Baptism is the initiation rite into Christian faith and life. A person may be baptized at any age. It marks the beginning of a relationship with Jesus Christ. God's promises of forgiveness, grace and love are made known during baptism. In the waters of baptism, we celebrate a new way of life as God delivers us from sin and death.
When infants are baptized, the parents, sponsors and congregation make promises to provide Christian nurture and instruction for the child. Those responsibilities include:
- to live with them among God's faithful people,
- to bring them to the word of God and the holy supper,
- to teach them the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments,
- to place in their hands the holy scriptures,
- to nurture them in faith and prayer.
(adapted from the baptismal liturgy in the Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnal.)
Since water is the primary element in this sacrament, we use a generous amount of water in hopes that the entire assembly can see and hear the sound of the water. Baptism is essentially a bath in which God pours out generous amounts of love and clean renewal for the baptized. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America strongly encourages a generous amount of water to symbolize the drowning of the sinful self in the waters of baptism.
Baptismal Sponsors should be baptized and practicing Christians. This is essential for them to make the promises that they make at baptism. As parents choose sponsors, they should consider individuals who would be role models for the Christian life and take seriously the nurture of the child. In addition to the responsibilities listed above, the sponsors could help make the anniversary of the child's baptism an important occasion by giving cards or gifts or doing something special on that day.
While we believe that a person is only baptized once during their lifetime, there are many moments when it is appropriate to affirm the faith of our baptism. This baptismal renewal happens when new members join our congregation, teenagers finish confirmation instruction, or after a significant life change or event.
Since baptism is the beginning of life in the Christian community, it is important that families planning to baptize a child choose and become members of a congregation in which they will regularly participate. It is preferable that the baptism be held at that congregation since the members of that congregation share the responsibility for the nurturing of the child. It isn't membership alone, however, that is central; rather we hope that the parents begin attending the congregation so there is a relationship with the community of faith. Because baptism is a community celebration, all baptisms occur within the context of a communion service when the congregation gathers.
To prepare for the baptism of an infant or child, a baptismal meeting for parents can be offered at the convenience of both parents and the pastor. The baptism of a child is a unique and opportune time for parents to grow in their understanding of the rite as well. Adults who wish to be baptized will participate in a period of spiritual formation that includes study of scripture and reflection.
A rehearsal will be scheduled prior to the baptism to walk through the baptismal liturgy, usually on a Sunday morning. Sponsors, parents, and the baptismal candidate are asked to be present. We request that flash pictures not be taken during the actual baptismal service. We are happy to recreate poses from the liturgy following the service. If a video camera is used, we ask that it remain in one place during the entire baptismal rite.