Baptism of a child

West Plano Presbyterian Church celebrates with you!

Congratulations on the birth of your child!

The congregation of West Plano Presbyterian Church rejoices with you. We are ready to support and encourage you as you begin the exciting and challenging journey of parenting. As parents of a new child, we know that the years ahead will be filled with much blessing as well as times of struggle. Yet, we are not alone. God is with us, especially in the form of a faith community that surrounds us with love and care. Our church wants to be such a community for you. The information below has been prepared to help you understand better the form which the church's love and care takes, especially as you might have questions about Christian baptism and church programs to help families to grow in faith.

So much joy, we want to express it!

Parents are filled with excitement when a new child is born. The long nine month wait is full with hope and some anxiety. At our child's birth, our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude for what God has given us. Our faith in God may lead us to wonder, how can we say thanks?

A way to give thanks

The first ministry which the church offers new parents is a brief rite (a rite is a short service) called, Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child. This rite takes place in a Sunday morning worship service. It gives parents, family members, and the congregation an opportunity to say "Thank you" to God and to ask God's blessing upon both child and parents as they begin their family life. This opportunity may take place on almost any Sunday when scheduling permits.

 

Presbyterians practice infant baptism for member parents when the parents are ready to receive the gift of baptism and accept the responsibilities which baptism asks of us. What this means is that parents never need to panic if their baby is not baptized before reaching a certain age. Presbyterians do not believe that unbaptized infants are in danger because they are held in God's love from birth. At the same time, there is no need for parents to put baptism off until their child grows older when an individual decision can be made. Presbyterians believe that baptism is the gift of faith not a reward for faith. Thus, as we have said, the time is right for baptism when parents are ready to "receive the gift and accept the responsibility."

What does this mean?

In baptism, a child begins new life in Christ which is filled with promise and potential. Since baptism begins, rather than completes, the Christian life, growing up in Christ is a necessary part of being baptized. This is why baptism in the Presbyterian church asks parents to commit themselves to "live the Christian faith and teach that faith to their child." Presbyterian baptism expects that parents will be active in their child's faith development, coming together to church, and nurturing their child in the way of Jesus Christ.

Helping parents "get ready" for baptism is a responsibility required of every Presbyterian church. "It takes a village to raise a child" is an expression that fits perfectly with the church. Parents are never alone in their role of forming children in the faith. At the same time,the church cannot nurture faith without parents taking their responsibility. So the church and parents form a partnership to do this wonderful work together. This is something we take time to talk about as we look ahead to baptism.

So how do we get moving toward the baptism of my child?

It begins with parents themselves, taking time to talk together and come to a decision. Do you remember our earlier remark about parents being ready to "receive the gift and accept the responsibility?" Readiness for baptism is something the church never pushes on parents but always invites parents into. It is different for different families. Some parents are ready soon after their child's birth and others want to take more time to let things settle down before deciding to walk the path to baptism. Why is this  the case? It is simply due to the fact that no two families are the same. We come from different backgrounds and our personal circumstances are varied. So deciding when to begin the path to baptism is first up to the parents. Usually, a sign of parent readiness is when parents begin again attending worship and involving themselves in the life of the church. The reason this is a sign of readiness is because baptism itself asks us to commit ourselves to participate in the life of the church.

I think I am ready to walk the path to baptism ... so what's next?

When parents are ready to begin they should contact the church and its pastor so that the church can welcome them into the Preparation for Baptism process. This welcome takes place on a Sunday morning in worship and marks the start of the process. Since baptism is about more than just the family, but affects the whole church, it is fitting that we all join hands in this process of preparing for baptism.

What does this process look like?

The process involves a series of discussions and sharing around what it means to receive the gift of baptism and live the responsibilities which baptism involves. In baptism, parents and congregation make promises so it is important that we spend time understanding what these promises mean and how they can be incorporated into our everyday lives. In this process we share ideas, ask questions, learn from one another, and explore helpful faith resources that will strengthen a family in its faith at home. Also, it is important that we get to know one another better since nurturing a child in the faith is something we do over years rather than in months.

How long does this preparation take?

Usually, this preparation period extends over a few months in 4 - 6 sessions. As best we can, we will design a schedule to fit each family's circumstances. Wherever possible, we like to bring more than one family together in this process but this cannot always be the case. This preparation for baptism is led by our church staff and dedicated church members who share in this ministry.

When do we set the date of baptism?

Early in the preparation process we will look at the church calendar and consider the best available times for baptism. The church calendar has built into it special baptismal festival days and seasons which are the most desirable times for baptism. These times are rich with meaning and have a long history associated with baptism. We always make sure that the date for baptism is set far enough in advance so that special guests will have time to be present if so desired.

