Christ's Own Forever Parent-God Parent Journal: Episcopal Baptism of Infants and Young Children [NOOK Book]

Overview

Christ's Own Forever is a unique resource developed with the varying needs of Episcopal communities of all sizes in mind. Flexible session plans are ideal for both one-on-one conversations with parents or meetings that include several families together. This interactive journal is designed to first guide you as you prepare for this special baptism, but then takes things a step further with tips and practical exercises that invite you to nurture the spiritual development of your child or godchild beyond baptism. ...
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Christ's Own Forever Parent-God Parent Journal: Episcopal Baptism of Infants and Young Children

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Overview

Christ's Own Forever is a unique resource developed with the varying needs of Episcopal communities of all sizes in mind. Flexible session plans are ideal for both one-on-one conversations with parents or meetings that include several families together. This interactive journal is designed to first guide you as you prepare for this special baptism, but then takes things a step further with tips and practical exercises that invite you to nurture the spiritual development of your child or godchild beyond baptism. You'll gain more understanding about your own spiritual journey, too as you consider ways to help your child or godchild live out the baptismal vows you mill make on his or her behalf. Includes background on baptism and Christian initiation, as well as guidance on preparation for baptism in the Episcopal Church today. Guidance is provided for preparation and follow-up with parents who are parish members and those who are unchurched.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781606741719
  • Publisher: Church Publishing Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/2003
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 48
  • File size: 2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Christ's Own Forever

Episcopal Baptism of Infants and Young Children Parent/Godparent Journal


By Mary Lee Wile

Church Publishing Incorporated

Copyright © 2011 Mary Lee Wile
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-60674-171-9


CHAPTER 1

Part I: Preparation


The "Why" of Baptism

Every morning when I come downstairs, my first stop is at the icon of our Lord that hangs next to a photograph of my children when they were little. Every morning I ask a blessing, and then I close my prayers by making the sign of the cross on my children's foreheads, repeating words from the baptismal service: "you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ's own forever." Although my children are grown and gone now into the fullness of their own lives, they remain not only my children, but God's. In this troubling and uncertain world, their eternal adoption into God's family through the waters of baptism matters deeply. As the apostle Paul reminded the Romans, "nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." My morning ritual reminds me that my children are held in the heart of God, incorporated into the Body of Christ, and that nothing—not even death—can separate them from the love of God.

You hold this journal in your hands because you have begun the process of preparing for your child's or godchild's baptism. You have said "yes" to the promptings of your own heart and perhaps to the encouragement of friends or relatives. Baptism used to be a societal norm, something that was automatically "done" to a child. In the early years of this new millennium, however, saying yes to baptism is a different, deeper choice.

Spend some time pondering what led you to seek Holy Baptism for your child, or, if you are to be a godparent, what led you to accept that role:

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Priest and professor John Westerhoff writes that, "It is God who is the prior actor in baptism, an action to which we can only respond." In other words, according to Westerhoff, no matter what other reasons you might name, one reason that you have engaged in this preparatory process is that God invited you and, on behalf of the child, you said yes. With that thought in mind, what stand out as specific moments or significant events in which you sensed God's presence or God's action in your life, moving you toward this place in your journey, this choice for your child or godchild?

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In saying yes to baptism, just what is it that you have undertaken on behalf of your child? What is Holy Baptism? If you look at page 298 in The Book of Common Prayer, the official rubrics tell us that "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." What that means is that through baptism, your child becomes part of an extended family of fellow-Christians; your child enters a covenanted relationship with God.

People used to fear that the unbaptized remained exiled from God and could never attain salvation; more recent readings of Scripture recognize that God's love extends to all people. Baptism doesn't make God love you or your child more; what it does is to name and sanctify the relationship between God and the one being baptized. "What God does in Holy Baptism is nothing less than to adopt a human being to be forever His own child," asserts The Rev. Dr. Carroll Simcox, past rector of St. Thomas in New York City.

I remember a friend asking me, when our firstborn children were about six months old, "Do you think we'll spend as much time with the second ones, just watching them sleep?" (Yes, we did ...) Spend some time just holding and looking at your child, thinking and perhaps even saying aloud, "You are a beloved child of God." (If you are to be the child's godparent, this is equally important—as a practical matter of having the child become accustomed to your voice and your presence before the actual service, and as a spiritual matter of acknowledging your prayerful connection to the child.) Then spend some time thinking and writing about the hopes and dreams you have for this child, and how you see baptism being part of those dreams.

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One of my seminary professors used to say, "God is as real as gravity." Robert Sherman spoke of baptism as an absolute, grounded reality in which a person is marked and sealed as God's own. The English mystic Julian of Norwich wrote that "God stands nearer to us than our own soul, for he is the ground on which we stand." Spend some time pondering those things which ground you, which keep you focused and centered. For some it may be family or friends, for others the work you do each day, for some it may be athletic or artistic endeavors. Some of you may look at this child and feel grounded in a new way. Make a list, and then consider how these are gifts God offers to and through you.

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Remember that it is through you that your child or godchild will find solid ground, and by answering God's invitation to baptize this child, you offer deep, abiding grounding.


By Water and the Holy Spirit: The "What" of Baptism

Just prior to the actual baptism (on pages 306-307 in The Book of Common Prayer) the priest will offer thanksgiving over the water:

We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water. Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation. Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.


This prayer serves as a brief summary of water's importance in the history of our religious tradition, and it reminds us of the intimate connection between water and life itself. When you meet with the clergy or layperson who will facilitate the preparation for your child's baptism, you will probably talk about water. Spend some time recalling your own experiences with water: cleansing, swimming, drinking, boating, fishing....

