Sunday, January 29, 2006

Methobloggers on Baptism

Way back in October, Tim Sisk e-mailed every Methoblogger and asked them how their churches performed the sacrament of Holy Communion. Tim then listed the responses. It was an intriguing series, offering many different perspectives on this rite.

I'd like to ask the same question, but for the other sacrament that our denomination recognizes: baptism.

How does your church perform baptism?

Pastors, what do you do in baptism to reflect your own theological outlook?

UPDATE: Content changed to conform to the rules of English grammar.


M Lewis said...

I prefer the mode of effusion (pouring). To me, it emphasizes the generous, boundless grace of God poured out on the believer (as opposed to a few drops of water on a finger). My wife's aunt was unaccustomed to a Methodist using so much water and suggested that I might have drowned my daughter when I baptized her 22 years ago.

A more recent picture of baptism-by-pouring is here. A canteen makes a handy baptismal font.

Mike said...

We usually do the sprinkling with the laying on of hands. Of course, I hate to see the "dip your hand -- shake off your hand -- then touch the person's head" maneuver. Terrible theology in that.

Baptism is central to the understanding of being a new creation in a new family, and so when I do baptize, I thank the family for allowing God to adopt/re-claim their child. The first couple of times this was a little touchy. But I think it is so important to realize that we are commiting to God that we will raise this child as if he or she was not our child, but God's (which is the reality of it).

How will that change our parenting techniques? Well, in any case, I have not performed a "pouring" or immersion baptism, but I'm really wanting to try that some day.

Betty Newman said...

We do whatever the member wants - from infant baptism to "old fashioned down in the river" baptisms (we're fortunate to be near the French Broad River with a couple of good "dunking" spots.)

We've also done "remember your baptism" services with dipping our hands in water.

This reminds me of a book written in the early 1900's about our family's history. Many of the family members were Baptist, and then there was uncle "so and so" who "being afraid of water, became a Methodist..." :-)


Tim Sisk said...

One of my preacher friends at Candler went the beach once a year and would buy a bag of sea shells at the gift store. When he baptized he would use the shell as a vessel to pour the water on the candidates head. He would give the shell to the candidate as gift to "remember your baptism".

I've bought one of the "gold shells" from Cokesbury and used it but have never been entirely happy with it.

Anonymous said...

How does get the idea of babies being baptised when there are so many references to Believers being Baptised? Also, if you do baptise babies then wouldn't you want them to be baptised so they experience the meaning of their own personal covenent with God by accepting Christ as their Savior? To me I have no problem with dedication but why baptism in relation to dedication? dh

Wes said...

I grew up in the Pentecostal church but was baptized by immersion as a Southern Baptist. At my church, Christ United Methodist baptism is by what I call the dip and drip method. Our pastor dips his hand into the font, a beautifuly shaped bowl resembling a sea shell, and places his hand on the person's head. I've observed in the past year and a half, though, that only children have been baptized. As a former Baptist I don't have a problem with that and find the ceremony quite touching. But I'm wondering where are all the adults. Everybody in the church can't have been baptized when they were kids.

the reverend mommy said...

Dear Anonymous,
There is an excellent statement written about United Methodist beliefs from our General Board of Discipleship called By Water and the Spirit. We do not believe that Baptism is necessary for salvation -- that we are saved by God's grace alone, by faith alone. Therefore, a believer's baptism is not necessary. Yes, in the book of Acts, believers were baptized with their entire household -- babies, sisters-in-law, slaves, unwed brothers, all the household on one persons faith.

A baptized infant comes to profess her or his faith later in life, after having been nurtured and taught by parent(s) or other responsible adults and the community of faith. Infant baptism is the prevailing practice in situations where children are born to believing parents and brought up in Christian homes and communities of faith. Adult baptism is the norm when the Church is in a missionary situation, reaching out to persons in a culture which is indifferent or hostile to the faith.

Infant baptism has been the historic practice of the overwhelming majority of the Church throughout the Christian centuries. While the New Testament contains no explicit mandate, there is ample evidence for the baptism of infants in Scripture (Acts 2:38-41, 16:15,33) and in early Christian doctrine and practice. Infant baptism rests firmly on the understanding that God prepares the way of faith before we request or even know that we need help (prevenient grace).

I do not use a shell. I believe that it is theologically incorrect to use a shell or a rose or any other mechanical device -- it removes the touch of the human hand. Cupping of the hand holds enough water for the purpose. I also cringe when I hear "in the name of the father, in the name of the son and in the name of the Holy spirit" -- can you name that heresy?

Wes said...

Reverend Mommy,

I appreciate your response to anonymous and, after downloading the document, I am also clearer on Methodist tradtion regarding baptism. But my question still stands. Where are all the adults?

John said...

Wes, I suspect that most adults in America have been baptized at some point in their infancy, even if they are not presently Christians. I do not, however, have any statistics on the subject.

It would be an interesting survey.

Wes said...

The best data I could find was a document produced by the Southern Baptist Convention. It can be found here. Examining the data shows that in 1999 the age group 30-59 years had the highest percentage of baptisms. I'm aware that lifelong Methodists were, more than likely, baptized as infants. But it strikes me as strange that we're not baptizing incoming adults unless, like me, they come from another denomination. Maybe there's data somewhere to confirm that but, if it's the case, maybe we need to work a lot harder at getting new Christians inside our church.

Eight Iron said...

Rev Mommy -

OK, I'll take the bait. Would the heresy be tri-theism? I take it the correct trinitarian formula would be: "I baptize you in the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit."

How's I do? Am I a heretic? (smile)

- Greg

DannyG said...

Our pastors use the handfull of water technique. The best part of the infant baptism ceremony is when the pastor walks the child (children...we had triplets baptizetd a while back and both assistant pastors were pressed into service, too)down the main asile after charging the congregation to live christian lives as examples to these children, leading the congregation in singing "Jesus loves me". There are few dry eyes.

Karen said...

I'm a young adult and was baptized last year in my UM church. I became a Christian in high school, but wasn't ever baptized for a number of reasons.

When my pastors baptize babies they usually just dip a little bit of water and touch the babies head.

When I was baptized, the pastor cupped her two hands together and put a BIG handful of water over my head.

One thing that I like is when they baptize people at our more contemporary/post-modern service they use a glass bowl with a bunch of those little glass rocks in the bottom. Then everyone comes up and congratulates them and takes a rock. We are supposed to put the rocks in our pocket to remind us to pray for whoever was baptized.