Few things are more special in the life of the church than the celebration of baptism. There is a moving moment in Marilynne Robinson’s novel, Gilead, when the minister of a small church in Iowa recalls his experience of baptising babies:
"That feeling of a baby's brow against the palm of your hand -- how I have loved this life."
The experience of genuine celebration is only enriched by thoughtful preparation of the candidate. While each person will have slightly different needs for their preparation, it’s helpful to have some aids and resources to hand. Even an outline or checklist of preparation needs can support you and the candidates. A simple outline for preparation includes these steps:
- A walkthrough the liturgy in the church. Just as for a wedding, a baptism “rehearsal” can set minds at ease and set candidates and their sponsors in a more responsive and present state at the time of the baptism. A walkthrough can allow new questions to arise, and tactile introductions to water, oil, vessels, vestments, books, candles etc. to take place. What colours will be worn? Where does the oil come from? Will the water be cold?
- A review of the liturgical text. Moving step by step through the liturgy can offer a time of meditative conversation, questions, and enjoyment of the rich imagery and scripture that accompanies baptismal liturgies. Pretty much the whole story of salvation is told through the “Thanksgiving over the Water” on pgs. 156 and 157 of the BAS. It could be a time to ask candidates about their memorable experiences with water too.
- Sessions on the meaning, gift, and commitment of baptism. These can take a range of forms from small group classes, one-on-one conversations, to a weekend retreat. From a holistic Christian formation perspective, these sessions should avoid lecture-style presentations and include conversation, engagement of senses, and relationship building.
Here are a few more resources:
For Children Preparing for Baptism
- The Godly Play story on Baptism is engaging and evocative for children and for parents. You can watch it on Youtube here to get a sense of it, but doing it in person is powerful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Juatr2NVOeY. If you would like to see the script to learn and tell it yourself, email me: [email protected]
- Today is a Baptism Day is appropriate for young readers or for (grand)parents to read aloud to children. It has a rich variety in its representation of families. https://www.parasource.com/today-is-a-baptism-day
- Water Come Down: The Day You Were Baptized uses the elements of creation to connect the sacrament of baptism to daily life. https://www.augsburgfortress.org/store/product/5996/Water-Come-Down
- Water of Baptism, Water for Life: A fun activity book for children aged 8-11, this connects the water of baptism to blessing, love, and, justice.
Anne Kitsch’s book Taking the Plunge is a primer for parents on the impact and potential of baptism as a framework for parenting. It’s an accessible read that might be suitable for preparation or as a gift upon baptism.
For Adults Preparing for Baptism
- Rowan Williams, Being Christian. Williams’ slim volume is a simple but eloquent introduction to the core of Christian faith: Baptism, Bible, Prayer, Eucharist. Each chapter could form a session. Ask people to underline what they loved and circle what they had questions about in each chapter for preparation for your sessions.
- Ian Stuchberry, This is Our Faith: Revised. Another compact volume, this one is by a Canadian Anglican priest. It’s an accessible and clear introduction to the faith and a rare Canadian resource. Make sure to get the Revised edition as the first one contains non-inclusive language and no longer accurate information about the national church. https://www.parasource.com/this-is-our-faith-revised
- The Pilgrim Course: Turning to Christ. A seven session course that explores each of the affirmations and renunciations of baptism and trust in the triune God. Each session includes prayer, discussion, scripture, reflection, an optional video, and selections from over 2000 years of Christian tradition.
- Baptism: Sharing the Divine Life: Part of the SSJE (Society of St. John the Evangelist) series: Monastic Wisdom for Everyday Life. This is an essay on baptism that emphasizes the invitation and promise of Trinitarian life. It’s downloadable for free in an attractive magazine format.
- Baptism: A Lifelong Celebration (2004): A video that is a bit dated but produced by the Anglican Church of Canada and a pretty accurate reflection of how baptism is celebrated in our church. It also includes discussion questions at moments to pause and engage the viewers.
- Celebrating Baptism (2016): A video course from the Episcopal church, which is more up-to-date, but features only one family and so is lacking diversity; it could be used as a supplementary resource.