Baptism Liturgy

There are three sections to this material, which was originally produced by the former Courses and Resources Dept of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand.  

Following the liturgy are other suggestions on special aspects of baptism.

A - Preamble on the meaning of baptism
B - Vows or Promises made by the parents (or an older person themselves)
C - Questions addressed to the congregation

Each section contains a number of suggested wording options for a baptism service.

Section A

The Meaning of Baptism

Preamble:

Option A 1:

Through this sacrament, the Church declares its faith in the crucified and risen Christ and re-asserts his claim to every human life.

Through this act, we receive this child into the fellowship of the Church and begin to care for him/her as a member of God’s family.

By bringing their child for baptism, his/her parents give expression to their own faith and promise that what is done here shall be no empty rite but the sign and seal of God’s love for them and their own love and worship.

Above all, through this act Christ himself renews his own claim on this child, on all of us, every human being and for the whole human life.

In the baptism of this child, we are reminded that we have all been claimed for Christ and we commit ourselves again to live in his love, which we know through his death on the Cross.

Therefore, by sharing in this Sacrament we all take on ourselves the responsibility to play our part in the proclamation of Christ’s love away to the ends of the earth.

Option A 2

Today we come to baptize    . . . . . . . . . . . .   First, let’s remember what this symbolic action of baptism means.

In baptism, we acknowledge God’s love in our lives and in our relationships.  Our existence comes from God, and our happiness and purpose is linked to our relationship with our Creator.  As our children come to live in such a relationship, they too can find their meaning and energy in an interventional encounter with God.

God values each one of us.  Just as the Pacific Ocean or the Tasman Sea surround our coastline, so God’s love is already around   . . . . . . . . . . . .    It is with that love we seek for

. . . . . . . . . . . .    a life of love, joy and achievement.

Destructive forces can spoil his/her life, unless through our concern, God’s love is shown to him/her.  Baptism is a commitment to work for purposes of love and good, both with our children and our community.  We want our children to be strong Kauri trees, standing tall in the forest of life.

In baptism we declare our faith in the crucified and risen Christ.  We state our responsibility as parents and as Christians to help   . . . . . . . . . . . .   to grow into someone who

With energy and joy, we can live a life of faith, hope and love.

Option A 3

Today we come to baptize  . . . . . . . . . . . .  . In welcoming him/her into our community, we invite children to worship with us.  They have a place in our congregation, and part of our responsibility as Christians is to care for the children among us.  We will make commitments about the future and how we want the children her included.

It is indeed a privilege to have a gift of a child.  They are gifts, not possessions.  It is like the rain water that flows into the [Hutt] river, it is a gift, not a commodity to buy.  Children are neither to be owned, nor to be possessed.  . . . . . . . . . . . .   will eventually grow up to be an equal, another human-being whose future we have an opportunity to influence.  Of all the gifts that we receive the most precious is our children.

Children can teach us a lot about ourselves.  They mirror our faults and our foibles, our character and our strengths.  Children can drive us to desperation, and yet inspire us with great joy.  In so doing they change our lives.  To work with children requires great maturity on the part of the parents.  We are doing more than nurturing the seeds for a rimu or beech forest.  We are influencing the mind and heart of one person in the next generation.

Baptism is a public commitment by parents that they will do their best to ring up their child in the best possible way they can.  It is also a commitment to join and belong to a Christian community, where the values of love and peace are lived and upheld.  In this community, we are invited to provide examples to our children, so they catch the values of faith.

Children like us all, need security, and need set limits.  They also need to learn how to express their emotions, to critically reason, and to act in ways that are moral and enlightened.  Children need encouraging and forgiving, inspiring and disciplining.  As we acknowledge and appreciate spiritual values, so they learn the ways of God.  By requiring this o us, they are making great demands.  We as a community are invited to support

 . . . . . . . . . . . .  and  . . . . . . . . . . .  as they embark on this exciting and demanding journey of parenting.

 Option A 4

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases and rests upon those who fear God, and the Lord’s righteousness extends to children’s children, to all those who keep the covenant and remember to do all the commandments.”

