Basic Tools 20: Member Mission Shapes a Baptism and the Preparation for it

Proposal for baptizing Mary, age 7

[A proposal for a specific candidate
that can guide what we do to prepare other candidates for baptism]

Planning
1. Complete revisions
2. Share with the member mission team for suggestions
3. Share with vestry for collegial support
4. Share with priest supplying on the date of the baptism

Preparation
1. Keep the family updated as the planning progresses.
2. Family begins to select godparents guided by: at least one being of the same sex as the child; their being active church participants and givers; and their being dependable to see that Mary develops with all the guidance the church can offer.
3. When planning is finished, set the dates for the baptism and the sessions in preparation.
4. Give parents and godparents “About baptism – some reading and thinking” and the text of Holy Baptism from the BCP for study and noting their questions.
5. At least two of the member mission team are present at all four steps.
6. Find a way to prepare parents for a wholly new way to look at baptism – way beyond assuring the child’s safety in case of early crises to joining God’s mission in Jesus.  Further, the role of family and godparents has become more crucial.  Children learn more from what they “overhear” than from what they “hear.”  So parents and godparents need to grow into modeling full participation in Christian worship and living – especially, at home where such things as grace before meals, talk about personal and public issues from a faith perspective, and Christian books and pictures provide that what they “overhear” enables their growth as Christians.

OUTLINE

Step 1 – Session with parents and godparents
Review reading
Baptism as joining Jesus’ mission
Practice in talking about God’s work
Our living today activity
What we are doing are our “missions” – living our own missions is the best way to help Mary
More ways to help Mary
– as parents
– as Godparents

Step 2 – Session with Mary and her family and the Godparents
What happens at baptism for the youth
How Mary is called to baptism
Our living today activity (for the young, too)
These are our “missions”
Our missions reflect the promises we’ll make
The Creed was written for baptism

 

Session 3 – Practice/rehearsal

 

Session 4 – the Baptism

 

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About baptism – some reading and thinking

Let’s begin where you are.  Jot down here what you believe baptism is and why you want to see Mary be baptized.

That’s a good start.  Let’s go further.  Lately, we’ve come to understand baptism of infants and children better than we have for a long time.

Many times we believed it was a way to be sure that our baby or child would be taken to heaven if anything happened to them.   During the Middle Ages, about 500 – 1400 AD, the death rate of infants was high.  You baptized your children as soon after birth as possible so that if anything happened to them, they were assured of life in Heaven.  Today, infant deaths are way down but the old mind-set of baptism as protecting the child in case of tragedy still hangs on.  While God’s love and care for children is still true, we are now getting back to what baptism meant to the first Christians.  Here are some of the ways we are coming to see baptism now.

First, baptism is joining God’s mission in Jesus Christ.  Look at the promises we will make in Mary’s behalf (and our own) on pp. 302-3 of the Prayer Book.
Question:  Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
Answer:  I renounce them.
Question:  Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
Answer:  I renounce them.
Question:  Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
Answer:  I renounce them.
Question:  Do you turn to Jesus Christ and accept him as your Savior?
Answer:  I do.
Question:  Do you put your whole trust in his grace and love?
Answer:  I do.
Question:  Do you promise to follow and obey him as your Lord?
Answer:  I do.

These promises take us way beyond baptism as becoming one of God’s children, a member of the church, and an inheritor of the God’s kingdom.   While these are all true, these promises take us to a wholly new way of life.  We promise to follow Jesus in all of our living.  The promises see Jesus as the center of God’s mission to transform life – to make the world a better place, a more loving and just place.  How much the world needs people who will live this way!  That last question is the way Jesus called his first followers.  He said, simply, “Follow me.”  When they said, “I will – I do,” they joined him in his work to make the world more loving and more just.  When he was arrested and crucified, they ran away.  Risen to new life, he still sought them out to say to them, “As the Father has sent me, I send you” (John 20:21).  Jesus knew they would need his help, so he says next, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  He gives them – and he gives us – a share in the same power he used – the power of the Holy Spirit – to do what he did.  One way that power comes to us is through the help of our Christian sisters and brothers.  Right after these promises, all are asked, “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?”  We all answer, “We will.”

