“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
The pews are filled with visitors, the parking spots are all taken and there is a buzz in the air …something special is happening. It’s a baptism! And you the church, the members of Christ’s holy body, is hosting this splendid celebration. Family and friends have been invited to come to join in this rite of love, life and faith. So let’s rejoice.
A few years ago I sat at a “naming ceremony” of a dear friend’s grandchild. This event was a true celebration of this child’s life, it was claiming of the roles each person would have to love, support and encourage him throughout his life. As I observed this ceremony I was convicted that I needed to reconsider the elements that surrounded baptism in my local church.
How could we create a setting that was reflective of this sacrament?
How could we welcome each person into this sacred moment? How could we draw in both our guests and our congregation?
How would the congregation convey their desire to care for the infant, child, teen or adult being baptized?
In the two years that followed we were given the privilege of baptizing 28 people and in those sacred moments we learned how to better celebrate, to welcome, and to refresh our baptismal practices. We also offered a way to help each person, each family share their unique story of baptism.
Our stories included families who had gathered around that same font for generations and others who were brand new to this community. There were teenagers feeling awkward about all the attention and large families who stood together to proclaim their love for God. A great aunt traveling across the country to stand with her whole family as they were baptized and a father who was so touched by the spirit during his daughter’s baptism, he asked to baptized too.
Our stories went beyond the ones being baptized to the many ways the members of the church shared their excitement about their new brothers and sisters in Christ. People made blankets and ornaments; they gave the newly baptized flowers, bibles and cards. As the members of the church handed over theses tokens they offered words of welcome, love and support, followed by handshakes and hugs.
The people who come to the waters of baptism are all different, yet they all receive the same beautiful gift of grace. As the church, we are an intricate part of this grace-filled occasion. Together we testify to our faith. Christianity is not lived out in isolation, but in relationship with other Christians. Baptism is the place where we covenant with God and one another to offer our prayers and presence, our gifts and talents to come alongside one another.
If you would like to consider how you might renew your culture of baptism, you are invited to join in the Water & Roots movement this year. Water & Roots contains resources to help you access the many aspects of baptism. As pastors and church leaders, we want to support one another in the celebration.
On November 1, you will receive an email that will unlock free resources to lead your church through baptism
Let’s rejoice together in sharing the stories of baptism too. Watch out for ways to share your stories and pictures in the Relay, the Digest and on social media too.