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The Rev. Daniel Warren, rector of St. Paul's in Brunswick, Maine speaks of the "aha!" we feel when we come to a body of water; paleontologist Jane Goodall once said that even chimpanzees dance with awe at the sight of a waterfall. I remember having lived away from the ocean for 12 years and then arriving at water's edge: I kicked off my shoes and walked into the surf fully clothed, my children following.

Can you recall "aha!" moments connected with water?

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Some denominations still practice full immersion baptism; even within the Episcopal Church there are times and places where older candidates are taken to rivers or lakes or ocean for baptism. Most of the time, however, what happens is that the blessed water is poured or sprinkled three times over the person being baptized (replicating the "pouring out" of the Spirit). The priest (or other person performing the actual baptism) will call your child by name, and then say, "I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."

Besides being the source of life and providing restoration and renewal for the human spirit, water can also serve as a boundary. The Piscataqua River, for example, separates Maine from New Hampshire at its southern border. The Rio Grande divides countries. And in our own salvation history, crossing the Jordan into the promised land holds powerful associations of achieving freedom and peace. Just so is baptism a crossing over into the promises of Christ, into the household of God.

What are times in your life when you can recognize having made a transition, crossed over a boundary, gained new freedom (and with it, perhaps, new responsibilities)?

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You are to be commended for trusting your child to this journey through the waters of baptism. The language of what happens can be frightening: you send your child through death into resurrection and rebirth. The Rev. John Westerhoff notes that in some traditions the child is literally carried into the church in a small coffin, acknowledging that the child will die with Christ before being reborn. The Thanksgiving over Water continues:

We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit. Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.


When the one baptizing plunges his or her hand into the font, breaking the water, this is the necessary preliminary action for the rebirth of baptism.

Take some time to recall your child's actual moment of birth, or for adoptive parents or for godparents, the first moment you held the child in your arms.

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Besides water baptism, your child will also experience consignation: the priest will make the sign of the cross on your child's forehead (often using holy oil), again calling the child by name and saying, "you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ's own forever."

As theology professor Ellen Charry explains, what happens is that "They are grafted into the divine life, sanctified by being chrismated—signed with oil—by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ's own forever." This action provides your child a new identity, as with the wax of a signet ring or even the branding of cattle, a permanent mark of ownership: your child will enter forever the extended Christian family. Your child will belong to Christ.

This doesn't mean, however, that the beloved individuality of the child is subsumed; it is enhanced by being part of this lively, loving, diverse, and contentious family: "It is important to say that the human spirit is awakened by the coming of the Holy Spirit, but never overwhelmed or extinguished," writes Marianne Micks in Deep Waters.

What individual and unique traits do you already see emerging in this child?

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In John's gospel, the evangelist uses the word "paraclete" for the Holy Spirit, which Micks translates as "one called alongside," the one who will be with this child always as a companion, an "intercessor, support, or counselor." Think of the comfort in that reality: sealing with the Holy Spirit is an overt promise that this child will never be alone, but will forever be companioned by God's Holy Spirit.

Name some times in your own life when you have felt isolated and alone, and then note what happened to get you through those times. In retrospect, can you recognize God's companionship in any of your examples?

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Families offer some of our deepest companionship experiences. Think about the immediate family in which this child will grow up. Describe your own concept of what it means to be part of a family (remembering how the late 20th Century has expanded our understanding and definition of "family):

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Now think about your experiences with the Church, the Body of Christ, the extended family into which you are bringing your child through baptism.

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Some of your memories may be comforting, joyful ones; others may be less so. Just as our own families can be full of both love and tension, so can the Christian family; Paul's letters let us listen in on disagreements going on nearly 2000 years ago. And yet, all these centuries later, this extended Christian family still embraces us. "Christianity," writes William Willimon in What's Right with the Church?, "is not a home correspondence course in salvation. This religion is anything but a private affair." Community is the heart of it. Look again at the Baptismal Service. On page 303 the presider will ask the people in the congregation if they will promise to support your child in his or her faith journey, and they will vow to be a part of the child's growth and nurture in the Church.

Patricia Bamforth, active laywoman and grandmother, speaks of "incredible relief" when her first child was baptized: "I wasn't in it alone any more." Her fears and concerns and joys and questions as a new parent were shared with the whole parish—and with God. "Being with a supportive community is so important," she says.

What are your own fears and concerns and joys and questions—and how do you hope the Church can share them, maybe even help answer some of them?

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By water and the Holy Spirit, your child or godchild will become a baptized Christian. From the language of the service, it's clear that baptism isn't an end in itself. It is permanent and indissoluble—baptism is forever—but it is also only the beginning: "Baptism is more than a momentary act; it is the beginning of a lifelong pilgrimage," Westerhoff reminds us. "My vocation," says Episcopal priest, professor, and writer Barbara Brown Taylor, "is to be God's person in the world.... The instant we rise dripping from the waters of baptism and the sign of the cross is made upon our foreheads, we are marked as Christ's own forever." Note some ways in which you have been "God's person in the world," ways in which you have lived out your own covenant with God, times when you felt most fully yourself, living out and into your God-given potential.

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What are some specific ways in which you, as parent or godparent, might foster your child's or godchild's full potential as an individual, and as a Christian?

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"To be called of God takes time, and to answer takes even more time," writes Sam Portaro in Crossing the Jordan. You don't have to do this all at once, just day by day by day.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Christ's Own Forever by Mary Lee Wile. Copyright © 2011 Mary Lee Wile. Excerpted by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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