The Sacrament of Initiation
Baptism is the First Sacrament of the Church!
Baptism is the sacrament that brings a person into the household of God. When we are baptized in to Christ Jesus, we are adopted as God’s sons and daughters and become joint heirs with Christ. Jesus emphasized the importance of baptism when he commanded the disciples to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). Thus it is central to our Christian faith and is not something that should be discounted or overlooked.
Throughout Christendom, baptism may look a bit different. Some pour water over the head while others dip or immerse a person’s whole body into water. Immersion, or the act of submerging the body into a pool of water is the oldest and most appropriate way for one to be baptized. But throughout time, the Christian church has affirmed that pouring is equally valid and today is perhaps the most common way baptism is done. Whichever method, there should be some common traits recognized by most main-line denominations.
The first element is water. Water is always present, whether it is in the form of a lake, a baptismal font, a baptistery pool, or a bowl of water. While water has no sacramental power in and of itself, it is perhaps the most appropriate thing used in this sacrament. Water is a essential for all life and without it all life perishes. Water can be gentle as the dew of the morning, or it can be as mighty as a thundering waterfall. It is persistent and over time can carve a way even through the hardest stone. Although it exists all around us, even in small quantities water has the potential to drown. It is perhaps this trait which most powerfully links water to the understanding that in baptism we participate in Jesus’ sacrificial death, burial and resurrection.
The second trait that is common in baptism is the formula or words used in the baptismal rite itself. In order for the baptism to be recognized as valid the person must be baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. While that language may sound archaic to some, we believe it is one that should not be changed. In this way one is linked to other Christians throughout the world and is joined with the saints of all time and place: past present and future.
At the Parish Church of St. Jerome, we regularly affirm there is One Lord, One Faith and One Baptism; one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:5). God is the one who acts in baptism. God is the one who is faithful and brings to completion what is intended in the sacrament. Whether or not one has been immersed or sprinkled or had water poured over one’s head; whether they’ve been dunked frontwards or backwards their baptism is valid as long as water and this ancient formula were present. We affirm that Baptism is a sacrament that should only be done once, (remember it is God who makes the baptism valid, not the individual) and thus do not require a person to undergo baptism a second time unless there is serious doubt regarding the previous baptism’s validity.
Who Can be Baptized?
In the earliest days of the church, baptism was primarily a sacrament offered to those converts who believed the apostle’s message. But even at that time, we read that often a believer’s whole household was baptized. One must assume that children were often among those included. (See Acts 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:16) Thus the church began including the practice of infant baptism. Throughout time, infant baptism became the “norm.” Unfortunately much of that practice was based on the belief in limbo—the place where unbaptized infants went if they died. Whereas limbo was not the same as hell, it was still a place that was not on par with heaven. Thankfully, the Roman Catholic Church has officially done away with this teaching and thus one no longer has to fear that their newborn child who died before being baptized is somehow excluded from heaven.
At the Parish Church of St. Jerome, we offer the sacrament of baptism to anyone who seeks it. We will baptize adults, children and infants. We believe that Christ welcomed all—especially those who were previously excluded because of sin. Thus we will not withhold the sacrament of baptism from you regardless of your past failings. We do not withhold the sacrament of baptism from the children of divorced parents. And we do not withhold the sacrament from children who were born out of wedlock. And we do not place stringent rules about who can serve as godparents.
When it comes to baptizing children and infants who cannot profess a faith of their own, we want to make sure that parents, in seeking baptism for their children, must be ready to make a solemn vow to raise that child in the Christian faith and to do all they can to bring that child up in such a way that she or he can affirm their own faith and take on those baptismal vows for themselves.
Following the ancient baptismal rite, baptism in our parish includes the sealing of one’s baptism with holy oil, or chrism. The oil has been blessed by our Bishop. With it, one’s baptism is sealed and one is marked as God’s own for ever.
If you are interested in baptism for yourself, or if you are interested in having your child baptized, please feel free to contact us.