his Church” (BCP p. 298). It is important that everyone involved in the Baptism and upbringing of a child in the Christian faith have adequate instruction relative to the responsibilities and joys of church membership and life in Christ.

What are the roles of sponsors, parents, and godparents in the life of the Baptized?

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 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. It is a great responsibility, as well as a great joy, to nurture a child in the Christian faith. 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 friends and persons who are committed Christians who will take an active interest in the godchild’s faith life.

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). Any time that the Bishop visits is an appropriate time for Baptism at which the Bishop will officiate. The baptismal days 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.

Baptism is so important that the community gathers to be part of this special day. Private Baptism is not the usual practice in the Episcopal Church and we do not schedule private Baptism except under special circumstances (family availability, military service, illness, etc.). Talk with the Rector if circumstances make public Baptism difficult. When private Baptism is administered, the baptized person should be received into the congregation as a new brother or sister in Christ as soon as the person is able to attend worship. The heart of the baptismal service is found in the statement: “We welcome you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection and share with us in his eternal priesthood” (BCP p. 308).

The Day of Baptism

All members of the baptismal party will be seated in reserved pews nearest the baptismal font. At the Priest’s invitation, the party will gather around the font in a manner 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. 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 and presents each candidate with a candle which has been lighted from the Pascal Candle. After the baptismal party returns to their seats, the service continues with the exchange of the Peace followed by Holy Eucharist.

Additional notes on the logistics of Holy Baptism.

The Rector will meet with the baptismal candidates, sponsors, parents and godparents for a baptismal rehearsal and pre-baptismal instructions. The Rector 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 Rector will furnish a Certificate of Baptism to each baptized person. Photographs, flash or otherwise, with camera or cell phone are not permitted during the service. It is important that family and friends are made aware of this requirement. Video taping and non-flash photography may be done from the choir loft. Photographs are permitted after the service is over. The parish customarily provides a reception following the service. We cordially invite all present to join us in welcoming our new sister or brother into the community of the faithful.

If you wish another Episcopal priest from outside of the parish to participate in the baptism, please speak privately with the Rector before you speak with the other clergy person. If the Rector 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.

The Church also recognizes there may be times for either a Conditional Baptism or an Emergency Baptism. Both forms of Baptism are discussed in the Book of Common Prayer, pp. 313-314

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Last Updated Friday 8 March 2013