Baptism

At Mill Woods United Church, we are always delighted to welcome a new person into the church through the sacrament of water known as baptism. Most of our baptisms are of infants, but we also baptize youth and adults.

When parents decide to baptize their child, they make a public commitment to helping awaken in the child a capacity to love and a desire to live for justice and peace in the world. The parents commit to raising their child as a member of the church, and we, as part of the wider church family, commit to helping them.

At Mill Woods United Church all parents requesting baptisms for their children should contact the church either by phone at 780-463-2202 or by e-mail at the church office. The minister will set up a convenient time to visit with your family and discuss the baptism and an appropriate date. We will require some information from you about your child in order to complete a baptismal certificate and record the baptism in our register.

In the United Church, we believe all infants are blessed and known by God. We do not believe that baptism is  necessary to remove the stain of “original sin” from a child or to protect a child from evil. In baptism we celebrate the love that God already has for all of us.

Persons of any age are invited to be initiated into the Christian church by baptism. Adults being baptized must engage in a program of study prior to the ceremony. For adults, a Profession of Faith is part of the practice of baptism. Please contact the church office for more information about adult baptism and confirmation.

For more information on baptism, we present below an article from a denominational worship publication.

The Sacrament of Baptism

from “Celebrate God’s Presence,” United Church of Canada, 2000

Baptism celebrates God’s initiative and our response. It is God’s “Yes” to us, and our “Yes” to God. It is a sign of the Divine-human covenant. Baptism flows from God’s unmerited grace and pours out in lives of gratitude and commitment. As initiation into the Church, the Body of Christ, it is an act of welcoming, blessing, and belonging.

The covenant, or promise, of baptism celebrates the fullness of God’s grace throughout the story of salvation: in creation and in exodus, in wilderness and in exile, in birth and in death. In his baptism, Jesus received the Holy Spirit and was declared God’s beloved, he opened himself to repentance and forgiveness, and marked a new beginning in his ministry. In our baptism we are similarly claimed, called, and commissioned.

Our baptismal identity is both individual and communal. Baptism honours the diversity of individuals and challenges us to be a community of equals.

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free,there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:27-28 NRSV

A basic theological conviction informing The Report on Christian Initiation (1984) (adopted in principle by the 30th General Council) is that baptism, regardless of the candidate’s age, is the sole rite of initiation into full membership in the Christian community. This conviction is consistent with what was outlined in the preamble for ordination and commissioning of ministers: “In baptism we were received as members of [Christ’s] Church, and at confirmation, we committed ourselves to its ministry.” (The Manual, sec. 28, and The Basis of Union, sec. 11.3)

Baptism does not need to be repeated. However, it is appropriate, both for individuals and congregations, to renew the faith expressed in the baptismal covenant from time to time. Baptism for infants and young children proclaims the unconditional grace and love of God. It is also a reminder of the wonder, blessing, and new responsibilities that come with a new life. In the case of adults, baptism is a moving witness to the work of the Spirit in individual and corporate commitment. It is also a celebration of the promise of new life and growth in faith.

Profession of Faith

One of the key elements in The Celebration of Baptism or The Renewal of Baptismal Faith is a declaration of faith made by the candidate or on their behalf. The baptismal vows offered in this resource reflect an understanding of baptism as both a gift from God and call to Christian discipleship. While the order and wording of the vows may vary according to context, it is important that they reflect the following core elements:

a. profession of faith in God;
b. commitment to seek justice and resist evil;
c. commitment to follow the way of Jesus Christ;
d. commitment to the mission and ministry of the Church.

Sponsors, Godparents, and Mentors

“Sponsors” or “mentors” may be designated by the Session or its equivalent to make specific and personal the corporate sponsorship of the congregation. Their role is to assist with the preparation and pastoral care of the candidates and/or their parent(s), and to participate in the celebration itself.

The role of “Godparents” in The United Church of Canada traditionally has been filled by the whole congregation. However, some parents or candidates may choose to call upon the support of special family members and friends. This may be particularly meaningful for persons from different cultural or religious backgrounds. The following resources make provision for these possibilities.

Congregational Participation

The congregation is an integral participant in the entire process of Christian initiation. It is the congregation’s responsibility to be involved in the preparation, celebration, and on-going nurture and support. These resources provide for extensive congregational involvement.

Other Symbolic Actions

A sacrament, by definition, is a visible and physical event. Thus when celebrating baptism or the renewal of baptismal faith it is helpful for the font to be clearly visible, and, if possible, central. The use of water may be emphasized by dramatic pouring of a generous quantity. The other essential symbolic action is the visible laying on of hands with prayer for the Spirit.

Other symbolic actions include: making the sign of the cross with water or with oil, dressing in new garment or baptismal stole, lighting of candles from a Paschal candle, presentation of a Bible or other gifts, presentation of a Certificate, or acts of welcome.

The placement of the Celebration of Baptism in the order of worship will vary according to the congregation’s context, tradition, and other acts of worship being celebrated on that particular day. In historic practice, baptism has followed the sermon, as a response to the Word read and proclaimed. Alternatively, it can be included in the Gathering of the Community, or an initial action in the Proclamation of the Word. Practical and pastoral considerations will influence its placement in the order of worship, length, and choice of optional elements.