In January, we held a “Back to Basics” session at church on Baptism. We watched film scenes with “baptismal” imagery as a way of exploring the meanings of Baptism in our daily lives. We also collected questions from participants — insightful, probing, wise questions, that we wanted to share here on the blog. Over the next few weeks, Abby & I will offer our responses to these questions and hope that you will join the conversation.
Why should parents bring a young child to be baptized? As Abby wrote in her Chimes article, one thing we agree on as a church is that we do not baptize out of fear. We believe that both those who are baptized and those who aren’t receive the full welcome of God. As a community, we embrace and honor all, inclusive of each person’s choices and history with respect to baptism.
In the United Church of Christ, though infant baptism is more common, we baptize people of all ages. My parents were raised in traditions which practiced “believer’s baptism”. My father happily performed many infant baptisms (as a UCC pastor), but he and my mother wanted my brothers and I to make our own choices regarding baptism. At age 10, I asked to be baptized; I recall kneeling in the chancel beside my 7 year old brother (who of course wanted to be just like me…). My youngest brother decided, as an older teen, on immersion in the Mississippi River.
My parents’ desire for me to choose my own relationship to faith represents a deeper truth about the support I found in my family to be authentically who I am. My parents expected my participation in church, even as they gave me genuine freedom to decide what my “take” was on it all. They practiced what they preached. Modeling a “baptismal faith”, they taught me of the deep love, strong justice, and lived joy of our holy waters. If one of us had chosen not to be baptized, I believe they would have accepted it, and sought to honor that choice, even if it saddened them.
Baptism, for me, is a paradox. Even as I affirm the freedom to chose one’s own faith journey, I lift up the compelling beauty of being chosen. Infant baptism (because it comes before the age of decision or reason) speaks about divine grace and love that is truly beyond our understanding. The baptism of the young teaches us that faith is not ever solely a matter of the mind, but a way of life, a path to walk, a mystery to probe, a gift to plunge into with all of one’s self.
Why should parents bring children to be baptized? Out of joy and love. Because you are free to do so. Because you want to share your own journey of faith with one you love as yourself. Because you wish to be embraced and celebrated and challenged, as a family, by the church community. But remember this: you are also free not to choose baptism for your child. You are free to model your own journey in the context of the community of faith, and then to support your child in to make his or her own decisions.