Baptism is a happy topic! There may be a new addition to your family whom you celebrate as a gift of God. Or, perhaps, you’ve just made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. Baptism is a natural response in either case. Here are answers to some questions about the sacrament. This information is presented to help members and others understand the church’s policies regarding baptism.
What is baptism? Christian baptism is that ritual by which persons become part of the Universal Church. It initiates the process of growth in Christ. Baptism is a sign of God’s grace. It involves a covenant (shared promises), including God’s faithfulness, the baptized person’s commitment to live out the new life within the church (or adult responsibility for the Christian nurturing of the baptized child), and the congregation’s promise of “love, support, and care.”
What baptism is not. It is not a civil or legal necessity. Unlike a wedding, it has no significance outside the church, though a Certificate of Baptism may serve as legal identification in some cases. Baptism differs from “christening,” a term connected with the naming of a child.
Baptism is not merely the “right thing to do” for a child. Its significance is made specific in the promises that are part of the ceremony.
Who may be baptized? In the United Church of Christ, persons can be baptized as infants, children, teenagers, or adults. What is required is the desire to respond to God’s saving love, shown in Jesus Christ, and acceptance of the covenantal nature of baptism—either on the part of the person, or of responsible adults.
There are no age limitations for infant or child baptisms. In practice, infants are more easily baptized than toddlers, who may strenuously object! Older children can have the meaning of baptism explained to them and may be invited to give consent even though adults are responsible for them.
Baptism is performed only once in a person’s lifetime.
Who performs the baptism? The Pastor is responsible, as representative of the Universal Church . The Pastor prepares persons to be in covenant, and administers the sacrament. The Pastor operates within the context of theological integrity, the traditions of the UCC and Christ Church, and in partnership with the Spiritual Council (Elders) of Christ Church.
The Pastor may refuse the sacrament if the request appears ill-considered; when, even with counsel, it seems unlikely that the covenant will be honored, or the integrity of the sacrament cannot be guaranteed. Within limits of confidentiality, the Pastor may discuss such cases with the Spiritual Council, for additional reflection.
It is customary for the one of the Elders of Christ Church to participate in the ceremony.
Where and when does baptism take place? The sacrament of baptism is central to the life of the church. It is appropriate that it take place in the sanctuary during regular worship. It is otherwise difficult for the whole congregation to be part of the covenant, and the baptized persons to know their new “family.”
Within this context, scheduling is largely at the convenience of the person or parents.
The sacrament can be celebrated at most services of worship. Scheduling should be done at least one month in advance to allow time for the Pastor to meet with the family and the Elders of the church.
Are godparents required? UCC practice usually calls them “sponsors” rather than “godparents” but we allow either designation. Sponsors join parents in making—and keeping—the baptismal promises.
When parents or guardians are not church members themselves, it is customary for members to sponsor the child. Otherwise, there is no necessity. The Pastor or Elders may assist in choosing sponsors, if desired.
Sponsors are an option, not a necessity, for adults desiring baptism.
How is a typical baptism performed? The person or family will be invited to come forward and stand near the baptismal font or, if being performed during worship service, to join the Pastor at the altar. The ceremony follows the liturgy for Baptism found in the church bulletin.
Following the baptismal promises, the Pastor will ask the parents for the child’s first and middle names. The Pastor then takes the infant and baptizes the top of the head using water from the font. The Pastor may then walk the infant up and down the aisle, symbolic of the infant’s new place in the church. The Pastor returns the child and all join in prayer. After presentation of the Certificate of Baptism, the family returns to their place in the congregation.
Older children may state their own names and walk with the Pastor down the aisle.
Other information. Baptism is a sacrament of the church, and no fees are necessary.
Photographs and videos may, with discretion, be taken.
Infants are welcomed in church at Sunday worship with the option of using our supervised nursery during the service. Please call the church office for updated information about Sunday school.
Young people take responsibility for their own covenant with the church through the process of “confirmation,” usually between ages 12 and 15.
To proceed further, contact Pastor Jeff Johnson at Christ Church.