Baptism

Dear Parents,

 

Congratulations! You are in the midst of that wonderful and sacred mystery that is parenthood.  It’s fun, exhausting, exhilarating, frustrating, and joyful.  And all at the same time!

 

As you think about the baptism of your child, know that we’re here to help make it happen.  It doesn’t matter whether you are an Episcopalian or even a regular churchgoer.  God desires the baptism of your child, and that’s all that matters.

 

By seeking to have your child baptized, you have recognized that there is something deeper in this life than what exists on the surface.  There is a divine presence among us, something greater than ourselves.  Baptism is a wonderful first step in deepening our awareness of that divine presence and nourishing it in our children.  For baptism is all about our relationship to God and to others. 

 

St. Stephen’s is a vibrant spiritual community, a place of welcome and spiritual nurture for children and adults. Whether you and your family choose to join us on this journey of faith now or in the future, we are thankful to be sharing in this special moment in your lives. The door is always open. Our primary concern at this point is to assist you with the baptism of your child. Through it, your child will be marked as Christ’s own forever. And this is something in which we can all rejoice.

 

This is an exciting time for you. Enjoy it!

 

Please feel free to contact the Parish Office directly about arranging the baptism of your child at ststephensolean@gmail.com or phone 716-372-5628. Also feel free to download and print the Baptism Information Form and mail it back to us with the information we need to get started. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

 

Baptism:  A Guide for Parents

 

We’re not members of St. Stephen’s. Can we still have our child baptized?

Yes! It is baptism that makes your child a member of the church and, more importantly, establishes an indelible bond with God in Jesus Christ. We hope that through the baptism, you will consider becoming an active participant in the life and ministry of the Episcopal Parish of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

 

When can we have our child baptized?

There are four principal days for Baptism in the Episcopal Church: All Saints’ Sunday, the Baptism of Jesus, the Easter Vigil and Pentecost. With the exception of All Saints’ Sunday (the first Sunday after November 1st) these are “moveable” feasts. Easter is usually in April, Pentecost is 50 days after Easter, and the Baptism of Jesus is in January.  Other Sundays are available for Baptism by discussing this with the Priest. We do not conduct Baptisms during the season of Lent.

 

Does the church perform private baptisms?

No. All baptisms take place within the context of the Sunday morning service (either at 8:00 or 10:30 am). Since baptism is the welcoming of a new member into the household of God and the specific community that is St. Stephen’s Church, baptisms take place in the midst of the community’s weekly celebration.

 

Does the church charge a fee for baptisms?

There is no fee charged for the sacraments of the church. A gift to the church in the name of the baptized child is always appropriate and gratefully received. An offering of $100 is suggested for non-members of St. Stephen’s Church.

 

What does baptism mean in the Episcopal Church?

The Book of Common Prayer tells 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.” The Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer is also helpful.

 

It follows below:

Q. What is Holy Baptism?
A. Holy Baptism is the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and makes us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God.
Q. What is the outward and visible sign in Baptism?
A. The outward and visible sign in Baptism is water, in which the person is baptized in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Q. What is the inward and spiritual grace in Baptism?
A. The inward and spiritual grace in Baptism is union with Christ in his death and resurrection, birth into God’s family the Church, forgiveness of sins, and new life in the Holy Spirit.
Q. What is required of us at Baptism?
A. It is required that we renounce Satan, repent of our sins, and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
Q. Why then are infants baptized?
A. Infants are baptized so that they can share citizenship in the Covenant, membership in Christ, and redemption by God.

Q. How are the promises for infants made and carried out?
A. Promises are made for them by their parents and sponsors, who guarantee that the infants will be brought up within the Church, to know Christ and be able to follow him

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Is there a form we need to send in?

Yes. There is a Baptismal information sheet that is filled out and returned to the parish office.

 

 

 

Do we need to meet with the parish priest?

In the weeks prior to the baptism, the parish priest will hold a session on baptism for the family and any available godparents. Discussion revolves around the meaning and significance of the Baptismal rite and includes a brief run-through of the logistics. This is to make sure you are able to be fully present for your child’s baptism and not worry about where to stand, what to say, etc.

 

What about Godparents?

Godparents, or Sponsors, play an important role in your child’s baptism. They must be baptized Christians who promise to help raise the child in the Christian life and faith. Careful consideration should be given to who in your life is willing and able to take on this role.

 

When can our child receive Communion?

Any baptized member of the church, regardless of age, may partake in Holy Communion. Since baptism is the primary entrance rite of the church, we consider any baptized person a full member of the church. As such, there is no “first Communion” in the Episcopal Church. While we encourage children to receive Communion, we leave this to the parents’ discretion.

 

Now what? If you’re interested in baptism for your child, contact the Parish Office at either ststephensolean@gmail.com or 716-372-5628 to find out the next step.

