Before you begin reading please take a few minutes to answer this question:
Who am I?
Did you answer with your name? I am so and so...
Did you answer with your relationships? I am the daughter of… son of…
Did you answer with your citizenship? I am Canadian, a citizen of Dundas...
Did you answer with your work? I am a computer technician, a nurse…
Did you answer with your character attributes? I am loyal, loving…
There are so many directions an answer to this question can take. And they all deal with identity … our identity as the persons we are. Baptism is about identity. It is about who we are in the big scheme of things, who we are in the world, in the universe, in time. Baptism is about who we are in God's eyes. It is about our God-given identity. Baptism is a rite of identity. It is a sacrament, an act in which God declares the truth about who we are.
Baptism declares that we are God's own -- that we are loved eternally, that we are chosen and called and commissioned to be part of God's covenant people in Christ.
Baptism is the most wonderful gift because in it the truth about us is spoken: we are God's own. The church does not believe that someone is not a child of God until they are baptised. We are saying that it is difficult for a person to know and to remember she or he is a child of God without being baptised. It is difficult to know what the truth is about ourselves, to know we are chosen and beloved, claimed and called and commissioned.
We will, in our lives, hear lots of other voices (including inner voices) supposedly telling us who we are. Many of them will build us up. Some of them will puff us up. Many of them will beat us down. Some of them would leave us shells of ourselves. In baptism we receive a gift -- God's own voice declaring who we are for all eternity. In baptism we receive the gift of our true identity: we are God's own. That identity is pure grace and high calling all at the same time.
More than a blessing: a sacrament
Baptism is one of the two sacraments of our church. The other is The Lord's Supper. Sacraments are outer, visible signs of inward realities. In baptism our identity is proclaimed and we are marked as being, by God's gracious choosing, members of the covenant community whose relationship to God is established through Jesus Christ.
This is why a baptism is different from a wedding. In a wedding, the couple marry each other. The role of the minister and the church is to pronounce a blessing ... a blessing on what the couple have done, are doing, will do in being married to each other. Baptism is more than a blessing. The words of the baptismal rite (spoken by the minister on behalf of the church) join the one baptised to the covenant community. S/he becomes a member of the Body of Christ through baptism.
Child/ Adult Baptism
There is no age requirement and no age limit on baptism. A person of any age is welcome to be a candidate for baptism. Adults (including teenagers) will follow a course of preparation for church membership. Their baptism (when the church declares by faith that God is choosing them to be part of God's covenant people in Christ) will be followed by a profession of faith when they then speak of their own faith and their desire to be part of a particular congregation of the United Church of Canada family.
In everyday English the two words are more or less interchangeable. In the United Church, however, we use the word baptism because it is the word that is used in the Bible. When one is baptised, one becomes a member of the Body of Christ, one becomes, in a sense, "a little Christ" and for this reason some speak of "christening".
How do I go about seeking baptism for myself or my child?
The very first step is to call the church and request an appointment with the minister. Only following this initial conversation will the course of preparation be determined and a date for the baptism be agreed upon. The church office number is 905-628-6396. You may also send an email to the church office or to Rev. Rick Spies.
Baptismal preparation usually consists of two sessions (1 1/2 hours each) prior to the baptism. There may also be other reading or conversation required at the discretion of the minister. Normally there will also be a rehearsal for the baptism usually the day or so before the service.
So the steps are;
Interview with the minister (which is normally done at your home)
Setting a date
What if I live at a distance?
For family reasons it is often desirable that baptism occur at St. Paul's or in Dundas even when people live out of town. Since baptism is about being part of the Body of Christ, the church, it is our policy that normally you secure a letter from the minister or priest of a church in the community in which you are residing indicating that you are known to them and that they are aware you are seeking baptism here at St. Paul's. They may be asked to provide baptismal preparation to you. This contact with us can also be made by phone or email.
In some Christian traditions godparents act as sponsors into the Christian community. They have a particular role to play in modeling and teaching the Christian life to the one baptised. The sponsors make particular promises to this effect in the baptismal rite. In the United Church it is not godparents but the congregation as a whole that makes such promises. So there is no need to name godparents. Some families seek to have the help of others in teaching the faith and so if they wish to name godparents we will recognize them on that day and also ask of them some questions. Please note, though, that they should be people of faith -- active in the life of the Christian Church.
It is the norm in the United Church for baptism to take place during the regular Sunday service. St. Paul's services are at 10.30 am every Sunday morning (except during July and August when they are at 10 am). Parents (or other sponsors as deemed appropriate) may bring children forward to be baptised. The parents (or other sponsors) will also follow a course of preparation as they will be the primary teachers of faith. The one baptised needs to grow in the knowledge of the love of God in Christ. One needs to continue to hear God's voice.
That voice is heard in baptism and follows day by day in life. It is the role of parents (sponsors) and the church to make sure the baptised hear the truth about themselves and hear about their calling and what God means for them by being part of the Body of Christ. Usually at least one of the parents (or sponsors) should have made a profession of faith and be a member of the United Church of Canada. The questions asked of parents (sponsors) in the baptismal rite are identical to those asked of people making a profession of faith.
Baptised into the United Church?
Our understanding is that baptism makes one a member of the Church Universal. The baptismal certificate says this: Name was baptised into the Holy Catholic Church "Holy Catholic Church"Baptism means the Church Universal, the Church of Jesus Christ in all its various manifestations. There is an ecumenical agreement among the Presbyterian, Lutheran, United, Roman Catholic, and Anglican churches recognizing the baptisms we all perform as being valid. So there is no such thing as a "United baptism" or a "Presbyterian baptism" or a "Roman Catholic baptism." There is simply baptism into the Christian Church, the Holy Catholic Church which includes all of the above. Baptised members are considered part of the community of faith but are not, in the United Church, counted as "members" until they make profession of faith.
Who are we?
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people (1 Peter 2: 9).
This is God's answer to that question ... an answer declared in the Sacrament of Baptism.