BAPTISM IS A BEGINNING
Baptism can happen at any age. But it is always a beginning.
When a child is baptized the child is beginning a faith journey and like any journey, it requires some effort if it is to be successful. The child needs to be continuously encouraged to exercise their faith and to contribute to the church family. One’s faith must be taken care of and maintained if it is to remain healthy. When the child grows up they take responsibility for their own faith. They are encouraged to re-affirm their baptismal vows by being confirmed as an adult member of the church.
BAPTISM IS UNIVERSAL
Baptism and confirmation are generally transferable between denominations and congregations. As such, Baptism, generally, happens only once in a person’s life. However, they may wish to confirm or renew their baptismal faith more than once.
WHAT BAPTISM IS
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me.” (Matthew 19:14). Jesus often made time for little children and spoke of how the kingdom of heaven belongs to children. He placed his hands on them and showed them God’s love. Through baptism, we are affirming the love that God already has for the child. The ceremony is our response to God’s love for the child. It is a reminder and a sign of that love. Children are not expected to understand how to respond to God’s love. Through baptism, the parents and the church act on behalf of the child as a response to God’s love. The parents promise to bring their child up in the Christian faith. The church promises to help them. It is hoped that when the child grows up he/she will choose to be confirmed as one of Christ’s people. Baptism is the formal beginning of a child’s faith journey. It is a ceremony that welcomes the child’s entry into the family of God. The child becomes a member of the Christian church. Water is used in baptism as a symbol of cleansing and purification. It is a sign of nourishment and life. Water symbolizes that God washes away anything that could separate us from God.
WHAT BAPTISM IS NOT
1) Baptism is not a social custom. Some parents want to get their children baptized because a relative or friend is putting pressure on or because all the kids in the block have been baptized. Baptism is a statement of the parent’s faith. It is not a statement of the grandparent’s faith or the neighbour’s faith.
2) Baptism is not a superstitious rite or an act of magic. Some people feel that they should have their baby baptized before something happens to it. They are afraid that God might punish unbaptized children. We believe that God loves all children, baptized or not.
3) There is no magic attached to the baptismal ceremony that ensures that a child will avoid illness or other problems. We do not believe that baptism is necessary to secure a place in heaven. We rely on the loving Grace of God, which is given to us without cost or requirement. Before we are ever aware of it, God loves us.
THE SERVICE ITSELF
The baptism ceremony takes place during a Sunday morning service. People are invited to contact the church office to arrange a date. The purpose and responsibility of Baptism fall on the parents. The parents of the children being baptized carry the major responsibility before, during and after the baptism.
There are no fees for baptism.
You are welcome to have Godparents included in the ceremony, although it is not required. This is primarily an honorary role and has nothing to do with legal guardianship. Godparents may be people who will play a role in the religious and spiritual growth of the child. In that way, Godparents have a role that is similar to the church: they are to assist and support the parents in the raising of children in a Christian environment.
THE PARENT’S COMMITMENT
The Parents stand before God and the church to recommit themselves to Jesus Christ and the work of his Church. They promise to continue to live the Christian life, to worship in church regularly and to walk with God. Parents promise to use their own faith in the building of a Christian home. A home where the church is a part of family life, where children are nurtured in the faith and where grown children are encouraged to make the Christian faith their own. Parents who do not take their own faith seriously are somewhat contradicting themselves by having their children baptized. The parents will be asked to respond to these, or similar, questions: As you bring your child for baptism, do you profess your own faith in God, source of love; in Jesus Christ, love incarnate; and in the Holy Spirit, love’s power? Will you proclaim Jesus, crucified and risen, in your words and actions? Will you follow in the way of Jesus, resisting oppression and evil, seeking justice and witnessing to God’s love for all creation? Will you join with brothers and sisters in the church to share in the life work and ministry of Jesus Christ? Will you share your faith with your child, growing with him or her in faith hope and love and will you encourage him or her by your words and actions. Will you encourage your child to renew these baptismal vows through Confirmation when he or she is ready?
THE CHURCH’S COMMITMENT
The members of Nelson United Church stand before God and each other, promising to help the parents by providing a Christian environment for the raising of their children. It is for this reason that it is not our regular practice to baptize children who live outside of our area. Children should be baptized at the church where their parents regularly worship.
When a person who was baptized as a child reaches a point of maturity in their lives when they want to make their own profession of faith, they will “confirm” or renew the baptismal vows made on their behalf when they were younger. The church offers special instruction and preparation for youth and adults who desire Confirmation. While Baptism makes a person (even a child) a member of the Christian Church, Confirmation is often the process for full or formal membership in a particular denomination. In The United Church of Canada, Confirmation is the rite of full membership.
Baptism can happen at any age. Youth and Adult Baptism is performed for those who weren’t baptized as children. The person speaks for himself/herself. He/she declares his/her Christian Faith and promises to grow in and practice the Christian Faith. Adults are baptized and confirmed at the same time.