What is Baptism and what is its purpose?
Baptism is one of seven sacraments, each of which can be a considered a special embrace of Christ. Baptism is the first of the sacraments, the gateway to the Christian life and to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and become members of Christ, incorporated into His Body, the Church, and sharers in His mission.
This sacrament is called Baptism after its central rite: to baptize (Greek baptizein) means to “plunge” or “immerse”. The “plunge” into the water symbolizes burial into Christ's death, from which one rises with Christ “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), reborn children of God, sharers in the very life of God. As the great theologian of the early Church, Saint Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 390), says, “We call Baptism gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift”.
At the Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes, we delight in welcoming the newly baptized into this portion of the Body of Christ that is our parish community, and we promise to do all in our power to support you in your life in Christ.
Who can be baptized?
Anyone who is drawn to Jesus Christ is welcome to receive the sacrament of Baptism. God’s invitation extends to people of all ages and from every background. Indeed, in Christ, we find ourselves beyond usual human categories: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus”. (Galatians 3:28)
When a child is baptized, it is the parents and godparents who make promises on behalf of the child. In this case, God honors the bond between child and parent (and godparent) and God responds to the faith and hope of these.
Can little children really be baptized?
Yes, of course! “Let the little children come to me”, Jesus says (Matthew 19:14). The gift of grace is God’s initiative and its reception does not depend upon our awareness or understanding. The fruit that it bears in our lives, however, does depend on our cooperation. Hence, the important role that parents and godparents play in raising the awareness of children to the gift that they have been given.
Must we be registered parishioners or regular givers?
No. We welcome everyone. Period. As Baptism incorporates into the Body of Christ, the Church, we do, nonetheless, invite you to consider the importance of belonging to and taking root in a specific community. We hope that the Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes might be your spiritual home for this chapter of your spiritual journey.
What happens if we decide to postpone Baptism of our child?
God provides. But, why wait? Sometimes, parents prefer to let their children make an informed choice at a later age. Know, however, that the gift of grace does not force anything in a child, that there is no one more respectful of personal freedom than Christ and that choices are typically better informed by experience from within than by speculation from without.
What do I do if I don’t know if I was ever baptized?
No problem; we have that covered. Although we consider Baptism a unique sacrament celebrated only once, we do have the ability to celebrate what is called a “conditional Baptism” in circumstances like these—just in case!
I was baptized elsewhere; do I need to be baptized again?
Usually not. Baptism is Baptism. You could have been baptized in the Roman part or the Baptist part of the Church. As long as water was used and an invocation of the Holy Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) was made, we recognized and rejoice in your Baptism.
When are baptisms celebrated?
The calendar of the Christian Church has four feast days on which Baptisms are especially appropriate. They are
The Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, in January
The Great Vigil of Easter in early spring
The Day of Pentecost, in late spring, and
The Feast of All Saints in November.
We encourage Baptisms on these joyous occasions.
However, if circumstances necessitate a different date, we will try to accommodate your need. Please keep in mind that Baptisms are not celebrated on Sundays during the season of Lent (from Ash Wednesday through the Great Vigil of Easter) and are not encouraged during Advent (the four weeks preceding Christmas).
As Baptism incorporates into the Body of Christ, the Church, Baptisms are typically celebrated during public worship, rather than in a private ceremony. Such public worship is the Mass, Holy Eucharist. During the Baptism, members of the entire congregation renew their own baptismal promises and welcome the newly baptized into the community of faith.
Who can be godparents?
Every candidate for Baptism is accompanied in his or her faith journey by at least one godparent (sponsor in the case of adults). The commitment of the latter is to support the candidate in the Christian life. One godparent must be a baptized Christian, preferably an Episcopalian. Anyone else can additionally serve in this role, as long as the individual is sincere in promising to support the candidate’s spiritual growth as a member of the Christian community.
How do I prepare for baptism?
Pray! Otherwise, practically speaking, the clergy will gather the parents, godparents, candidates, and other family in advance of the service, to explore the meaning of Baptism and to review the details of the service. We also encourage you to come to church regularly in advance of the Baptism. During the time of preparation, candidates do well to reflect prayerfully on the five promises of the Baptismal Covenant (found in the Book of Common Prayer, pp.304-305). These serve as a foundation for our commitment to Christ. Baptism is but the beginning of the faith journey.
How much does Baptism cost?
There is no charge for Baptism or any other sacrament of the Church. God’s love is freely bestowed upon all people, and thus Baptism comes without a price tag.
Many people, however, feel called to make a monetary donation in thanksgiving for the occasion of a Baptism. These donations are deposited into the Rector’s discretionary fund (for purposes of charity) and are welcome and most appreciated. These contributions are fully tax-deductible. Checks may be made payable to “Ascension and St. Agnes Parish.” Please write “Rector’s Discretionary Fund” in the memorandum line, and give your donation directly to the priest.
What about pictures?
As flash photography and spotlighted video are distracting to the congregation and the liturgical ministers, we invite you to make any recordings without these. Anyone with photographic ability will be able to remain discreet and yet take photographs suitable for any family album. All professional photographers or videographers must consult with the priest before the Baptism, to ensure understanding of this policy.
How do I schedule a baptism?
When you are ready to request a specific date, the process is quite simple. Please contact our Parish Administrator at the parish office: (202) 559-7741 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also fill out the form below and return it to the parish administrator at least two weeks before the baptism date.