Celebrating Baptism

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Four Baptisms will be celebrated soon in our congregation. There are many ways to approach the sacrament of Baptism, but have we thought of it as a congregational covenant?

Many times I have planned baptism services with the family giving a large amount of input to the service. Part of me says "that great!" the other part of me gets a little squimish. Why? I find that some of those services become a "family service" where the participation comes from the family only and the congregation becomes spectators to an event. I have felt disconnected to the service at those points as well, and I'm an active leader in the service.

Do we as a congregation have any part of the service? Absolutely. We have promised to support the parents, and agree to help grow their children in the faith. So why does the congregation become the spectators and not the participants in what seems to be a very long-term commitment from the congregation. We should be an active participant in baptism even though we are not being baptized physically. But we should be reminded of our baptismal vows that were made by our parents and that we professed later in life.

I think the tide is turning in our congregation. Our congregation is recognizing that they are as much of the sacrament of baptism as the parent and the child. We as a congregation are excited about the baptisms that will be celebrated soon, but let us not look on as spectators, but let us be active participants in the celebration and in the vows that are promised to God, the parents, and to each other.

How do you celebrate baptisms in worship? Is there a baptismal font where the water is more visible? Are we celebrating with a word of special encouragement to the parents? Is it a covenantal promise with God or is it something else? What other significant symbols or elements in the service that make it meaningful for the entire congregation?

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It's important to emphasize that Baptism is a means of Grace, and that the movement is from God to the child, family, and congregation. Baptism is not about our profession of faith but God's Grace and Covenant Promises. Faith is called for as our response to Baptism.  So it's a time for parents and congregation to hear again the covenant promises of God and to renew their response in a common confessin of faith and  vow to live that faith in evry part of life.  The folowing is adapted from an alternative litrugy of the Church of England.  I think it woud serve us well as an option or example for incorporation and use in baptismal liturgies in the CRC.  It's important for the congregation to use the first person pural in their responses, because it is not merely as individuals we respond to what God does in Baptism, but as a Covenant Community, a community of the New Covenant in Christ.

A large candle may be lit. The minister addresses the parents and congregation.

In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light.
To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him.
Therefore I ask:
Minister: Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?
Response: We reject them.
M: Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
R: We renounce them.
M: Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?
R:  We repent of them.
M: Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?
R: We turn to Christ.
M: Do you submit to Christ as Lord?
R:  We submit to Christ.
M: Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?
R:  We come to Christ.

The Apostles' Creed may be said in question and answer form at the appropriate time in the service.

M: Do you believe and trust in God the Father?
All: We believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
M: Do you believe and trust in his Son Jesus Christ?
All: We believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
M: Do you believe and trust in the Holy Spirit?
All: I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.