Preparation for Holy Baptism
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, 1979)
St. Paul loved to speak and write about the people of the early churches as members of the Body of Christ. He used this metaphor to emphasize the importance of the diversity of parts as well as their unity. He (and those he taught) was very clear about how to become a part of that body: by the gift of Baptism.
Baptism is a Sacrament of the church, which means that it is a ritual act, using a specific outward and visible sign to show us the inward, invisible gift of God’s love, which we call “grace”. We us this special word to describe God’s love because we know that, especially in the world today, we can confuse “love” with romance, responsibility, fascination and a lot of other things. But God’s grace is perfect, unconditional love, which is poured out on us whether we deserve it or not, whether we earn it or not, just because “God is Love”.
We believe that God calls all people, by his grace, to love him and to love one another. In baptism, we are initiated in the household of that love, so that we never have to wonder whether or not we are a part of the Body of Christ. If we have been baptized, the answer is, Yes!
Baptism is also the sign of new life that is given to members of the Body. It is the assurance that our tendency to make mistakes, to hurt one another, and to fall short of God’s highest expectations for us-all of which the church has traditionally called “sin”- will not prevent God from loving us and bringing us to the promise of salvation and the hope of new life in the world to come. We don’t know what happens to us after death, we believe that life is not ended at the grave, it is changed. At the other side of the mysterious and frightening chasm of death God waits with promises of good things we cannot even imagine in this life. Baptism is the seal of assurance that these promises are meant for us.
When we have been baptized we recognize that we have entered into a covenant with God: a special relations in which God makes promises to us (to love us and to give us the gift of new life) and we make promises to him (to be faithful by doing our best to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves).
We welcome infants (and children of any age) to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. We don’t hesitate to baptize infants and children too young to make the vows for themselves because we recognize that the Sacrament is first and foremost a gift from God. A child is not less able to receive that gift than an adult. In these cases, parents and godparents make the vows on behalf of the child. It’s expected that when a child reaches an appropriate age, he or she will make a public affirmation of those vows in the service of Confirmation.
Baptism is always available to adults who have not previously been baptized and whose growing faith has led them to a desire to share in that life of the Body of Christ. The church always rejoices when new members are added to the Body of Christ.
Christians believe that the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus are the decisive acts of God’s love that shows us God’s promise of hope. What Jesus did to bring us new life he did once and for all. Baptism is the beginning of our participation in that new life. All mainstream Christian denominations recognize the validly of baptism with water in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And if one has been baptized it is never necessary to be baptized again.
When children or adults are baptized, this makes them Christians, not a particular brand or kind of Christian: an Episcopalian or Roman Catholic or Presbyterian, etc. It is in Confirmation that we ally ourselves with a particular denomination. While some people may decide to change denominations, this is done by Confirmation or Reception into the church. Re-baptism is never required or appropriate.
Baptism and Eucharist
In Baptism we are made full members of Christ’s Body, the church. As full members, all baptized Christians (regardless of age) are welcome to receive the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Mass, the Holy Eucharist.
Public and Private Baptisms
The Rite of Holy Baptism is appropriately administered within the Eucharist as the chief service on Sunday except during Lent and especially on recognized feast days: The Great Vigil of Easter, Pentecost, All Saints, and the Baptism of Christ. Private Baptisms are not customary unless a person requests to be baptized when death is imminent and no time allows for preparation for a formal service.
Godparents are sponsors of a child who is presented for Baptism. They make the vows on the child’s behalf, along with the parents, and must, therefore, be baptized themselves. Parents often ask special friends or family members to serve as godparents. Traditionally, boys have two godfathers and one godmother and girls have two godmothers and one godfather. This decision is entirely at the discretion of the parents.