Think, still more on those words of “turn” to him; “Accept” him; “put your whole trust in his grace and love:” “promise to follow” him; and “obey” him.  These words call for some sense of relationship with Jesus here and now.  For many years, Episcopalians – along with many others – have tended to feel God’s presence and help but have had little sense of Jesus’ presence and help in their daily living.  Some have even feared it might too proud or too sentimental to talk this way.  With the help of the Charismatics and Evangelicals, we have been getting over that. [Charismatics are known for emphasizing a strong sense of the being filled by the Holy Spirit – and along with that feeling of the Spirit, feeling that Jesus has suddenly come alive for them.  Evangelicals are known for emphasizing a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” – feeling he, somehow, is present, walking with them day by day, and open to a kind of conversational prayer with him.] With their suggestion and influence, many others are coming to a strong sense of Jesus Christ’s presence in their lives.  In a way, it has always been there.  It’s like they now have “permission” to say yes to this part of their experience of God.  Recall how many parts of the Gospel are about our relationship with Jesus day by day: “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20); “Abide in me as I abide in you” (John 15:4); and “he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:33).  Jesus says “Follow me” (Mark 2:17) to us today just as surely as he did to the twelve disciples.  Therefore, when we baptize Mary we are promising: first, that we will do all we can to keep ourselves growing in our sense of Jesus’ presence with us; and, second, that will do all we can to help her to develop and grow in sensing Jesus’ presence with her day by day.

Just what are we sent to do in the power of the Holy Spirit?  The baptismal covenant on pages
304-5 of the Prayer Book begins to spell out the way we are to live.  The first five are about being part of Jesus’ people, the church.  It is with Jesus’ people that we find the guidance we need in “the apostles’ teaching and fellowship.”  It is with Jesus’ people that we find the power we need to be loving and just, caring and fair, “in the breaking of the bread” or communion.  With Jesus’ people, we remember what God is like.
Celebrant:  Do you believe in God the Father?
People:  I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
Celebrant:  Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
People:  I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.  He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.  He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  He descended to the dead.  On the third day he rose again.  He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Celebrant:  Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
People:  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

[That’s the Apostles’ Creed.  It was written for use at baptism.]

We receive bread and the wine, the signs of God’s presence in Jesus to help us wherever we are all the time.
Celebrant:  Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?
People:  I will, with God’s help.

When we do wrong, when we mess up, we come back to Jesus’ people who tell us that God forgives us and gives us a new chance.
Celebrant:  Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People:  I will, with God’s help.

How are we to live Monday to Saturday?  The next vows are about the way we are to live from Monday on.
Celebrant:  Will you proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ?
People: I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant:  Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?
People:  I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant:  Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
People:  I will, with God’s help.

Don’t miss those words “with God’s help.”  Did you know that Christianity is the only world religion that believes God helps us to do what God tells us to do?  That’s a good way to put the good news, the gospel.  God helps us to do what God wants.  Every time we are loving and just, we do it by both our own power and by God’s power helping us.  As one of our members puts it, “I think that, as we are baptized, we take the covenant into our hearts by faith and grace and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is always with us.  We may not see him, but we can feel his presence.”

Let’s go on.  We don’t always feel his presence and help.  That is the place of Sunday and all of church life.  They remind us that Jesus is here to help.  The bread and the wine of communion are things we can touch and taste that remind us and reassure us that Jesus is here with us.  There are many times that we need something we can touch and taste to remind us that Jesus is with us.  That’s the message in the bread and the wine – “The body of Christ, the bread of heaven” and “The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.”  We actually receive Jesus’ help when we eat that bit of bread and taste that bit of wine.  Somehow, he comes to us through them.  While we don’t know just how this happens, Christians have always found that it can and does happen.  It happens often enough to keep coming once you start.  We are “fed” with God’s love and with God’s power to do what God wants.  One way to see it is that it’s like eating with a friend.  When you eat together, you draw power from each other.

So communion has always been connected to baptism.  In the early church, baptism was always followed immediately by communion.  In baptism, you had joined Jesus’ mission and in communion you received power to live the mission.  You get power in many ways.  Communion reminds us it is God’s power through Jesus that has come to help us.  And that power comes in many, many ways – a sudden burst of energy; a strong want to do something; help from others, etc.

