The Sacrament of Baptism
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|Sunday, November 11, 2012|
Presenting Children for Baptism
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-19)
“Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls” (Acts 2:38-39)
What do Presbyterians believe about baptism?
Presbyterians believe that both believers and their children are included in God's covenant love. Children of believers are to be baptized without undue delay, but without undue haste. Baptism, whether administered to those who profess their faith or to those presented for Baptism as children, is one and the same Sacrament. The Baptism of children witnesses to the truth that God's love claims people before they are able to respond in faith. (Book of Order W-2.3008).
Baptism, therefore, usually occurs during infancy, though a person may be baptized at any age. Parents bring their baby to church, where they publicly declare their desire that he or she be baptized. When an infant or child is baptized the church commits itself to nurture the child in faith. When adults are baptized they make a public profession of faith.
Baptism distinguishes children of those who believe in God's redemptive power from children of nonbelievers. The water that is used symbolizes three accounts from the Bible's Old Testament and one from the New Testament: the waters of creation, the flood described in the story of Noah, the Hebrews' escape from slavery in Egypt by crossing the Red Sea, and Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. All three stories link humanity to God's goodness through water.
- the faithfulness of God,
- the washing away of sin,
- putting on the fresh garment of Christ,
- being sealed by God’s Spirit,
- adoption into the covenant family of the Church, and
- resurrection and illumination in Christ. (Book of Order W-2.3004)
Unlike some denominations, Presbyterians do not require a person to be entirely immersed in water during baptism. Baptism is received only once. Its effect is not tied to the moment when it is administered, for it signifies the beginning of life in Christ, not its completion. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) believes that persons of other denominations are part of one body of Christian believers; therefore, it recognizes and accepts baptisms by other Christian churches.
Baptism is administered as part of a public service of worship (not in a private ceremony). In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), baptism must be authorized by the session of a particular congregation and performed by a minister.
Who may present children for baptism in the Presbyterian Church?
In order to present a child for baptism, at least one parent must be an active member of this, or – in special cases and with Session authorization – some other Christian congregation. The one(s) presenting the child should be able to affirm the following questions:
- “Do you desire that [your child] be baptized?”
- “Relying on God’s grace, do you promise to live the Christian faith, and to teach that faith to your child?”
- “Trusting in the gracious mercy of God, do you turn from the ways of sin and renounce evil and its power in the world?”
- “Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Lord and Savior, trusting in his grace and love?”
- "Will you be Christ’s faithful disciple, obeying his Word and showing his love?”
The Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) provides that:
“When a child is being presented for Baptism, ordinarily the parent(s) or one(s) rightly exercising parental responsibility shall be an active member of the congregation. Those presenting children for Baptism shall promise to provide nurture and guidance within the community of faith until the child is ready to make a personal profession of faith and assume the responsibility of active church membership. The session may also consider a request for the baptism of a child from a Christian parent who is an active member of another congregation. If the session approves such a request, it shall consult with the governing body of the other congregation and shall notify them when the Sacrament has been administered.” (W-2.3014)
Requests from active members of this congregation are routinely approved by the Session. Requests from members of other congregations are considered on a case-by-case basis. It is important that the other congregation be one that accepts the validity of infant baptism and that the parents involvement in the church is such that the congregation will truly be able to support the child’s Christian nurture.
What about god-parents?
In the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) the term “sponsor” is used for those who promise to nurture the baptized person in Christian faith. The most important sponsor is the whole congregation which promises at the time of baptism
“. . .to guide and nurture [these children] by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging them to know and follow Christ and to be faithful members of his church.”
Though not required, sometimes there are family members or special friends of the parents who desire to be sponsors, as well. Since sponsorship involves nurturing the baptized in Christian faith, it is important that sponsors, if named, be active members of a Christian congregation and be able to affirm the following promise:
What is the process?
“Do you promise, through prayer and example, to support and encourage [this child] to be a faithful Christian?”
- Parents contact the church office to receive a brochure and the Baptism Information Form. Please click here to fill out your Baptism Information Form.
- Parents complete and return the Baptism Information Form as soon as possible, but not later than the day of your pre-baptismal instruction class.
- The Session votes to approve the parent(s) request to have their child baptized.
- Parents are required to attend a pre-baptismal instruction class conducted by one of the
We ask you to understand that pre-baptismal instruction is required. We consider this instruction about the theological reasons for baptism to be very important. If the parents cannot attend one of these classes, they should contact the church office to make alternative arrangements.
- After the worship service that includes the Sacrament of Baptism, parents will to gather at the baptismal font at the front of the sanctuary.
- On the day of the child’s baptism, parents (and sponsors, if any) meet with an elder in the church lounge 15-minutes prior to the service. Please remind family members that there is NO videotaping or flash photography permitted during the service. The pastor will be happy to be available for pictures following the service.
- Following the baptism, the parents will receive a certificate of baptism and their child’s name will be recorded in the Roll of Baptized Members. When the parent(s) are members of another church, notice will be sent to that congregation so that the child may be properly enrolled there.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to call or email the church using any of the contact information given on this page.