This church takes seriously our responsibility to you. We want to give you the best care and nurture as you begin parenthood. What we describe in this brochure offers this kind of loving care. It may be that you are unused to such an involved preparation for baptism as we offer here. We hope you will see how much of ourselves and our faith we want to share with you. We also hope that you will recognize that baptism should never be a "quick" decision but something considered after thinking and praying about how it affects our whole lives. When parents have approached baptism in this way, they have discovered a deep renewal of faith, a bonding with the church family, and new strength to raise their children in the way of Jesus Christ. We hope to hear from you soon.

May God guide and direct you as consider your decision to begin this process.

David B. Batchelder, Pastor

© Copyright by David B. Batchelder, 2004

 

Baptism

Baptism evokes all the rich biblical images of water. Water was the first element of creation, over which the Spirit hovered and from which came all life. Water overwhelmed a world gone wrong with destructive force. Water parted and slaves walked to freedom on dry land. Water flowed from a rock to quench the thirst of a parched and grumbling band of wanderers. Water from a young woman’s womb surrounded a baby boy as God took on flesh to dwell among us. Water spilled over this baby now grown into the man Jesus and his identity as Beloved of God was proclaimed. Water will flow through the city of God where all people gather in peace and the nations are healed.

From the deep well of these biblical narratives springs our baptismal theology. Baptism is the gift of a faithful God who is not bound to creation, but who chooses to enter into covenant relationship with creation out of divine love. Baptism, like the Lord’s Supper, is God’s gracious accommodation to our embodied humanity, God’s approach to us in ways that we not only can hear, but can see, feel, and taste. Baptism cleanses us of sin, signifies God’s redeeming love, and orients us toward the future. In baptism, we are welcomed into the covenant, engrafted into the body of Christ, and given the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Cleansed of sin, we begin anew a life of faithfulness and service. Dying and rising with Christ, we need not fear death any longer. Gifted with the one Spirit, we look into one another’s eyes and recognize our equality. So, today “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Here, we are all adopted daughters and sons of the Most High, no more and no less. We are all priests, all royalty, not according to the values of the world, but simply as forgiven sinners (see 1 Peter 2:9).

Selections from Invitation to Christ - Font & Table: A Guide to Sacramental Practices (Presbyterian Church U.S.A. 2006.

Eucharist - Lord’s Supper - Holy Communion

As with Baptism, the Eucharist or Lord’s Supper has many meanings. When holding or smelling or ingesting bread and wine, myriad stories come to mind. Bread: unleavened, for angels who sojourn with Sarah and Abraham at Mamre; from heaven, for hungry escaping slaves; miraculously abundant, from a small bowl of flour for Elijah, a widow, and her son; with milk and honey, in the promised land; leavened by a woman, in a saying describing the coming new age; multiplied, with fish, to feed five thousand; broken on a fateful night, as a command to love and to remember. Wine: for the wedding banquet, made from water; for the Passover feast; for the feast of the new covenant and its weekly commemoration; for the final banquet where none shall want for anything.

These scriptural narratives shape our understanding of the Lord’s Supper. As with baptism, we affirm that the supper is a gracious gift of our God who is free, yet freely chooses to approach us here in love. At the table we celebrate our embodied selves as creatures of the earth, dependent upon the goodness of the earth for our existence. With the broken bread we acknowledge the brokenness of the world. In the words we recite we come to know our own redemption from the ways of sin, and we anticipate the future banquet at which all will be fed. At the table of the Lord we renew the covenant, we encounter the Incarnate One, and we receive again the gift of the Spirit.

Thanksgiving at the table shapes us as grateful people who everywhere and always give thanks to God. Joining together for the meal, we are reminded of the call to make sure that food and drink, both ordinary and holy, are shared adequately among all. By the power of the Spirit, both past and future coalesce, as around our table we eat with Christ on that last night as disciples ourselves and as guests at the great feast of the Lamb that is promised and will surely come to pass.

Through the sacraments, God provides an inexhaustible well from which we can draw the very substance of our faith. Both baptism and the Lord’s Supper are simultaneously gift and call. This double grace of gift and call is what we receive in the sacraments. Both dimensions of the sacraments need to be held together. Baptism symbolizes the gift of life, of forgiveness, and of the Spirit. The Supper symbolizes the gift of life and the gift of new life in Jesus Christ. Both symbolize the gift of covenant community, the gift of new relationship we receive in Christ.

Selections from Invitation to Christ - Font & Table: A Guide to Sacramental Practices (Presbyterian Church U.S.A. 2006.