Monday 6 January 2014

An Alternative Baptismal Liturgy for the Church of England

(Drawing on a variety of sources, this tries to set out an 'alternative' approach)
 
At the Baptism of Infants

If the baptism is taking place during another meeting of the Church, the material marked * may be omitted.

* Hymn

The minister greets the congregation and then says:
From earliest times it has been the practice of the Christian Church to admit to baptism children who are not old enough to speak for themselves. In the Acts of the Apostles we read of the jailer at Philippi who, when the word of the Lord was preached to him, was baptized with his whole family. And in the city of Corinth the households of Crispus and Stephanas were baptized.
The Bible also tells us that children of believers are sanctified, enjoying the favour of God through the faith of their parents.
Yet to be effective, the outward act of baptism in water must be joined with inward faith in the Word of God. It is therefore necessary for this child to be brought up as a believer if he/she is to enjoy the benefits which will be promised to him/her today.
In baptism he/she will be united with Christ. He/She will be buried with Christ in his death, and so he/she must die to sin in his/her own life. And he/she will be raised to new life with Christ in his resurrection, no longer to live in slavery to sin but as a servant of righteousness and a child of God.
Therefore as we praise our God who gives us these great blessings, so we also pray that he will grant this child grace to believe, and his/her parents the wisdom and ability to bring him/her up to love God as his/her Father, to obey Christ as his/her Saviour, and to walk in step with the Holy Spirit as his/her guide and comforter.

* Hymn or other musical item

* Sermon

Minister:
Dearly beloved, insofar as all people are born sinners,
and that no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born again of water and the Spirit, I invite you to call on God the Father, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that of his great mercy he will grant to this child what by his/her own nature, however innocent, he/she cannot have, that being baptized with water he/she may be born anew of the Spirit and made a living member of Christ’s Church.
Therefore we pray, saying together,

All:
Almighty and everlasting God,
who of your great mercy and power
saved Noah and his family from the flood,
and led your people Israel safely through the sea;
we ask you to look mercifully upon this child.
Wash him/her from sin,
sanctify him/her with your Holy Spirit,
and unite him/her with your Son Jesus Christ,
that he/she, being steadfast in faith,
joyful in hope,
and grounded in love,
may so live in this world that he/she may finally come to the life everlasting,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Minister:
Hear the words of the Gospel of Mark,
(It is suggested these words are read by a member of the congregation or a parent or godparent.)
“People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.” (Mark 10:13-16)

Minister:
You hear in this Gospel the words of our Saviour Christ, how he commands the children to be brought to him, and blames those who would have kept them away, exhorting everyone to become like little children if they are to enter God’s kingdom. You hear how he took them in his arms, laid his hands on them and blessed them. Be in no doubt, therefore, that he is likewise willing to receive this child, to embrace him/her with the arms of his mercy, to give him/her the blessing of eternal life and to make him/her a partaker of his everlasting kingdom.
As the Church of Christ, we have a duty to support this child by prayer, example and teaching. His/Her parents and godparents have particular responsibility for guiding and helping him/her in his/her early years. This is a task for which they will need the help and grace of God. Therefore let us now pray for grace in guiding this child in the way of faith.

All:
Faithful and loving God,
bless those who care for this child
and grant them your gifts
of love, wisdom and faith.
Pour upon them
your healing and reconciling love,
and protect their home from all evil.
Fill them with the light of your presence
and establish them in the joy of your kingdom, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Minister:
And we pray for ourselves,

All:
God of grace and life,
in your love you have given us a place among your people;
keep us faithful to our baptism
and prepare us for that glorious day
when the whole creation will be made perfect
in your Son our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen
The minister addresses the parents and godparents:
Parents and godparents, you have brought this child to baptism, you have prayed that he/she may be born again of water and the Holy Spirit, you have heard how our Lord Jesus Christ welcomes such children to himself. And now for his/her part this child must promise through you, who speak on his/her behalf, that he/she will forsake the Devil and all his works, believe in God’s holy word, and walk in obedience to him all the days of his/her life. Therefore I ask you,
Do you, in the name of this child, renounce the devil and all rebellion against God, the deceit and corruption of evil, and the sins that separate us from God?

Parents and Godparents:
I renounce them all.

The whole congregation may be invited to join in the following affirmation of the Creed.

Minister:
Do you believe and trust in God
the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth?

Parents and Godparents:
I do.

Minister:
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
that he was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary, suffered
under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
that he descended to the dead,
that on the third day he rose again;
that he ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and will come to judge the living and the dead?

Parents and Godparents:
I do.

Minister:
And do you 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?

Parents and Godparents:
I do.