So, Mary is answering Jesus’ call to follow him to make the world a better place.  He calls her to keep learning to give up selfish ways to take on more caring and fair, more loving and more just, ways to live.

You may have questions about what you’ve read.  Jot them down here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 1 – Session with parents and godparents
[If distance prevents a godparent’s presence, we will work by telephone with him or her.]
1. Prayer

2. You have read over and worked with “About baptism – some reading and thinking.”
a.  Share the answers to the first question.
b.  Share answers to the question at the end and work with whatever questions they raise.
c.  The purpose of this reading was to help you to see baptism as joining God’s mission in Jesus Christ.  What are some of your reactions to this meaning of baptism?  How do you feel about trying to see baptism as joining God’s mission from now on?

3.  Let’s take some time to talk a bit about our own experiences of God.  Pass out the shield activity (page 9); describe what to do with it; each fills out at lease one quadrant; share the incident each has recalled; end with “How did tit feel to do this?” and “What are some of our feelings or thoughts about what we have just done?”  I hope that we all feel a little more comfortable, a little more sure of ourselves when we want to talk about God

4.  We’ve talked about baptism as joining Jesus’ mission.  Here’s a way to get into that more deeply.  Let’s think and talk about what we are doing right now to make the world a better place – that is, to make it more loving or caring and more just or fair.  Remember, love and justice are the ways God works in this world.  So it’s a good way to get into our part into God’s work, into God’s mission.  Pass out our living today activity sheet (page 10) and work it through.

5.  See that whatever loving and just things we are doing right are missions and part of God’s mission.
a.  See these places of daily life as where we live out the promises and the baptismal covenant we will make at Mary’s baptism.

b.  Now for a bit of theology.
– The signs of God’s presence in Jesus are love and justice.
– Wherever you find people trying to be loving and just, Jesus is there at work.
– Most of us do not think of the things we do to be loving and just as part of Jesus’ work.  They are!
– Therefore, what we have written are places we already are working with Jesus.  For many of us, we just never thought of it this way.  How true is this for you?
– Let’s go one step further.  What we have shared are our daily “missions.”  Mission is a big word – and, many times – a scary one.  It need not be.  A mission:
 is specific in what you do and say
– is centered in love and justice
– is costly
– is carried out only with God’s help
– is joyful in the long run
[Illustrate with two or three of the activities shared.]

 

These are the ways we live the promises and the covenant of baptism!  Start here for what you can do as parents and godparents to help Mary keep growing as one of Jesus’ people.  Live as lovingly and justly as you can.  Try to live your faith Sunday to Saturday – every day wherever you are!

6.   Here are some more things to do:
a.  Parents
– Set the example of regular Sunday worship, participating in church life, and giving
– Eat dinner together as much as you can.  Say grace when you start.  Talk about what each of has done during the day.  Keep it honest, loving and just – caring and fair.
– Pray with Mary and pray together as a family.  When you pray with her, teach her about prayer.  Teach her that Jesus is with her to help her all the time – even when she does not feel his presence.  Teach her to pray in whatever words come to her mind at any time in any place.  Teach her to feel free to ask for anything she needs; for anything people close to her need; for forgiveness when she feels she needs it; to offer thanks for the good things in life and try to  include something to be thankful for every time she prays.
– Read to your children.  Look for ways to read the Bible together.  Trinity will try to help.
– Have pictures of Jesus and biblical stories on your walls.
– Here’s a book to help in all these things – Real Kids, Real Faith: Practices for Nurturing Children’s Spiritual Livesby Karen Marie Yust, Jossey‑Bass (2004).

b.  God parents
– Set the example of regular Sunday worship, participating in church life, and giving
– Keep in as close contact with Mary as you can.  Do as much with her as you can.  The last times I saw my goddaughter face-to-face; she was 30 and we went to the Denver zoo; and, the last time when she was 41, we met with her husband at the restaurant where he was the bartender.  And, use the telephone and email!
– Make the anniversary of her baptism special in some way – a card, some sharing of your life as a Christian the past year, a religious gift of some kind (from an easy to read Bible to something you have written or found helpful to read).
– Remember her on her birthday and at Christmas and Easter.
– Pray for her regularly.
– Here’s a book to cover some things we may have missed – Godparenting: Nurturing the Next Generation by Nancy Ann McLaughlin and Tracey E. Herzer, Morehouse Publishing (2007).