Children of Christian parents are seen in the scriptures as being in a special relationship with God.  The parents’ faith means that that child is in a covenant relationship with God until such time as they choose to move outside such a relationship.  The church chooses to recognize this through baptism.  As the faith of the parent(s) is of prime importance, they are asked to confess their faith in Christ as they bring their child for baptism.

Option A 5

Baptism is the sign of the New Covenant, of our access to God through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is a symbol of forgiveness, of inner cleansing.  It is a symbol of a new life and a new allegiance.  It is a symbol of the release of God’s Holy Spirit into the lives of those who trust in Jesus.

In the baptizing of a small child, who of course cannot understand these things,

The Parents are...

  • Giving thanks to God, the giver of all life, for the live that has been given, and the lift that has been protected.
  • bringing the child to be welcomed publicly into the worldwide community of those who belong to Jesus
  • recognizing that the child must one day confirm this act for him/herself, by publicly  declaring his/her own faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, and are committing themselves to pray for that outcome.
  •  promising to bring him/her up in the knowledge and love of God, through the example, teaching and prayers of a Christian home, and through the worship, instruction and fellowship of a Christian church.

The Congregation is... 

  • promising to pray for the child, to show him/her a worthy example of Christian belief and living, and to help instruct the child in the faith. 

Option A 6

  • Today we are going to baptize­­­­  . . . . . . . . . . .   so that, through the careful concern of the Church and the wise love of his/her parents, Christ may be present for him/her, and he/she may grow to full maturity as a son/daughter of God.

This Sacrament is not an end in itself, but a presentation of what we hope from the future; a sign that God is going ahead of us as God went ahead of the Israelites across the sea of reeds to set them free from Egypt and make a nation of them; a sign that we must follow where God leads, taking our children by the hand and gently leading them until they are able to say, with Christ, themselves:

“We will do what God requires” (Matthew 3.15).

  • On the day of Pentecost, when the apostles were filled with the power of God, Peter preached the first Christian sermon.  He said to the people who were listening, “You crucified Jesus of Nazareth, but God raised him to life again; death was not allowed to keep him.  This Jesus whom you crucified God has made Lord and Messiah”.

When they heard this the people were frightened and said, “What are we to do?”

Peter Said, “Change your hearts and minds: Change the direction of your lives: all be baptized in the name of Jesus.  Then you’ll be forgiven and will receive God’s power yourselves. 

The promise is to you and your children and to all who are far away; everyone whom the Lord our God shall call.”

(follow with A 1)

Option A 7

As. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . present . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  for baptism we remember Jesus’ own words about baptism that he said: (read Matthew 28; 18-20)

Responding to Christ’s call, and confident of his promises, we ask you, . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  and  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   “What do you ask of us, God’s Church at  . . . . . . . ., for . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ?”

We as that he/she be baptized into the faith and family of Jesus Christ.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . , it is with great joy that we welcome you!

Baptism is a sacrament – one of the ways in which the church proclaims and responds to God’s love for us.  In this act we discover that God is reaching out to us before we can do anything – before we can understand, before we can respond.

We use water (water is poured into the font)

And we look to the Christ candle – the light of Christ’s Spirit burning for us, within us.

With water and the Spirit we are baptized – literally ‘immersed into’, ‘saturated with’ the life, the death, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In this act of baptism, we celebrate the faith we share.  So let us stand, now, and declare our faith together by saying The Creed.

Option A 8

It was our Lord Jesus Christ who called us to bring our children to be blessed.  He commanded his disciples and all who would follow them to welcome the children and to baptize them with the sign of water.

This recalls the Old Testament custom of our making a covenant with God, a firm bond of belonging, to the creator of every human being.

It speaks especially of being made on with Christ in the body of the church, to share in the truth of his life, cross and resurrection.

It is the moment when parents give thanks, together with the community of believers, for this newly-created life and ask for their child the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, to help them grow towards God.

Through little children do not understand these things, we the Church believe that the promise of God’s love towards them is true, and that we in baptizing them bring them into the circle of that love.

Option A 9

Baptism is the ceremony of initiation into membership of the Church of Jesus the Christ.

