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A Liturgy of Infant Baptism

Dennis Bratcher

Introduction

Setting for the Service

Since Baptism is a sacrament in most Christian churches, it is considered a sacred time in the life of the Church.  Following the practice of the ancient Church, Baptism is always celebrated on Sunday.  Paraments or Communion Table coverings should be White in most cases, the traditional color for baptism and most Holy days.  Sometimes Red is used as a symbol for the Church, the community into which the children are being accepted.  Clergy robes and stoles serve to reinforce the event as a special time and help mark it as sacred time rather than simply another activity of the church.  The stole for the officiating minister is usually white, while assistants or associates may use the appropriate color for the season of the church year.  Since this is an important part of the communal life of the church, children’s church or other separate activities for children should be dismissed so they may be a part of the service.

If it is feasible in the setting, two children can carry the baptismal font and a pitcher of water from the rear of the church and set it on the communion table.  The pitcher and font need not be elaborate, but should be appropriate for the occasion.  A clear glass pitcher, for example, allows the congregation to see the water, which helps draw attention to the occasion.  If the children are old enough, one pours the water into the font making sure that the sound is heard.  This action is intended to communicate three things.  First, by visibly calling attention to the water, it introduces this service as a sacramental service of baptism, helping to establish it as sacred time.  Second, the splashing of the water symbolizes the grace of God being celebrated in this sacrament through the giving of His Son, the living water (John 4:10-11).  Third, including children in the service communicates the idea of an inclusive community that is united in its Faith journey.  It also emphasizes the important generational connection between past, present, and future (Deut. 6:20ff).

A christening is a traditional Christian ceremony that incorporates the naming of an infant into the baptismal liturgy.  In a christening ceremony, the child is not named until the actual baptism.  This tradition is followed in this liturgy.

Godparents

The practice of incorporating the naming of Godparents or sponsors into the baptismal liturgy is an ancient practice in the Church. Sponsors for adults or Godparents for infants were to be spiritually mature and trustworthy Christians who would serve as spiritual guides and mentors, taking to themselves the responsibility of encouraging and guiding the person baptized into the Christian Faith.

For infants, the parents and immediate family are always the primary Godparents, along with the congregation into which the child is baptized.  However, one or two Godparents who are not part of the immediate or extended family can be named.  In most Church traditions, Godparents must be baptized and professing members of the Christian Faith.  In most instances, the Godparent should be located close enough to the infant to actually participate in their spiritual nurture.  For infants, the responsibility of Godparents is actively to participate in the child’s spiritual development through prayer, encouragement, spiritual nurture and instruction, and exemplary living, guiding the child to make his/her own commitment to the Christian Faith.

In this liturgy, a section for Godparents is included. However, in many churches the Godparents do not take a separate role in the baptism but rather respond with the family members.

The Liturgy

Minister to the Congregation:  Dearly beloved, baptism is an outward and visible sign of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is through this grace that we become partakers of his righteousness and heirs of life eternal.  Those receiving the Sacrament of Baptism through it come into the fellowship of Christ's holy Church.  Our Lord has expressly given to little children a place among the people of God, a holy privilege that must not be denied them.  Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, how he said, "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the Kingdom of God."

[The Minister then calls for the parents to bring the child to the front to be presented for Baptism.  Grandparents, Godparents, and immediate family members are also invited to join them.]

Minister to the Congregation:  [Parent's name] and [parent's name] are today presenting their child for Christian baptism.  Since baptism is a sacrament, this is a sacred time in the life of these parents, this child, and this community of faith. We do not believe that baptism imparts the regenerating grace of God to this child.  We do believe that Christ gave this holy sacrament as a sign and seal of the new covenant.  Christian baptism signifies for this young child God’s gracious acceptance on the basis of prevenient grace.  It is an acknowledgement of God's grace at work in the life of this child within the care of [his/her] mother and father and extended family, and under the nurture of this community of Faith.  It points forward to [his/her] personal response to that grace when [he/she] exercises conscious saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Minister to the parents:  [Parent's name] and [parent's name], do you desire for your child to be baptized?

Parent’s response: We do.

Minister to the parents:  In presenting this child for baptism, you are hereby witnessing to your own personal Christian faith.  [Parent's name] and [parent's name], do you announce your faith in Jesus Christ, and show that you want to study him, know him, love him, and serve him as his disciple and that you want your child to do the same?

