Friday, January 06, 2006

baptism and renewing baptismal vows - what to do?

This Sunday we, like many congregations, will celebrate "Baptism of the Lord" in worship, when we read of Jesus being baptized by John.

A seminary friend emailed me this question - if you are leading a congregational reaffirmation of baptismal vows (as I am in Oneida), what do you do for those who are unbaptized? Is there a way for them to participate in the ritual that is meaningful and theologically appropriate?

Last year, when this issue came up, I invited those who were not yet baptized to receive a blessing in anticipation of their baptism. An imperfect solution perhaps, but it worked OK.

Any thoughts? Ideas? I checked out the General Board of Discipleship's worship planning helps, and they had this to say:

Consider how to be hospitable to people who may be present who have not been baptized. How will they participate in reaffirmation of baptism? What invitation will you make to non-baptized people to journey toward the Jordan and life in the baptismal covenant? For example, you could print in the bulletin or say: "Today we are celebrating the baptism of Jesus, and we are remembering our baptism when God claimed us as sons and daughters in a life-long covenant. If you have not been baptized, you are fully welcome here. Enjoy the ritual! Be among us in peace. Feel free not to say words that may not yet apply to you. If you would like to know more about the life of discipleship and about being part of the baptismal covenant, be sure to speak with the pastor(s) or lay leaders."

This is OK too, but then those not baptized can't come forward in any way. I guess if they are not ready to be baptized, maybe that's OK. But it would be nice to find a meaningful way for all to participate. What do you think?
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