7. How has this time together been for you?

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Shield Activity: Times when God / Jesus / the Holy Spirit were more than just words for me
In a quadrant of the shield, draw a picture or write some words that represent a time in your life when God / Jesus / the Holy Spirit were more than just words for you.  As you have time, fill in some of the other quadrants in the same way.

Our Living Today Activity: What I am doing right now to make the world a better place
Instructions: Jot down what you’re doing in each of the following six areas to make life better, more loving and more just, more caring and more fair.  Write down big things such as what you do as a volunteer in a hospital, or as an elected public officer, or as a courteous clerk.  Name also even the smallest thing such as always giving up your seat on the bus to an elderly person or being the one in your office who circulates birthday cards for others to sign.  The key is for the activity to be habitual or usual.  It’s what you try to do all of the time.

1. Home (includes all aspects of home life or close friendships):

 

 

2. Work (includes school and volunteer work):

 

 

3. Local community (your neighborhood, town, or city):

 

 

4. Wider world (includes all aspects of the society, culture, economy, government, or environment of our county, state, nation, or world):

 

 

5. Leisure and recreation (any activity used to rest and to refresh yourself):

 

 

6. Church – in two distinct but related aspects (if you are not now a church member, you may want to skip one or both parts):
a. My own spiritual health (any activity used to meet your spiritual needs; includes activities to maintain physical and emotional health):
b. My share in church life and outreach (in the congregation, diocese, or communion in the USA or worldwide; or in interchurch or interfaith activities):

 

Step 2 – Session with parents, godparents, 12-year-old sister, 10-year-old brother, and Mary (7)
[As before, if distance prevents a godparent’s presence, we will work by telephone with him or her.]
1. Prayer

2. What happens in baptism – for the young people.
– Baptism is joining Jesus’ mission.  Jesus’ mission is to stop what is mean and unfair and to make the world more loving and fair.  We also become part of the church where we find the help we need to be part of Jesus’ mission.
– Also, Mary, baptism is a kind of being reborn.  We will pour some water over your head.  It’s a sign of rebirth and a new start. [Check with parents if Mary knows she was carried inside of her mom for a long time before she was born.  In that time, she was surrounded by water in her mother’s womb.] Pouring water on you is also a sign of washing away whatever keeps you from being a loving, caring, good person.  That goes on all our lives.  Baptism reminds us that is Jesus’ work with us to help us to follow him.  And, finally, this is another and big step in getting to know Jesus as your friend and helper for the rest of your life.  He’ll be there to help you all the time.  So don’t ever hold back from saying, “Jesus, help me” about anything you have to do.

3.  God’s call to baptism
– So, Mary, God is calling you to be part of his work through Jesus.  And your parents and godparents, and even your brother and sister can help you to answer his call.  “Call” may sound like a funny word.  I don’t hear his voice and I bet you don’t either.  However, remember that Jesus speaks to us through the people around us.  I believe Jesus is calling you through your mom and dad who want you to know about him and to follow the way he teaches us to live.  Let me turn to them to say why they want you to be baptized.
– [Father and mother answer with some of the reasons they want you to be baptized

– And your godparents want to help you to grow up as a follower of Jesus.  Let’s hear from them some of their reasons for wanting to see that happen for you.
[Godparents answer.]

– And sister and brotherl are here.  Let’s hear some of the reasons they want you to be baptized.
[Sister and brother answer as best they can.]

– And, for me, I think Jesus is calling you because your Mom and Dad just brought this up out of the blue when were getting to know each other after church on May 18.  They said they’d been wanting you to be baptized for a long time.  So here we are.  And I believe that’s one of the ways Jesus works.

– Maybe, Mary, you have an idea why you want to be baptized.  What would you say?
[Mary answers as best she can.]

3. Now, let’s try to talk about what we really can do as Jesus’ people.  Let’s do it by talking about what we are already doing.  Jesus wants us to be loving and fair.  Let’s talk about places in life where we are trying to do just that.  Now, I know that many times, we are not loving and we are unfair.  We’ll talk about those times later.  For now, let’s talk about the good things we do.  Look at this sheet of paper.  It names four places we are in any week.  Write in some one thing you are doing right now to make life there better.  It can be big or little. Just so it’s true. [Everyone fills out Our Living Today Activity-A (page 13).

