Below is a copy of the article I wrote for our October newsletter.
Baptism: A Sacrament of God’s Grace
(RCA Liturgy for Baptism)
Throughout the centuries, the Christian church has baptized infants and adults as a sign and seal of God’s covenantal grace. Baptism has a special place in the life and ministry of the church for many reasons. Chief among those reasons, of course, it that baptism is one of the two dominical sacraments – activities Jesus specifically commanded us to do. (The other is the Lord’s Supper.)
Since baptism is such a significant event, the Elders have been clarifying the process by which we prepare and support those who bring their children to the sacrament. We hope to be more intentional about our role both before and after the celebration and want to be more serious about our belief that baptism is the beginning of a life-long journey of learning about God’s grace.
The process is simple and straight forward. There are three basic steps:
Step One: Information
When someone contacts us to indicate a desire to have their child baptized, our first step will be to give them a copy of the following document. It is our hope that this will help ensure we’re “all on the same page” as to what baptism is. The benefit of a written document is that it can be studied and thought about over time and that we can ensure everyone is given the same basic information.
(What you need to know before you have your child baptized!)
I. Baptism is primarily a celebration of God’s faithfulness.
The basic underlying assumption is that all people are born sinful and can only live in communion with God because God has chosen to overcome that sinfulness
(we could not do it ourselves). Baptism celebrates that and proclaims it.
Although baptism does not ensure salvation (just as birthing a child does not ensure they will become an active member of a family) it is a prerequisite for becoming a member of a local congregation.
Baptism does not “save” your child (someone can be Christian without being baptized and can be non-Christian even though they have been baptized). However, baptism does formally engage them in the life of the church with the hope and expectation that they will one day become a faithful and confessing member of a local congregation.
II. Baptism is a sacrament celebrated by the church.
At least one parent must be an active member of Pultneyville Reformed Church for your child to be baptized here. Since the sacrament welcomes your child into the family, you must be a part of that family yourself in order to welcomed them into it.
III. We believe in one baptism
Step Two: Education
After studying the baptism handout, the second step in preparing for baptism will be a “baptism class.” The class will take approximately 2 hours and will be joyfully offered as often necessary. During the class, we will answer any questions related to the handout, discuss the purpose and meaning of baptism, clarify the commitments involved in bringing a child for baptism, and attempt to clearly reaffirm our belief that baptism is a beginning rather than an end.
Step Three: Connection
Finally, the elders will be having a meeting with the parent(s) or guardian(s). The board of Elders is the entity, in a Reformed Church, with oversight over the sacraments and therefore the body who must give their approval before a baptism may be celebrated. Our hope is that this will not be merely a “rubber stamp” meeting but rather that it would be the beginning of a long and supportive relationship whereby the Elders continue to provide care and encouragement for parents as they seek to raise their children in the faith.
To begin the process or if you have any questions, please give me a call, or drop me an e-mail; I’d love to talk with you!
(RCA Liturgy for Baptism)