 

Final note. We recognize that Baptism is a joyous occasion and family and friends want to take many pictures. However we ask that there be no flash photography during the ceremony. Feel free to take as many pictures as you like after the service.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Confirmation:

 

The Book of Common Prayer says of confirmation that, “In the course of their Christian development, those baptized at an early age are expected, when they are ready and have been duly prepared, to make a mature public affirmation of their faith and commitment to the responsibilities of their baptism and to receive the laying on of hands by the bishop. Those baptized as adults are also expected to make a public affirmation of their faith” (BCP 412).

So the rite of confirmation is indelibly tied to baptism – not the completion of it but an affirmation of the vows made either on behalf of an infant or by an adult. While confirmation doesn’t make a person any more of a Christian, it is a rite of Christian commitment; an important part of living out one’s life in Christ.

St. Stephen’s offers confirmation preparation for adults and teenagers who desire to make a public commitment to Jesus Christ in front of the bishop. Any adult interested in confirmation should make this desire known to the rector. As needed we offer an adult confirmation classes. The course includes basic instruction on Anglican church history, the Book of Common Prayer, the sacraments, Scripture, church doctrine, spirituality, and church polity.

Bishop Franklin prefers that those presented for confirmation be a minimum of 15 years old – or turning 15 during the current academic year. As such, teenage confirmation classes are offered for teens 15 years of age or who will be 15 on the date of confirmation. Classes meet regularly and are taught by the Priest and other Adult members of St. Stephen’s Church. Confirmation takes place during the Bishop’s pastoral visit to St. Stephen’s Church.

It is important to note that participation in this process does not obligate the student to be confirmed. A student may withdraw at any point, or even decide not to be confirmed at the end of a successfully completed program. Part of the process of becoming a mature Christian is being ready to make a commitment to Christ on one’s own.

There are certain expectations for teenagers engaged in the confirmation class. First, since participation is voluntary, a positive outlook and a willingness to engage the faith is the most important expectation. Each student is expected to attend every class. While there may be circumstances where this is not possible, full attendance is the norm.

The role of the parents is vital to this process. First, each parent must support their child in this process while allowing them the freedom to delay or withdraw if they desire. Parental worship life and discussions about faith will also have an indelible effect on the inquiring process of their children. Help them to keep this process a priority in the busy schedule that is part of a student’s school life.

Teenagers or adults who choose not to be confirmed are still considered full participants of this community of faith. While the Episcopal Church assumes that adults will seek confirmation at some point along their faith journey, confirmation is not a requirement for participation in church activities or programs.

 

 

Thoughts on Confirmation for Older Teens

 

In light of the Bishop’s preference that teens be a minimum of 15 years of age for confirmation, and my own experience with confirmation classes over the years, having a minimum confirmation age seems like a natural progression., it is, after all, a “mature public affirmation of faith” as the Prayer Book notes. I would ultimately like to see this rite driven solely by those who desire to make a public commitment to Jesus Christ (something that transcends age).

 

There is some confusion surrounding confirmation. This is partly due to the fact that the Episcopal Church’s understanding and theology of confirmation has shifted in the past generation. For some who grew up in the Episcopal Church, confirmation was, at one time, required before the reception of communion. This changed with the Prayer Book revision of the 1970’s, which put greater emphasis on the sacrament of baptism (getting back to the ancient roots of the early church). This also means that confirmation does not “complete” baptism or make anyone any more of a Christian. Baptism is the full initiation rite of the Christian church – baptized members of the church, regardless of age, are full members of the Christian community. Confirmation is a way of “confirming” the baptismal vows made on behalf of those baptized as infants or the vows made by those who could speak for themselves. Still, for some, change from what they experienced as children regarding confirmation can be disconcerting.

 

But I also want to be clear that confirmation is not a “puberty rite;” it is a rite of commitment, not a rite of passage. One that must be driven by the individual Christian rather than parental pressure.

 

Through my own experience with older teens, I know I can get into deeper spiritual and theological conversations with 15 to 16 year olds than with 13 or 14 year olds. This doesn’t mean all 15 or 16 year olds are ready to make a mature public affirmation of the faith; nor does it mean that all 13 or 14 year olds are uniformly unable to make such an affirmation. But having some guidelines takes the guessing out of the equation and provides some clarity.

 

At the heart of any confirmation class are the relationships. Relationship with God, relationship with adult mentors (both clergy and lay), and peer relationships. This, of course, transcends the rite of confirmation and these relationships are all life-long ones. Effective confirmation preparation for teenagers requires full commitment from the candidates’ families. This includes regular church attendance, participation in the life of the faith community, and the modeling of Christian faith and practice. Anything less works against the desired outcome of helping our young people live out committed lives of faith.