By what authority:  Jesus said; “Go to people everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; teach them to obey everything that I have commanded you; and I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”

Therefore when people became Christians they were baptized – which meant, in those first days, in Israel, they went down under the water – and came up again.

This was a symbol that they died to their old way of life; and rose to a new way of life – life in Christ – a way of life made possible by Jesus through his teaching and example – a life lived for others – life “in Christ.”

This way of life, life “in Christ,” has at least these three identifiable results for us: 

  • we enjoy life to the full and can cope successfully with all life’s ups and downs; - we are able to achieve the full potential of which we are capable;
  • we release the unimagined power we have within us – for the total enrichment of  our own lives and for the similar enrichment of the lives of others.

This is something of the connotation of “life in Christ” – baptism is a sign, and when it is entered into in sincerity and truth, it is also a seal, of this new life in Christ.

Because of the very strong sense of family in the Hebrew religion and culture, children in a family were seen to be entitled to the same privileges as their parents;

So, a Jewish boy, at a tender age of seven days, was circumcised and through this ritual he was incorporated into the nation of Israel, the chosen people of God – not because he could profess loyalty to the nation, he was only seven days old; no, it was because he had been born into a family who did profess loyalty to Israel. 

Therefore, from the first days of the Christian Church, parents who were themselves initiated into the new way of life, “in Christ”, naturally, sought this same privilege for their children also…

So that, from those days to these days, parents who seek baptism for their children are asked questions.

Section B

Vows or promises made by the parents

(or the older person themselves)

Option B 1

(The Minister now addresses the parents)

Minister: As you bring your child to be baptized do you promise to go on giving honour to God By loving and forgiving each other?

Parents: Yes, we do.

Minister: Do you also promise, as far as you are able to build your family life on the love and truth that Christ has shown us?

Parents: Yes, we do.

Minister: And do you promise to go on giving expression to that love and truth with your fellow Christians in the Church for the sake of your own child, all the children among us and every human being for whom Christ died?

Parents: Yes, we do.

Option B 2

In presenting this child for baptism, do you confess your faith in God as your heavenly Father, in Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord, and in the Holy Spirit as your helper and guide?

We do

Do you promise, with God’s help, to teach your child the truths and duties of the Christian faith?

We do

Do you intend to share in the life and worship of this church and seek by prayer, teaching and example, to bring up _______in the care and discipleship of the Lord?

We do

The Lord bless you and your children and give you the grace to faithfully perform these promises.

Option B 3

Minister:  As you bring your child to be baptized do you promise to go on  giving honour to God by loving and forgiving each other?

Parents:  Yes, we do

Minister:  Do you also promise, as far as you are able, to build your family life on the love and truth that Christ has shown us?

Parents:  Yes, we do

Option B 4

And so I invite you,. . . . . . . . . . . . . . and . . . . . . . . . . . . , to declare your own faith, and to make your vows in the presence of God, before God’s people in this place….

                        (Will the congregation please stand)

(1)               . . . . . . . . . . . .  and  . . . . . . . . . . . . , in bringing  . . . . . . . . . . . for Christian baptism, do you publicly declare your faith in God as your heavenly Father, in Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord, and in the Holy Spirit as your Helper and Guide?

Response:  “I do”

(2)      Do you promise, with God’s help, to provide a Christian upbringing for                       . . . . . . . . . . .                     to bring him/her up in the love and knowledge of God, and  

                      in worship, fellowship, and instruction of the Church, and to encourage

                      his/her faith in every way, so that one day he/she may come to know 

                      Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and in due course confirm this sign

                      with his/her own declaration of faith?

                                    Response: “I do”

   May God give you the strength to fulfill these promises.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . and  . . . . . . . . . . . , will you respond to God’s gracious love to          . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  by building your family life on the love and truth that Christ has shown us.

                      (Parents)  With God’s help, we will, encouraging . . . . . . . . . . . .  to grow within the

            fellowship of the church that he/she may come to know Jesus Christ.

            Receive the light of Christ.

