Holy Baptism at Saint Mary’s
Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the Church. The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble. Holy Baptism is appropriately administered within the Eucharist as the chief service on a Sunday or other feast. Each candidate for Holy Baptism is to be sponsored by one or more baptized persons. It is fitting that parents be included among the godparents of their own children. Parents and godparents are to be instructed in the meaning of Baptism, in their duties to help the new Christians grow in the knowledge and love of God, and in their responsibilities as members of his Church.
(The Book of Common Prayer 1979, page 298).
Baptism may be administered to any person, regardless of age. The only requirement is to reject evil, darkness and sin; and to turn to Jesus Christ in trust to receive forgiveness and to learn a new way of life. Adult candidates for Baptism make these claims for themselves within the community of the Baptized. Parents and godparents make these claims on behalf of young children and promise to raise these children in the way of Christ.
Baptism is about God’s claim upon our lives, not about our need to feel different about ourselves. It is not magic. Baptism recognizes the truth about who we are in Christ and about what God has done for us – if we choose to receive God’s love and to live in Christ’s way. Therefore, Baptism is only administered once to each person. There is never any need to repeat it.
If you are feeling called to Holy Baptism for yourself or for your child, your first step is to call our parish office and ask to speak with our Rector, Nathan Ferrell. It is the responsibility of the Rector to make sure that each person is prepared for Baptism.
If you would like more detailed information about how Baptism works at Saint Mary’s, feel free to read this text below.
If you want to learn more about turning away from sin and accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior and Master, please click on this link for a thorough explanation.
How Holy Baptism is Done at Saint Mary’s
Q: Who may be baptized at Saint Mary’s?
A: At Saint Mary’s, we feel very strongly about the importance of Baptism. It is how we are initiated into the Christ-centered way of life. It should be seen as the most important decision that one will make, whether for themselves or on behalf of a child.
We need to know that parents are serious about the Christian Faith. Where people are already members of Saint Mary’s, we have a shared faith history. For people from outside the parish, it’s a bit different; the parents need to feel “at home” at Saint Mary’s; and since in the baptismal liturgy the congregation makes a promise to support and uphold the candidate in the new life in Christ, the Saint Mary’s community needs to know the family as well in order to make that promise with intention and conviction.
This all means that the parents need to attend Saint Mary’s long enough to know that this is the Christian environment where their own faith, and that of their child, will be nurtured and supported. In other words, Baptism is the natural outgrowth of life in the Christian community. Outside of that context, it makes little sense. Parents and sponsors must receive instruction on the meaning of Holy Baptism, and on what it means to follow Jesus Christ in everyday life. This is typically done in face-to-face meetings with the Rector, although on occasion this may also take place in small group setting.
Q: How do I arrange to have a child baptized at Saint Mary’s?
A: The first thing to do is to speak with the Rector (pastor). Holy Baptism is scheduled at certain times throughout the year, and the Rector will be able to speak with you about possible dates, and to explain the traditions and expectations at Saint Mary’s.
Q: Can we have a private baptism?
A: Only in case of an emergency. Years ago, private baptism was the norm. Thankfully, in recent years we have restored the apostolic practice of celebrating Baptism in community, carried out in the course of the Eucharist. That is why Baptism normally takes place during the principal liturgy on the Lord’s Day or a Feast Day.
In the case of an emergency, or for certain pastoral considerations (a mixed marriage, where a non-Christian spouse might feel awkward participating in the context of the Eucharist), an exception may be made. It should be clearly understood that this is an exception, and not done as a matter of convenience or personal preference.
Q: My family has a long history at Saint Mary’s, and we live out of town. Can we have our child baptized here?
A: It is often possible, and entirely appropriate, to have a child baptized in the same place as parents and grandparents. In fact, it serves to underscore our understanding of the Communion of Saints, the lovers of God in all times and places. Again, you should speak with the Rector as soon as possible, who will want to ascertain, among other things, that you attend church where you live. And, of course, you may need to accommodate Saint Mary’s schedule.
Q: Are there certain times when we can be sure that Holy Baptism will be administered? That could certainly help us with our planning.
A: Yes. The Prayer Book lists specific times when Holy Baptism is particularly appropriate:
- The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord (the first Sunday after 6 January)
- The Great Vigil of Pascha (the evening before Easter, the Feast of the Resurrection)
- The Day of Pentecost (50 days after the Feast of the Resurrection)
- All Saints’ Day (1 November), or the Sunday after All Saints’ Day
- at The Bishop’s Visitation (the date varies)
In addition, Holy Baptism is appropriate throughout the Great 50 Days. It is also common for us to administer Baptism several times during the summer months.
Except in the case of an emergency, Baptism is not administered during Advent or Lent.
Q: What about godparents? Who may be a godparent for my child?
A: Each candidate for Holy Baptism must be sponsored by at least one baptized person. Traditionally, each candidate has two or three sponsors (also called, “godparents” in the case of infants and young children). It has been common for females being baptized to have two female godparents and one male godparent, with the same pattern for males. However, this is custom and it is not required. Sponsors must be practicing Christians, but do not need to be Episcopalian. Parents are urged to give careful thought in choosing a child’s sponsors. To ask someone to be a godparent is intended to ensure a child’s upbringing in the way of Jesus Christ, rather than being way to honor a friend or family member.
About parents, the Book of Common Prayer is specific: “It is fitting that parents be included among the godparents of their own children” (page 298). Although some people may find the idea somewhat curious, it can serve to strengthen the shared commitment to Christ between parents and children.
Q: My best friend is not Christian; may s/he serve as godparent?
A: The Church requires that “one or more baptized persons” must serve as sponsors. Those persons will act as the “official” sponsors, but the Prayer Book doesn’t make any mention of “honorary godparents”. If a non-Christian can, in good conscience, join in the Baptismal Covenant on behalf of the child, it is fitting that s/he participate in the liturgy, and that s/he act as an additional godparent.
Q: Is there a fee for Holy Baptism?
A: Never is there any fee charged for the administration of a Sacrament. These are God’s gifts of grace. Grace is always free, although receiving God’s grace places a demand on our lives, just like the promises made in Baptism.
Each household is asked to consider making an annual pledge to support the ongoing ministries of Saint Mary’s. Non-members, or relatives of Saint Mary’s parishioners, are invited to make a donation to the parish in thanksgiving for this special occasion.