4. Now let’s share our answers.  We’ll start with the adults and work down to the youngest. [Try to keep this to 10-15 minutes.  Maybe just two adults, than the 3 children each time.  The purpose is to see how the children are already part of Jesus’ mission.  They just never thought of it themselves that way.]

5. Now let’s connect these things we are doing with the promises we will all make at Mary’s baptism.  Let’s read them over.

[Move quickly and easily through these saving energy for the promises that begin with “proclaim.”]  Start with the renunciations by saying these are kind of “picture” words that we could say, quite simply, are about being loving and fair instead of being unloving and unfair.  Evil powers, Satan, spiritual forces, sinful desires – all are about being unloving and unfair.  We’ve just talked about that in what we are doing to be loving and fair in five places in life.  And we began with Jesus always with us to help us to be loving and fair and that’s what the last three promises are about – accepting Jesus’ desire to help you and us all; to trust that he always is there to help us with his power / grace and love; and we say we want to be part of his work – to follow and to obey him.

Then we make some more promises we call a “covenant” – Jesus promises to help us and we promise to do Jesus’ work of being loving and fair.  The first three are about believing in God.  They are what we call the creed.  It was written by those first Christians two thousand years ago to be used at baptism just as we are using it.  It says what we believe about God the Father, about Jesus, and about the Holy Spirit – all we have talked about all this time together.  It’s kind of shorthand. And we promise to keep growing in belief.  And we promise to keep learning and to come together for communion or the breaking of bread.  And we promise to try to be loving and fair and when we are not to ask Jesus to forgive us.

Now comes the really hard part of it – how we are to act every day, not just on Sunday.

[Start with the promise to proclaim . . . .  After each is read, see if what has been shared is a way of keeping that promise.  Recall, at least, what one adult said and what one child said for each promise.]
– Explain them as: “to proclaim good news” is to do something good or say something good;
– “loving your neighbor” is being a good neighbor;
– “striving for justice and peace” is helping people get along with each other or seeing someone who has been treated unfairly is treated fairly; and “respecting dignity” is not to push anyone around or to be thoughtful and have good manners.

6. Let’s try a new word for what we do to make life better.  Try calling it a “mission.”  A mission is a sending.  You are sent some place to do some thing.  The places we live are the places we have been sent to and any good things we do there are what we have been sent to do.  So, what we have shared are our daily “missions.”  They are things Jesus want us to be doing.  They are the missions he has given us.  Here’s how you can tell Jesus sent you do them,
– they are loving and just, caring and fair
– they are often hard to do
– they are done with Jesus’ help – Jesus’ work is to help us to be loving and just so whenever we are loving and just Jesus is there helping us.
So, all of us are missionaries – we just didn’t know it.  We are real missionaries whether we are here or in some far away place.  Missionaries make good things happen – to make the world more living and more just!

7. Next we will meet to practice what we do when Mary is baptized.  We’ll have things for each one of us to do.  We meet at . . .
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Our Living Today Activity-A: What I am doing right now to make life more loving and more fair.

1. At home:

 

 

2. At school or at work:

 

 

3. With our neighbors:

 

 

4. In our church:

 

 

5. In my prayers:

 

 

 

Step 3 – Practice / rehearsal
[The member mission people are at the font with the family to help as needed.]
1. Where it comes on Sunday.

2. Walk through the whole service.

3. Practice saying the vows.

4. A godparent reads the prayers on pp. 9-10.

5. Sister pours the water in the font.

6. All practice saying Mary’s full name loud and clear.

7. Brother presents the candle we will give to the family to burn on the anniversary of Mary’s baptism.

8. The godparents will present the bread and the wine for communion.

9. In all, help Mary to feel at home in what will happen; and recall what her baptism means – to be loving and fair in all she does with Jesus’ help and to be part of the church, Jesus’ people, for the guidance and the power to live the way Jesus wants; and to see every Sunday as the place you can count on for guidance and for power.

10. All sign the parish register.

 

Step 4 – The Baptism
Preparation
– Make sure Altar Guild has the date and confer with team on specific preparations like a candle for the family
Holy Baptism – On the date selected

 

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