Parent’s response: I do.

Minister to the parents:  To this end it is your duty to teach [him/her], as soon as [he/she] is able to learn, the nature of this holy sacrament; to watch over [his/her] education, that [he/she] may not be led astray; to direct [his/her] feet to the sanctuary; to restrain [him/her] from evil associates and habits, and as much as in you lies, to bring [him/her] up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. 

[Parent's name] and [parent's name], will you nurture this child in Christ’s holy church, that by your teaching and example [he/she] may be guided to accept God’s grace for [him/her] self, to profess [his/her] Faith openly, and to lead a Christian life?  If so, answer "With God's help, I will."

Parent’s response: With God's help, I will. 

Minister to the Family:  Nurturing a child is not only the duty of the parents, but is also the responsibility of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and the larger extended family.  Do all of you as members of this child’s family agree to offer [parent's name] and [parent's name] and this precious child your unqualified love and care, and to share responsibility for the physical and spiritual nurture of this child?  If so, answer “I will.”

Family Member’s Response: I will.

{Optional for Godparents}

{Minister to Godparents:  Godparents fill a special role in the life of a child. In accepting the role of Godparents, you promise to participate in the life of this child, doing everything in your power in the strength of God to assist the parents in the spiritual nurture of this child. Do you as the Godparents of this child, promise to share responsibility with [parent's name] and [parent's name] for this precious child, 'to pray for [him/her], and walk with [him/her] in the way of Christ to help [him/her] take [his/her] place within the life and worship of Christ's Church.  If so, answer, "With God's help, I will."

Godparent’s Response: With God's help, I will.}

Minister to Parents: What name have you given your child?

Parents’ response:  [Full name of the child]

Minister (after taking child):  [Full name of child], I baptize you in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Minister's Prayer:  Let us Pray.  Heavenly Father, we pray that you will take [name of child] into your loving care. Abundantly enrich [him/her] with your grace; bring [him/her] safely through the perils of childhood; deliver [him/her] from the temptations of youth; lead [him/her] to a personal knowledge of Christ as Savior; help [him/her] to grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and people; and to persevere in [his/her] Faith.  Uphold the parents with loving care, that with wise counsel and holy example they may be faithful to fulfill their responsibilities both to [name of child] and to You.  We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Minister to the Congregation:  I present to you [full name of the child] and ask you to welcome [him/her] into this community of Faith (softly).

Minister to the Congregation:  Everyone please stand.

Brothers and Sisters of this household of Faith, as representatives of the Community that welcomes [name of the child], you also have responsibilities to this child.

People of God, will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and life, and include [parent's name] and [parent's name], and now [name of the child] in your care?  Will you surround them with a community of love and forgiveness?  Will you pray for them, extend to them Christian fellowship, and as much as in you lies assist [parent's name] and [parent's name] in raising [name of the child] in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?

Congregation’s Response:  With God's help, we will so order our lives after the example of Christ, that both children and parents are surrounded by steadfast love, that they may be established in the faith and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.

Minister to the Parents:  [Parent's name] and [parent's name], will you allow the fellowship of God’s people, where ever you may be, to assist you in raising [name of the child] in Christ, allowing them to be a witness to Christ’s grace, a voice of God’s Spirit, and a friend both to [him/her] and to yourselves?

Parents’ Response:  We will.

Minister to the Child:  Little [Brother/Sister], you are now a part of a Community of Faith that spans race, gender, generations, and nations.  We welcome you into this flock that you may both give and receive of God's graces.

Minister:  Let us pray.

O God, we thank you for the gift of [name of the child].  It is our prayer that [name of the child] will come to know the joy and suffering of being concerned about everyone [he/she] meets; that [he/she] will see each person worthy of dignity and acceptance. We pray for [him/her] a growth into fuller and deeper levels of humanity as [he/she] lives the example of Jesus.

We pray that [name of the child] will understand that You alone can give life meaning and purpose and direction, O God; and that [he/she] will be on [his/her] knees before You with words of repentance and thanksgiving; and on [his/her] feet for You with deeds of love. This is our prayer, in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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Thanks to Monty Nabors for helping with elements of this liturgy.
-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2014, Dennis Bratcher - All Rights Reserved
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