baptism at new creation
What Is Baptism?
In Christian tradition and in the Anglican Church, Baptism is one of the fundamental sacraments of faith. Regardless of differences in style and theology, Christian churches believe that Baptism symbolizes the incorporation of the individual into the corporate body of Christ. It is of profound importance to faithful Christians throughout the world.
Biblically, Baptism has several different meanings. The Catechism in the ’79 Book of Common Prayer says that “Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and makes us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the Kingdom of God.” We are made children of God through adoption, not through natural birth. Baptism enables membership in the Church. We inherit the promise of God for abundant and eternal life starting now, as we believe and live out our Baptismal Covenant.
Here are some other ways that the Bible describes the meaning of Baptism:
Cleansing. The water signifies how Jesus Christ washes away our sin.
New Birth. Jesus said that we must be born of water and the Spirit in order to enter the Kingdom of God.
Dying to Our Old Life, and Rising with Christ. When a person is baptized, going under water signifies the burial of our old self, and coming up out of the water signifies our new life with our risen Lord.
At New Creation Church, we see Baptism as a milestone in each Christian’s history of salvation, signifying our obedience to the commands of our Lord. However, we also need to understand that Baptism is not a magic rite, nor is it a replacement for faith and repentance. Sadly, it is possible to have the outward sign, but lack the inward reality of Christian faith. As theologian Richard Hooker said, “All receive not the grace of God which receive the sacraments of his grace.” It is a promise of God that is conditional on the receipt of the promise by the individual. We also make promises in Baptism: to trust and obey Jesus Christ as Lord, and, in the case of young children, to raise our child in the Christian faith.
Should Infants Be Baptized?
Some people in the universal church believe that infants should not be baptized, but that children should wait until they are old enough to decide for themselves to make a personal commitment to Christ. Many others believe infants should be baptized. At New Creation, we honor the faith commitments of both groups of people. Some families among us choose to have their children wait to be baptized and to receive communion.
We do encourage all Christian families who have children to have them baptized, including the youngest. However, since an infant has no capacity to understand the promises that are made, infant Baptism must be accompanied by a deep and abiding commitment of at least one parent to raise the child in the life of Christ and in the community of the Church. Why not wait until the child grows up to maturity to decide for himself to commit to the promises of Baptism?
Here are some reasons:
- In the Jewish Community, male children are admitted ceremonially into the people of God as infants, through circumcision.
- Whole families—Jew and Gentile—were baptized in the early Church.
- Jesus accepted and blessed children too young to understand or respond.
- Infant baptism underscores the initiative of God in our salvation.
We rejoice when adults and older children who have not been baptized decide on their own to become baptized. Baptism is a joyous step of obedience and public profession of faith for those who have decided to follow Jesus Christ as Lord.
How Do We Do Baptism?
At New Creation, we offer two methods of Baptism: immersion and effusion. Effusion is another name for pouring, and all ages are welcome to have water poured only on their head. We encourage immersion (as does the Book of Common Prayer) because immersion symbolizes our dying to our old life and rising to new life in Christ. Either method is entirely appropriate and acceptable and both have been used by Christians since the earliest times.
What About Sponsors?
It is a joy and an honor to be asked to be a Baptismal Sponsor or Godparent. Sponsors have a serious and solemn responsibility in the development of a candidate’s faith and life in the Church. Accordingly, sponsors should be adults who will actively share in the candidate’s spiritual development and guidance. Godparents promise to ensure that the child is brought up in the Christian faith and life.
Sponsors help the newly baptized become disciples of Jesus Christ in a number of ways. They spend time with their godchildren; they demonstrate their love of their godchildren and of Jesus Christ through their words and their deeds. They share their own spiritual journey. They remember and honor birthdays and baptism days with a card or call. They offer wisdom and counsel as their charges confront the challenges of growing as Christians in a secular world.