1.                  Do you share the faith of the Church?
2.                  Will you teach that faith to this child?
3.                  Will you nurture this child in the kind of love that we see in Jesus?

Option B 7

. . . . . . . . . . . .  and . . . . . . . . . . . , you bring your child,  . . . . . . . . . . . . here in thanksgiving and faith.  Therefore I ask you now to declare that faith into which your child is to be baptized, saying after/with me: 

We believe in God the Creator,

who has given live to our child.

We put trust in Jesus the Christ,

who is the way, the truth and the life

and ask the Holy Spirit to guide and strengthen us in the Way.

We promise to bring our child in this faith, with God’s help.

We commit ourselves to belong to the People of God.

We will seek to grow in faith, to understand the Bible, break the bread, and walk the Christian way, to love our child, our neighbor and God with all our heart and soul and mind and strength.

Option B 8

Question 1:            Why have you brought your child/children to be baptised:

                        We wish to thank god for the gift of our child/children and we

                        want our child/children to share with us in life of the church.

Question 2:            Do you declare your faith in the God who is clearly seen in

                        Jesus Christ but who is also active in the lives of all who work

                        for love and community, peace and justice?

                        I do

Question 3:            Do you promise with God’s help to provide a Christian home

                        for your child/children showing as best you can the faith, hope

                        and love of the Christian Way of Life?

                        I do

Question 4:            Do you promise to play your part in the life and worship of the

                        Chruch?

                        I do

Section C

Questions addressed to the congregation

(and/or godparents if appropriate)

Option C 1

Congregation:            As members of Christ’s Church we gladly accept . . . . . . . . . . . .  into

membership.  With God’s help we will be faithful to our calling that . . . . . . . . . . . .  and all other children in our midst may grow in the knowledge and love of

Christ our Lord.

Leader: . . . . . . . . . . . .  for you Jesus Christ has come among us.

Congregation: . . . . . . . . . . . . for you Jesus lived among us.

Leader: . . . . . . . . . . . . for you he suffered on the cross

Congregation: . . . . . . . . . . . . for you he cried: “It is accomplished!”

Leader: . . . . . . . . . . . . for you he died!

Congregation: . . . . . . . . . . . . for you Jesus was raised from the dead.

Leader: . . . . . . . . . . . . for you Jesus lives now.

Congregation: . . . . . . . . . . . . . for you Jesus promised to be with you for ever even though you do not know it.
(followed if desired by C 2)

Option C 2

Minister:  And all of you, representing the Church here, do you receive this child in the name of Christ?

People:    Yes, we do.

Minister:   Will you surround him/her and his/her parents with love and look for ways of being Christ to them?

People:    Yes, we will, we gladly welcome this child/these children into our fellowship and we commit ourselves to deeper love and better service for the sake of all people.

All Stand.

Option C 3

Do you promise with God’s help, to provide a loving and caring Christian community within which . . . . . . . . . . . . can receive instruction in the faith?

And do you promise, with God’s help, to provide support for his/her parents in whatever way possible?

We do

Option C 4

To the Godparents:

. . . . . . . . . . . . and . . . . . . . . . . . .

Will you do all you can in the power of friendship to stand by the parents of this child . . . . . . . . . . . . in keeping the promises they have made:

and to stand by . . . . . . . . . . . .  in his/her growth as a child within the Christian family. 

To the Congregation:  

And all of you representing the church here as a sign that you receive . . . . . . . . . . . . as a member of the church.

Would you please stand?

Option C 5  

(to the godparents)  As our children grow, they need our encouragement, sound teaching, and the good example of others.  And this is a responsibility we all share.  As godparents and parents, you hold a particular responsibility – to nurture this child in a special way: to share his/her life, to share with him/her your faith, that he/she may grow to know and trust God, through the love and nurture you give.

So I ask you, as Godparents, will you, . . . . . . . . . . . .,   . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ., as you are able, support  . . . . . . . . . . .  with your prayer, your love, your care as he/she grows to that fullness of life in Christ?

(Godparents)  With God’s help, we will.