Minister:
Do you turn to Christ as Saviour?

Parents and Godparents:
I turn to Christ.

Minister:
Do you submit to Christ as Lord?

Parents and Godparents:
I submit to Christ.

Minister:
Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life?

Parents and Godparents:
I come to Christ.

The Baptism
Having first ascertained each child’s name, the minister dips him in water, or pours water on him, saying
N, I baptize you
in the name of the Father,
and of the Son,
and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

After the baptism, the minister makes the sign of the cross on the forehead of each child, saying:
Receive the sign of the cross. Do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified. Fight valiantly under the banner of Christ against sin, the world and the devil, and remain his faithful soldier and servant to the end of your life. Amen

The child is welcomed by the congregation.

All:
There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism:
by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body.
We welcome you into the fellowship of faith;
we are children of the same heavenly Father;
and inheritors together of the kingdom of God.
We welcome you.

*If a sermon has not yet been preached, it may be preached here.
* A hymn or other musical items may be included.
*If the baptism is not taking place during another meeting of the church, these words are used in closing:

Minister:
The peace of the Lord be always with you.

All:
And also with you.

Minister:
May the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be amongst us and remain with us now and always.

All:
Amen

The use of the form in the box headed THE BAPTISM is declared ‘sufficient’ by the rubrics of Common Worship for a legitimate baptism to have taken place according to the rites and ceremonies of the Church of England. The other material here draws on a variety of liturgical sources to provide a framework for the rite of baptism. It does not constitute an official‘form of service in itself.
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36 comments:

  1. I very much like this. It's clear on both what baptism is and isn't, makes the duties of godparents and parents clear, and gives responsibility to the congregation. Far better than some others I've seen recently! John Telford, Anlaby.

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  2. John,

    I am grappling with the childrens' apparent slipping away from the faith and so see the hope of deep comfort and consolation in your reference above to God's blessing on children through the faith of their parents. I appreciate it is not exactly the topic you had in mind, but could you point me to the relevant passages which I will turn to for encouragement

    Peter

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  3. I am baffled by the continued practice of infant baptism. Frankly, there is no biblical precedent, doctrinal teaching or practice that can justify it - it should be seen for what it is, namely a medieval superstitious rite.
    As Phillip Schaff in his History of the Christian church challenges the theory that the Christian church practised this from "earliest times" as claimed above.

    “In reviewing the patristic doctrine of baptism which was sanctioned by the Greek and Roman, and, with some important modifications, also by the Lutheran and Anglican churches, we should remember that during the first three centuries, and even in the age of Constantine, adult baptism was the rule, and that the actual conversion of the candidate was required as a condition before administering the sacrament (as is still the case on missionary ground). Hence in preceding catechetical instruction, the renunciation of the devil, and the profession of faith. But when the same high view is applied without qualification to infant baptism, we are confronted at once with the difficulty that infants cannot comply with this condition."

    To believe and teach this doctrine is to infer by strong implication that the subjects of Christian baptism as revealed in the NT is somehow muddled or unclear.
    The Gospel accounts and whole weight of NT teaching is, by contrast abundantly clear - in a word. 'Believe and be baptised' - in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
    God does not bless error.

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    Replies
    1. Ah Graham, but as I showed you on this very blog a few months ago, antipaedobaptist theologians and preachers themselves cannot stand their ground when faced with certain texts which their system not only does not and cannot take into account, but was never designed to.

      For those who missed it, I'm referring to Spurgeon's amazing concession at Psalm 84:3, and Gill's no less astonishing draw-a-blank in idem loco.

      Delete
  4. Given how closely this follows the BCP (1662), the absence of the prayer over the water and the exhortation of parents and godparents after the baptism is striking. I note that the former had been omitted also in the second order for Infant Baptism in An English Prayer Book (1994), albeit not in the first order, nor in the order for adult baptism and even this second order has a prayer between the decision and the baptism. It is of course not essential. Maybe there is something potent about moving immediately from "I come to Christ" to "N, I baptize you..." but my first reaction is that I would quite like to say a prayer in between.

    Also, the closer link between the Creed and the actual Baptism in contemporary liturgy seems to me preferable to the pattern in the BCP of using the Creed within the Decision.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Would an improvement on all liturgy be, doctrinal clarity and a criteria that had to be achieved in a given service (communion, baptism, marriage, etc.), then give a certain amount of liturgical freedom (perhaps providing resources, including from other parts of the world and denominations). Rather than tightly regulated liturgy, with no agreed theology, where people read in their own theology to the liturgy. So that 2 churches end up conducting identical services, but thinking totally different things have just happened.

    Darren Moore
    Chelmsford

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