Grace United Methodist Church
Valley Stream, NY
Rev. Dr. Jeffrey L. Hooker, Pastor
THE SACRAMENT OF BAPTISM
United Methodists acknowledge two sacraments whose observance was commended by Christ: baptism and Holy Communion. John Wesley, drawing on the tradition of the Church of England, defined sacraments as follows:
“Sacraments ordained of Christ as not only badges or tokens of (our) Christian profession, but rather they are signs of grace, and God’s good will toward us, by which he doth work invisibly in us, and doth not only quicken, but also strengthen and confirm, our faith in him.” Today this statement is found in the “Articles of Religion” which are included in The Book of Discipline.
For United Methodists, sacraments are not merely re-enactments of a past event, although through participation in the sacramental life of the church, Christians do recall Christ’s actions in the past, witness it again for themselves, and proclaim it to the world. In this way sacraments point to God’s redemptive act in Jesus Christ and serve as a means by which God’s grace may come into our lives. It is through these ordinary elements – water and bread and wine – that God’s love is expressed to us as prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying grace, so that we may be strengthened and brought to the fullness of God’s perfection.
The United Methodist Book of Worship states, “Baptism is an act that looks back with gratitude on what God’s grace has already accomplished, it is here and now an act of God’s grace, and it looks forward to what God’s grace will accomplish in the future. While baptism signifies the whole working of God’s grace, much that it signifies from the washing away of sin to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit, will need to happen during the course of a lifetime.” (pgs 81-82)
The Standards and Policies for Baptism in the United Methodist Church:
Persons of any age are candidates for baptism.
Any Christian means of baptism may be used including: sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. Candidates or their parents are to make their desires known to the pastor who will work with them and the congregation to honor such requests.
Baptism is a means by which we are initiated into Christ’s body the Church and become members of Christ’s family.
While we affirm infant baptism, we do not believe that infants who die unbaptized are denied salvation. We accept that God’s grace is available to all and is sufficient for such children.
We do, however, believe in the human bent to sin (the abuse of free will in which we choose our own desires over the will of God) and believe that, over time, through baptism and the working of the Holy Spirit, God’s grace washes away such sinful desires.
Rebaptism and Renewal of the Baptismal Covenant
As baptism is a covenant with God and God’s promises are never broken, we do not practice any form of rebaptism in the United Methodist Church.
Persons wishing to renew their baptismal promises may make arrangements with the pastor for a Renewal of the Covenant of Baptism. This service may also be offered to the entire congregation during the course of the year at any time deemed appropriate. It should be noted that the entire congregation renews their baptismal vows and offers thanks for the blessing of God’s grace through their own baptism at every Service of the Covenant of Baptism.
The basic service of the Baptismal Covenant is Holy Baptism, found in the United Methodist Hymnal and the Book of Worship, is the order of service to be used at Grace United Methodist Church.
The Service of the Covenant of Baptism is to take place during a regular congregational worship service as a Response to the Word. Appropriate scriptures, songs, and other readings may be used to fully express the significance of the event in the life of the individual and the church.
In cases where baptism of an infant, child, youth, or adult is performed in an emergency setting, the candidate should, if possible, be presented to the congregation at the earliest possible time. Special emphasis may be given to the baptism. Use of the Reaffirmation of Baptism Service is recommended.
Creative elements of the Service of Baptism
All decisions regarding the Service of the Covenant of Baptism are to be made by the pastor.
The service is at all times to express the importance of the sacrament to the individual and to Christ’s church.
Special flowers or the placement of a rosebud in the sanctuary in honor of the occasion are always appropriate. It is not appropriate to allow the number or size of floral arrangements to become status symbols.
Water, shells, and other symbols of baptism may be used through the service in ways that encourage a deeper understanding of the meaning of the sacrament – including, but not limited to, the suggestions made in the United Methodist Book of Worship.
The infant, child, youth, or adult may be presented to the congregation in ways that are suitable. Infants may be lifted or carried in the aisle to meet their new family members in Christ. Older children and adults may face the congregation and be welcomed with appropriate signs of greeting.
A Certificate of Baptism will be presented to the parents or individual at the time of the baptism. The pastor/membership secretary will assure that this information is added to the church records.
Scheduling a Service of Baptism
All arrangements for baptism are to be made with the pastor in charge who has the sole authority to make these arrangements. Contact should be made with the Administrator to schedule this time.
The pastor will set the date with the adult or with the family of the infant, child, or youth and may determine if more than one baptism will be scheduled on a given Sunday. Care will be given to honor the needs of the families while also giving attention to appropriateness in relation to the Christian year.
If there is a request for another clergy member to participate in the service, such requests are to be directed to the pastor in charge who has the sole authority to approve or deny such requests.
Parents of children who are unable to speak for themselves and who are being baptized do not need to be members of this or any church, though it is expected that one parent will be Christian.
Although we will baptize all those who earnestly seek to draw closer to God through this means of grace, we do not practice indiscriminate baptism and, except in unusual cases, it is expected that those to be baptized will live in the community or area surrounding the church and be able to regularly attend worship services, participate in Sunday School, and attend other church classes and programs.
Interviews and counseling sessions, that teach the significance of baptism to the parents or candidates able to speak for themselves, will be arranged by the pastor. At least one session is required before a baptism.
When both parents of an infant, child or youth are Christian, sponsors, (sometimes referred to as godparents) are not required. If there are to be sponsors, they are to be baptized Christians who fully understand the importance of continuing education in the Christian faith for the spiritual and religious development of the child and are willing to take on their share in this responsibility.
Adults who are baptized may select a sponsor to support them at the time of their baptism and as they continue to grow in their Christian faith. It is suggested that this sponsor be an individual who has offered encouragement to the baptismal candidate during their faith development. The sponsor must be a baptized Christian.
Infants, children, and youth who are baptized are to be placed on the preparatory membership rolls of the church. Adults are accepted into full membership at the time of their baptism and are to be placed on the rolls as members by Affirmation of Faith.
Because Baptism is conducted during a Sunday Worship Service, it is expected that those who wish to take pictures will be discrete and refrain from standing or walking near the front of the church. Following the service, the pastor and others involved in the baptism will be available to those who want to take pictures.
There is no fee for Baptism. Those who wish to express their appreciation for God’s blessing of grace received through the sacrament may make a contribution to the church.
These guidelines are not to be used without author’s permission.
Permission granted for use by the Grace United Methodist Church, August 2022.