And I ask you, the people of God at . . . . . . . . . . . . : will you, on behalf of Christ’s church throughout the world, receive . . . . . . . . . . . .  into God’s family, offering your prayerful support that this family may grow in strength and maturity?

Congregation:

With God’s help, we will, seeking to live out our own baptism as a loving community in Christ: nurturing one another in faith, upholding one another in prayer, and encouraging one another as we serve Christ together. 

Option C 6

Minister:  I ask you too to accept this responsibility and to make your promise.

congregation:

            This child whom we have received in the name of Christ, is by Christ

            committed in our concern and care.  We offer to him/her the warmth

            And example of a faithful Christian life and the support of our prayers.

Option C 7

Question:  Do you accept your Christian responsibilities toward this

                 child/these children and do you promise, with God’s help to provide

                 a setting in which children can grow in love for God and for other

                 people?

Response:  We do.

Minister:   Let us pray

All:             Give us, O Lord, the strength to do those things which we have 

                   promised and bless this child/these children now to be baptized

                   through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

Special aspect of baptism

Baptism in a “Home” Church

Sometimes, for family reasons, a family will really want the baptism performed in a “home” (home is often the church of the grandparents) church.  Comments about preference for the couple’s local church may fall on deaf ears and there is some likelihood that the baptism will fall through.

One half way measure is to pursue the following:

1.                  Explain the community aspects of baptism thoroughly.

2.                  Contact the minister/vicar of the congregation nearest to where the couple live.

3.                  Conduct the baptism.

4.                  Include prayers for the parish where the couple live.

5.                  Send the baptismal card – letter and possibly the Sunday bulletin – to the minister where the couple live and ask him/her to deliver the card and hopefully establish a warm pastoral connection.  (The local minister may arrange to present the card at a service.  Also the officiating minister could seal the baptismal card and letter in the presence of the baptizing congregation and arrange to have it sent.)

One-parent promises:

In situations where a parent, most likely the father, really is not keen about making the promises it may be helpful to rephrase the question.  This could be something like “John, do you promise to support Mary as she makes these baptismal promises today?”  This will enable the mother to pursue her wish to have their child baptized but enables this to be done with integrity and pastoral sensitivity.

Suggestions for the service

Water is a symbol of the new life of cleansing and of judgment and should be a central symbol.

Water may be poured from a jug into the font by the family’s elder.

The water may be scooped from the font with a New Zealand scallop shell.

  • The spirit is an important symbol also which may be symbolized in a candle.

The candle may be lit by a family member as part of the service.

A candle (and/or a Bible of some other gift) may be given to the family along with the baptismal certificate.

  • After baptism the child or adult is walked among the congregation.  If a baby, she/he is carried either by the minister or a member of the congregation or the family’s elder.  Some time can be spent over this as member of the congregation welcome the “new part of the Body”.  Alternatively, if a baby is being baptized she/he could be lifted up before the congregation as is done with the sacramental bread at Communion.  The officiating minister could say to the congregation “Here is Baby . . . . . . . . . . . ., part of the congregation’s family”.  The baby could then be taken down into the congregation and introduced.
  • A booklet explaining Christian baptism and including the Order of Service may be given to the family before or during baptism.  The Order of Service could also include a copy of the Baptismal certificate.
  • After the baptism and final prayer members of the congregation could each be given a piece of paper (A4 divided in half) and be invited to write to the child or adult (to each if there is more than one candidate for baptism).  The congregation are invited to write their hopes, prayers and faith whatever they would say to the baptized person.  These are collected during the service and handed to baptized person or their parents.  They could be put in a colored folder which also includes the Baptismal Certificate and other parish information.  This provides a helpful, encouraging link with the congregation.  Alternatively, the Sunday school children could draw pictures and write messages for a baptized baby to be given.
  • When siblings are at a baptism they can sometimes feel left out.  A children’s baptismal hymn can be taught to the siblings through the Sunday School and be sung and danced after the baptism.
  • Once the baptism is over it is good to have someone delegated to help the family if the child becomes restless or noisy, and to have the family clear about options if they need to take the child out for some reason.  Also, people should be delegated to follow up the baptism and show the pastoral care that the congregation promises during the service.

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