The sacrament of baptism is an outward and visible sign of the grace of God. Through baptism a person is joined with the universal church, the body of Christ. Baptism with water and the Holy Spirit is the sign and seal of our common discipleship. Since baptism is God’s gift, the Holy Spirit is called to be upon the water and those being baptized. The act of baptism also marks the beginning of new life of discipleship with Christ, the human response to that gift.
Any person including infants, children, youth, and adults, may be baptized at Bethel Church. For infants and children, as well as for youth and adults who have never been baptized before, baptism marks their acceptance into the care of Christ’s church, the sign and seal of God’s grace and forgiveness, and the beginning of their Christian faith and life.
In adult baptism, the theological emphasis is on the covenant commitment of the new believer, the one being baptized who makes answer to the questions of commitment. New adult members of the congregation who have never been baptized are normally baptized on the day they join the congregation.
In infant baptism, the emphasis is on God’s grace offered to us in the sacrament and the covenant commitment of the parents and congregation who answer the baptismal questions and promise to nurture the child being baptized in the Christian faith.
These are the questions of commitment asked when children are baptized:
“Do you desire that your children be baptized?”
“Relying on the grace of God, do you promise to live the Christian faith, and to nurture your children in that faith?”
“Do you renounce all evil, and powers in the world which defy God’s love and righteousness?”
“Do you trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?”
Baptism is a personal celebration in the lives of the individual candidates and their families. It is also a celebration within the local church family and recognition of its commitment. For this reason, baptism is celebrated in the presence of the community gathered for worship. If circumstances require baptism to take place outside of corporate worship, members of Bethel Church, if possible, may participate in the ceremony with the pastor.
Baptism and the Church Membership of Parents
Normally, at least one parent of a child being baptized must be a member of Bethel United Church of Christ. When children are baptized, their parents are asked to make statements of Christian faith and commitment that imply membership in the church.
Parents, in consultation with the pastor, may choose sponsors or “Godparents” as they are sometimes known, for infants and young children who are to baptized. The entire congregation, on behalf of the whole church, commits itself to support the child’s parents in nurturing their child in the Christian faith. Such a commitment means that additional sponsors are optional. Other candidates for baptism may also be given this opportunity to have sponsors. At the time of the baptismal service, the sponsors, who accompany the candidates and present them for baptism, may make promises identical to the promises of the parents concerning their role.