From its earliest days, the church of Jesus Christ has been known for its parties! Because we follow a Lord who "came that we might have life and have it more abundantly," (John 10:10) we take frequent opportunities to celebrate together the changes, blessings, and richness given to us by God.

 

Baptism, along with the Lord's Supper, is perhaps the most wonderful way by which Jesus Christ called the church to joyfully celebrate God's hopes for and involvement in the human race. Because many of us have good questions about the meaning and practice of this sacrament, this web page has been prepared. Among other things, it attempts to answer such common questions as:

  • What does baptism really mean?
  • Why does the church baptize infants as well as adults?
  • How does baptism affect my child's relationship with God?
  • What is my role as a parent following the baptism of my child?
  • Why do we baptize people in public rather than in private?
  • Is it possible to dedicate rather than baptize my child?
  • What about services of renewal of baptism for those who are ill?
  • How do I arrange for a baptism or dedication to be performed?
  • What do I do on the day of baptism or dedication?

Should you have further questions or concerns, please don't hesitate to speak with me or with one of the other pastors. We consider it our privilege to be an encouragement to you as you continue on your spiritual journey and are, therefore, always happy to talk. May God bless you as you seek his will for your life!

 

In Christ's love,

Rev. Dr. Jack W. Baca
Senior Pastor


How do the Scriptures encourage us?

"Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were buried with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life." (Romans 6:3)

 

"You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of God, who called you out of darkness into God's marvelous light." (1 Peter 2:9)

 

"O Lord of hosts... if thou wilt give unto me a child, then I shall give him unto the Lord all the days of his life." (1 Samuel 1:11)

 

"Righteous [parents] lead a blameless life; blessed are their children after them." (Proverbs 20:7)

 

"Train up a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)

 

"Bring up your children in the training and instruction of the Lord."(Ephesians 6:4)

 

"[Parents,] do not provoke or irritate or fret your children -- do not be hard or harass them; lest they become discouraged and sullen and morose and feel inferior and frustrated." (Colossians 3:21)

 

"Reproof gives wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother shame. Correct thy son and he shall give thee rest, yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul." (Proverbs 29:15,17)


What does baptism really mean?

 

Baptism is one of the two sacraments recognized by churches of the reformed theological tradition, the other being Holy Communion. A sacrament, by definition, is a means of grace. That is, it is a ritual act, which Jesus called us to do, utilizing tangible signs, in which God expresses and mediates to us in a special way his loving grace.

 

In baptism, the "tangible sign" is the washing of water. Although the symbolism contained in this sign is nearly inexhaustible, there are several meanings which are particularly important. By the washing of the water we are both reminded of and joined to:

    • the cleansing work accomplished by Jesus' which washes away 
      the dirt of our sin;

 

    • the refreshing, life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit of God; and

 

  • the descent of Jesus into death and his subsequent rise to new life.

What is more, after his resurrection from the dead, Jesus told his followers to "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you..." (Matt. 28:19). In this way, Jesus suggests that in addition to its other meanings, baptism is also a sign of entry into the community of faith.


Why does the church baptize infants as well as adults?

 

The significance of baptism has its roots within the traditions of the Jewish community. A Jewish child was both a member of a family and a member of a community called God's "Chosen People."Divine grace was given to every Jewish baby at birth, in that a child was automatically a recipient of all God's promises to Israel. To recognize this act of grace at birth, the Jews adopted the custom of circumcising male children.

 

Within the first century there is evidence that infant baptism was regarded as communicating the same truth to the Church family that circumcision communicated to the Jewish community. The Scriptures tell us that when the Philippian jailer became a Christian, he was immediately baptized along with his family (Acts 16:19-34). Other documents from the earliest days of the church show that infant baptism was also practiced where the children of believers were concerned.

 

The baptism of children witnesses to the truth that God's love claims people before they are able to respond in faith. The baptism of adults witnesses to the truth that God longs for us to respond consciously to his love with active repentance and the gift of our entire heart, soul, mind, and strength. Both are the sign and seal of inclusion in God's grace and covenant with Christ. Both imply a continuing call to confirm the promises made by an ongoing life of discipleship and spiritual growth.


