Frequently Asked Questions
Baptism of Elliot Jacobs, November 4, 2018
The birth or adoption of a child is a joyful occasion within the life of a family. Here at All Saints by the Lake, we are delighted if the arrival of your baby leads you and your family to seek Christian community with us. Baptism, however, is much more than a simple celebration of birth; it is initiation into the life of Christian faith, and it comes with serious commitments.
What does baptism mean?
The Book of Alternative Services (BAS), our main worship book, states: “Baptism is the sign of new life in Christ. Baptism unites Christ with his people … to be a Christian is to be part of a new creation which rises from the dark waters of Christ’s death into the dawn of his risen life.”
Baptism is a profound change with lifelong consequences. The sponsors of an infant being baptized make promises that are just as serious as the promises made by a couple at their wedding: they affirm their faith in the traditional Creeds of the Church and promise to bring up the child within the community of faith, to participate in worship, to commit to forgiveness as a way of life, and to express their faith in public by word and deed. The details of this “baptismal covenant” can be found on pages 158-9 of the BAS, and will be gone over in detail at the preparation session before the baptism service.
However, you will not be undertaking this commitment alone. All Saints is full of wonderful, committed people of all ages and walks of life who will be delighted to get to know you, worship and pray alongside you, and help you and your children to understand what this Christian way of life means. All of us are figuring this out together, day by day. All you have to do is show up!
How can I schedule my child’s baptism?
The expectation in the Anglican Church is that baptism will take place at the principal worship service of the congregation, which at All Saints would typically be 10 AM on Sunday. To the extent possible, we try to concentrate baptism on the four major feasts of the church on which they are particularly appropriate: the Baptism of Christ (early January), Easter (late March to late April), Pentecost (early May to mid-June) and All Saints’ Sunday (the first Sunday in November). It may not be possible to schedule a baptism with less than a month’s notice. The best way to get to know us is always to come to church on Sunday morning (or to Messy Church on Friday evening!) and take it from there.
If there are health or personal reasons why a Sunday morning service does not work for you and your family, let us know and we can certainly be flexible. And in a genuine emergency where a life is at stake, call Grace at 438-334-0610 and I will come to your home or the hospital, or talk you through administering an emergency baptism yourself. Baptisms under emergency circumstances are then celebrated with the gathered church community at a later date.
What if I, an adult (or my older child) wants to be baptized?
These are our favourite kinds of baptisms! People old enough “to answer for themselves” (generally considered to be about 7 and up, though some younger children may desire, and be able, to fit in this category) make the baptismal commitment for themselves, rather than having parents and sponsors make it for them. Those old enough to answer for themselves can still be accompanied by sponsors if they have friends or family members who would like to publicly commit to supporting them in faith.
What if we’re not ready to commit to being part of this faith community?
We deeply appreciate your honesty! If you’re not ready to make the baptismal promises for yourself or on behalf of your child, you can still celebrate the birth or adoption of your baby in church. There is a service called Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child (p. 606 in the BAS) which is suitable for this situation. And, of course, you are welcome to join us for worship, get to know this community, and if at any time you feel ready to make the promises of baptism, we would be delighted to arrange it.
But if something terrible happens and my baby isn’t baptized, will my baby go to hell?
Absolutely not. In the Anglican Church, our understanding of hell is that God doesn’t “send” anyone there. Everyone who desires and seeks God, will find God. And an innocent baby is incapable of rejecting God.
Do I need godparents?
Baptismal sponsors, commonly known as “godparents” are customary, but not required. Of course, when an infant or young child is baptized, someone (usually one or both parents) makes the promises on their behalf. Any additional sponsors should be baptized Christians who are willing to make those same promises: to affirm their Christian faith publicly in the words of the Creed, and to be present and support the child throughout their life. Godparents do not need to be family members, or of a particular gender. It should also be clearly understood that baptismal sponsorship does not create any form of legal relationship: if you want to assign a particular individual as guardian of your child should anything happen to you, you will still need to make a will.
I’m not in a heterosexual marriage. Is that a problem?
Absolutely not. The Anglican Diocese of Montreal is fully affirming of LGBTQ+ families, and we also marry and ordain LGBTQ+ people. Likewise, if you are a single parent, unmarried couple, grandparent raising grandchildren, or any similar configuration in which children are being loved and cared for by family of blood, marriage, adoption, or choice, we want to welcome you to this community.
How is Baptism related to receiving Holy Communion?
In the Anglican Church of Canada, baptism is full initiation into the body of Christ (the Church, the family of God). No additional preparation is required before beginning to receive Holy Communion. If your child is able to chew and swallow the wafer on the day they are baptized, that is the best time to begin; I myself was baptized at the age of four months and cannot remember a time when I was not welcome at the communion table.
If you are starting to come to church with an older, already baptized child who has not previously received the bread, and you would like to make an occasion of their first communion, please let us know.
What if I’m already baptized but want to publicly affirm my faith?
If you have been baptized with water in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, then you are validly baptized in the eyes of the Anglican Church. However, there are several options for older children and adults who are already baptized to make a public commitment to the faith.
Confirmation (the laying on of hands by the bishop with specific prayers for the presence of the Holy Spirit) is most common as a rite by which people baptized as infants formally take responsibility for the vows made on their behalf by parents and godparents. However, people baptized as adults or older children may also receive confirmation, since it also constitutes the completion of one’s membership specifically in the Anglican Church, as opposed to the whole Christian faith.
If you have already been confirmed by a bishop (for example, in the Roman Catholic Church) and wish to formally transfer membership to the Anglican Church, this would be done in a service of Reception, which is very similar to Confirmation.
Finally, anyone who was baptized earlier in life and wishes to recommit to those vows may arrange a service of Reaffirmation. Frequently, Confirmation, Reception and Reaffirmation all take place in the same service, depending on the exact circumstances of the candidates.
As we strive to live out our faith in Jesus in community together, we are guided by this beautiful prayer from the baptism service: Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.
We welcome your questions, and we are so glad you’re on this journey with us!