“Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body, the Church. The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble” (Book of Common Prayer, page 298). In Holy Baptism, God adopts us as his children and makes us inheritors of the kingdom of God. Following the commands of our Lord Jesus, the church baptizes people for the forgiveness of sin, and new birth into eternal life in Christ. In Baptism, we are joined with Christ in his death and resurrection—we are “dead to sin and alive to Christ.”
One theologian has noted that there are two parts to baptism: “bath” and teaching: gift and response. Normally, for adults, the teaching comes first—learning about God and coming to know God in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. The liturgy for Baptism begins with the candidate renouncing sin—that which separates us from God and from each other and leaves us broken—and turning to Jesus Christ, accepting him as Savior, trusting in his grace and love, and promising to obey him as Lord. With the promise of support from the community, the candidate then declares the Christian belief (the Apostle’s Creed), and makes specific promises to lead the Christian life. These promises include active involvement in the sacraments and Christian community, resisting evil and responding to sin by returning to the Lord, proclaiming the Good News by word and example, serving Christ in the world with love, and striving for justice and peace for all.
Then the candidate is baptized (by pouring water on the head) in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; washing away sin, and sharing in new relationship with God in Christ that will last eternally. The mark of a cross is made with holy oil on the forehead, as a sign of being sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism. All Baptized Christians may receive the sacrament of Holy Communion, no matter their age or denomination.
As has been done since the days of the early church, the Episcopal Church also baptizes infants. In this case, the order is reversed—first there is bath, then comes the teaching. We baptize infants, in part, because we believe that the forgiveness of God is a free gift from God—not something that can be earned. The teaching then comes after the “bath,” developing the child in his or her life in Christ through involvement and instruction in the church and in the family. So there is bath and teaching—gift of God and the faithful human response to that gift for both adults and infants. For infants, however, parents and Godparents promise to raise the child in the Christian faith, and make promises on behalf of the candidate. The Candidate can then affirm these promises at Confirmation as an adult. For more information on the Liturgy for Holy Baptism, see the Book of Common Prayer (click here and select “Holy Baptism”).
Because of the importance of the community of faith in upholding and strengthening the newly baptized (and the family in the case of infants), and because of the promises to continue in the life of the church, Baptism is intended for those seeking active involvement in a church, (usually, this one, of course, though we can coordinate with a church local to you, if you are from out of town). To further the integrity of Baptism, preparation is part of baptism for adults or the family of young children.