How does baptism affect my child's relationship with God?

 

Baptism is not, as some suppose, an "admission card" into heaven. Just because a child has been baptized, doesn't assure his or her salvation. Nor does lack of baptism mean that such a child would be spiritually lost if something terrible were to happen prior to his or her experiencing this sacrament. We believe from Jesus's teaching that all who die in infancy are saved by Christ through the mysterious working of his Spirit. (For further thought on this, see the Presbyterian Book of Confessions - 6.178)

 

Scripture itself records Jesus' tremendous affection for children:

    • "Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked his people; but Jesus said, 'Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.' And he laid his hands on them..." (Matt. 19:13-15)

 

    • You can, therefore, rest assured that your child's relationship with his or her loving heavenly Father is as secure now as it will be the day after baptism. Having said this, however, there is much that you as a parent can do to ensure that your child's baptism is but the beginning of a long and wonderful relationship between your child and the God who entrusted him or her to your care.

 

    • Thirdly, provided all of the above lines up, the pastor will then schedule a specific baptismal or dedication date and time. Please note that baptisms or dedications are almost never performed on the same day as Communion Services, which are usually the first Sunday of the month. Second, fourth, and fifth Sundays are best. And it should be noted that it is possible that more than one person will be baptized or dedicated during the same service.

 

  • Finally, in the case of baptism, formal approval must be granted by the Session (Board of Elders) of our church, at the request of one of the pastors. The Session normally meets on the fourth Tuesday of the month. If, after meeting with a pastor, your baptism is approved then go ahead and make tentative plans. Session reserves the right, however, of final decision.

What do I do on the day of baptism or dedication?

 

On the appointed day, you should plan to be in the church office at least 15 minutes prior to the beginning of the service in which the baptism is to take place. You may wish to arrive earlier, particularly if you'd like time to feed or change an infant prior to going into the sanctuary.

 

An Elder from the Session will meet you in the church office, and will escort you in to the proper seat just before the service begins. Any additional family or friends who have come to observe the baptism may be seated with you, but please let the church office know in advance if there will be more than a total of 8 in your party, so that we can have our ushers reserve sufficient space up front. At the appropriate time, the pastor will call you forward, ask the appropriate questions, and perform the baptism or dedication.

 

In the case of infant baptism or dedication, a child may sometimes become agitated due to the handling, water, etc. Some agitation is a healthy sign of life, and the pastors are prepared for that! If he or she becomes upset for a prolonged period, however, parents are encouraged to bring the child to the nursery as soon as the ceremony is concluded, then return to the sanctuary for the remainder of the service. Our childcare workers will be pleased to give your child the special care that he or she deserves! May God bless you all!!

 

It is important that you understand that four things must happen in order for a baptism or dedication to take place through our church.

 

    • First, and in accordance with the Presbyterian Book of Order, the individual to be baptized -- or at least one of the parents of the individual in the case of a proposed infant baptism or dedication -- must be a member of the Village Church. In rare cases, we will perform a baptism where someone is in the process of joining (i.e. is enrolled in our new member's class). And in extremely rare situations we will perform a baptism on behalf of another recognized Christian church of which the person to be baptized or his/her parents is a member. Exceptions to this policy will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Session.

 

  • Secondly, the individual to be baptized -- or the parents of the individual in the case of a proposed infant baptism or dedication -- must meet with one of the pastors of the church. In addition to answering your questions, this meeting is intended to assure that the individual or parents understand the meaning of baptism or dedication, are comfortable with the flow of the proposed ceremony, and can answer the baptismal questions in good conscience.

Those questions are:


For Infant Baptism or Dedication:

    1. In presenting your child for baptism/dedication, do you confess your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

 

  1. And do you promise, in dependence upon the grace of God, to bring up your child to the end that (s)he might also know, love,and serve the Lord through the worship and mission of the his Body, the Church?

For Adult Baptism:

    1. Do you renounce evil, and its power in the world, which defies God's righteousness and love?

 

    1. Do you renounce the ways of sin that separate you from the love of God?

 

    1. Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior and Lord?

