According to the Book of Common Prayer, 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 (Book of Common Prayer, p. 298).
Baptism is a sacramental act of faith, which means it uses an outward and visible sign to communicate inward and spiritual grace.
Baptism is incorporation into the life of God as it is expressed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and lived out in the church. It is important that adults who bring their children to be baptized have an ongoing relationship with the Church, in order for them to keep the promises they will make to raise the child in the Christian faith and life.
Baptism is a three-fold act: Water is the principal symbol, but in addition the newly baptized is “chrismated” (anointed with oil previously consecrated by the Bishop), and receives Holy Communion for the first time. Baptism is never repeated, but we renew our baptismal vows on baptismal feast days during the church year.
Christ the King does not baptize children without their reception of holy communion. Regular reception of Communion is encouraged from the point of Baptism forward. Children enrolled in Sunday School receive instruction in Baptism and Eucharist as reflection on that in which they already participate.
When Do Baptisms Take Place?
According to the Book of Common Prayer, Holy Baptism is especially appropriate on one of five Sundays during the year:
• The Great Vigil of Easter (Dawn service)
• The Day of Pentecost (the Seventh Sunday after Easter Day)
• All Saints’ Sunday (the Sunday after November 1)
• The Feast of the Baptism of Jesus (the Sunday after January 6)
• On the Visitation of the Bishop to the Congregation
The Sundays during Easter season are also appropriate. Other Sundays during the year may be arranged with the Rector, although as part of our spiritual discipline, Baptism is not celebrated during Lent, the 40 days before Easter.
“Private” baptism, i.e., those done without the presence of a congregation other than family and friends, are done only in the rarest of circumstances.
Who May Be Baptized?
In our tradition, any person of whatever age may be baptized. Adults to be baptized, or the parents and godparents of children must make the required renunciation of evil, affirmation of their turning to Jesus Christ and entering into the Baptismal Covenant (see Appendix). We treat baptism of adults and children under the age of sixteen somewhat differently, particularly in the preparation.
Adults who desire to be baptized are made catechumens (“those being taught”) after an initial period of inquiry and choose a sponsor or sponsors (themselves practicing baptized Christians) to be companions on their journey. They must have at least one sponsor to whom they are not related.
A program of instruction is worked out with the Rector which may last for as long as the catechumen desires it. When the catechumen feels ready, he or she is admitted as a candidate for Baptism, and Baptism may occur on the next available occasion. (Adult baptisms are especially appropriate at the Great Vigil of Easter). Candidates are regularly prayed for by the community. After Baptism, she or he is presented to the Bishop for confirmation as soon as possible.
Baptism of Children
Children who are to be baptized are presented by their parents and at least two godparents (two of whom must themselves be practicing baptized Christians). Traditionally, a child has three godparents: two of the same sex and one of the opposite sex. The Rector strongly suggests that at least one godparent be someone from outside the child’s family.
The Rector meets with the parents to discuss Baptism and its promises. The child is normally presented to the congregation several weeks before Baptism.
Children who are old enough to answer for themselves at their Baptism do so as would an adult. In addition, parents and godparents are asked the required questions for all children up to the age of sixteen.
What if I Don’t Know if I have been Baptized?
Every effort should be made to find out, but if significant uncertainty remains a “conditional” Baptism may be done. This Service is the same as at Baptism, except at the pouring of the water the priest says, “If you have not already been baptized, I baptize you….”
Why are Persons Not Given Communion Before Baptism?
The celebration of the Eucharist (Holy Communion) is a distinctive event for a particular community of people. It is Baptism that constitutes this community and gives it its distinctiveness. Our Communion is open to all baptized people, of whatever Christian tradition.
Is There a Fee?
There is no fee for Baptism. A thank offering may be made to the Rector’s Discretionary Fund, which is used as alms for those in need.