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Baptism and Membership in the United Church of Canada
The account of Jesus’ baptism as offered in the gospel of Matthew, Chapter 3, verses 13-17, is very similar to that found in gospels according to Luke and to Mark. As such, it provides us with some thoughts about what lies at the heart of how the sacrament of baptism and/or renewal of baptismal vows offers signs of welcome and membership into the United Church of Canada.
John Wesley, one of our Methodist forefathers, describes the sacrament of baptism as an outward manifestation or visible sign of an inward spiritual grace. In other words the sacrament of baptism can be described as our attempt to come closer to God by coming closer to one another.
Here is how the sacrament of baptism process happens in many United Church of Canada churches:
Candidates’ names are presented by the minister to the worship team and from there to our official board or administrative bodies for their blessing. Ideally, these processes happen several weeks before the designated Sunday, and after time has been spent with candidates and their families preparing for baptism or renewal of vows.
On the designated Sunday for baptism, candidates are presented to the congregation; a series of particular faith based questions are asked; verbal promises are made; and the gathered congregation makes its own commitment to the candidate in the context of a regular worship service.
This is followed by a ritual of blessing with water from the baptismal font.
Sometimes an oil of anointing, laying on of hands, and a presentation of certificates along with a special baptismal candle is made, depending on the particular practices of the congregation as set out by its worship committee.
At the conclusion of the service, the candidate’s name is added as a member to the historic roll of the church.
As well, some very particular attention is given to the music choices for the day, the learning or theme time, and the homily focused on the sacrament of baptism.
Commonly at Knox the minister, baptismal candidate and their family walk up and down the centre aisle while the choir sings VU#965 ‘The Lord Bless Thee and Keep Thee’.
It’s also a tradition here at Knox to provide the family with a special children’s version of the bible for candidates who are infants, toddlers, or school aged.
In place of a sermon there is sometimes a letter written by the minister to the candidate about how they and their family might be intentional about remembering this special day.
The impetus from this resource coming from a resource entitled “In the Name of Love, Baptismal Activities for Children”, A United Church of Canada publication, 2006 pp. 55-57
Sometimes the whole congregation is also invited into a reaffirmation of their own baptismal vows through a brief ceremony that includes a choral reading of our faith statement or other prepared prayers as well as an asperging or sprinkling water with cedar bows.
This ancient ceremony where water from the baptismal font is sprinkled on cedar bows and the clergyperson and the newly baptized walk together through the sanctuary gently sprinkling folks sitting in their pews proclaiming: Remember their baptism and be thankful!
Baptism and renewal of baptismal vows in the context of public worship can be a wonderfully refreshing and tangible opportunity for us to bear witness to our experience of a triune God, to make our commitments to seek justice and resist evil, to live out our faith as followers in the way of Jesus, and to participate in the mission and ministry of the church locally and in the wider world. It can take place at specific times of the year such as Baptism of Jesus Sunday in January, or at Easter or Thanksgiving.
Other Baptism dates can also be considered depending on the particular need of the candidate and or their representatives.
Here at Knox the opportunity is not to be missed!
For more information about baptism and the particular promises made, please contact the church office 604 261 3747 or [email protected]
Rev. Liz Bowyer