 

  1. Do you intend to be Christ's faithful disciple, obeying his word, and showing his love, to your life's end?

What is my role as a parent following the baptism of my child?

 

As a parent, you establish a covenant with God to raise your child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Deut. 6:6-7). Through your training and the church family's support, your child will hopefully one day confirm the vows you make on his or her behalf, by making a personal profession of faith in Christ and recognizing his or her dependence on God alone for salvation. (Eph. 2:8-9)

 

There are a variety of things you as parent(s) can do to nurture your little one towards this end. Pray constantly for your child. Instruct your child in the ways of the Lord. Be a living example of Christian character to your children. Volunteer your services in the children and youth ministry of our church, and encourage others to do the same. Demonstrate in your own life a commitment to Christian worship, fellowship, education, and service.

 

Remember, faith is more often "caught" than it is "taught." If knowing and serving Christ is important to you, then it is very likely to become important to your child. If it is way down the priority list for you, then it is likely to be so for your loved one too. While you won't be alone in trying to encourage your child to grow spiritually, you clearly play the most important part.


Why do we baptize in public rather than in private?

 

Baptism is a worship event of the community of faith. No one has ever baptized himself! The Christian life is not only an individual relationship between a believer and Christ, but involves a relationship with the total family of God, the Church. "No one lives to himself or dies to himself," says the New Testament. Jesus called the church into being to provide its participants with love and support, even when there is a breakdown of the natural family relationship, and to offer to the world a vision of what genuine community looks like.

 

It is for this reason and more that in our tradition the entire congregation makes a vow to strengthen your child's family ties to the household of God. In a sense, the whole congregation pledges to be "godparents" to your child, wrapping arms of love and words of the gospel around your family. At one point in the baptismal ceremony, we will actually ask the congregation:

"Do you the people of this congregation, in receiving this child, promise with God's help to be his/her spiritual encouragers, to the end that he/she may one day confess Christ as his/her Lord and Savior and come at last to His eternal kingdom?"

If you would like to invite particular friends or loved ones to play a special role as godparents to your child, that is wonderful, and we will be happy to make a place for them in the first pew during the service itself. However, we generally do not have these chosen godparents stand during the actual ceremony, except as participants in the larger affirmation of the entire family of faith.


Is it possible to "dedicate" rather than baptize my child?

 

Some parents feel they would like to preserve baptism for the time of their child's personal profession of repentance and faith in Christ. At the same time, however, they want to affirm their commitment to raising their child to know the Lord, and their desire to have the church's commitment to assisting in that process. Such parents may, therefore, choose to dedicate rather than baptize their child.

 

Using the model of parents bringing their children to Jesus for his blessing (Matt. 19:13-15), the minister, acting in the name of Jesus, asks our Father's blessing on the child as parents acknowledge that the child is a gift from God entrusted to our care and make the same promises as do parents having their children baptized. In dedication, no water is used. If this option seems preferable to you, please be sure to state this desire from the outset, when you meet with the pastor.


What about services of Renewal of Baptism 
for those who are ill?

 

The significance of God's action at our baptism lasts the whole of our life and, therefore, does not require the repetition of the sacrament. Nonetheless, there are times when it is a great encouragement to be reminded of the promises God made to us at the time of our baptism. This is where a service of renewal of baptismal vows may come in.

 

Illness, for example, even when it is not life-threatening, is often the occasion for a new sense of our need for Christ's presence with us in our suffering and weakness. Forms of baptismal renewal can therefore be helpful in ministries to the sick or the dying. These may involve full renewal of vows with a prayer of blessing and the laying on of hands, or the significance of the vows can be included in the prayer of blessing when it seems more appropriate not to include the responses of the ill person. Sometimes oil is used to anoint the head of the person desiring a reaffirmation of God's love for them.

 

If such a service would be helpful to you or to a loved one, please speak to one of the pastors. Such services are usually held outside of the context of public worship, and with the assistance of at least one elder of the church.


How do I arrange for a baptism or dedication to be performed?

 

All baptisms or dedications must be scheduled through the pastoral staff of the church. Please don't pick a date, invite family in from out of town, and then come to talk to us!

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