"Let them come to me"
While we believe that baptism is based upon a personal decision to follow Christ, a choice best made at a later stage in life, we do, however, also believe that children born into our congregation belong to Jesus and to the church in a special way. They are an integral part of the people of God and share in the life and experiences of this congregation. As Jesus said,
(Matthew 19:14 NRSV)
"Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs."
Because of this, following the birth of a child in our fellowship, we consecrate them to the Lord in a special service held during Sunday worship.
This service is the occasion for a child to be received and welcomed by our congregation. It is also a time for both parents and congregation to dedicate ourselves to the raising of this child in the faith. We express our thanks to God for this precious creation, and pray for strength and guidance in the days ahead.
After all, parenting is an awesome responsibility. Yes, we desire health and happiness for our children. We also want them to have faith in God, which is not a given in this age of doubt. To help them grow in grace and truth, we need all the help we can get. We believe that parents do not stand alone. In the church, a child has many mentors that assist along the way - as teachers, role models, and encouragers. Parents do, also.
Thatís what this service is about. Of course, it works no magic. It cannot automatically insure a childís salvation or protection. Neither is it simply a social obligation, an occasion for a party for friends and family. Its value lies in the faith of the parents, the nurturing responsibility of our congregation, and the providence of a loving God. Jesus was once asked,
(Matthew 18:1-6, 10, 14 NRSV)
"Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He called a child, whom he put among them, and said, "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were fastened around your neck and you were drowned in the depth of the sea... Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.... So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost."
We believe that Godís grace richly covers our "little ones." There is a time for "adult" decisions to be made, when all of us become ultimately accountable for our choices. As we have said, baptism is reserved for those times, when we conscientiously decide to follow in Jesusí steps, continuing his work. Until then we trust in Godís grace and wisdom to, together, raise our children in the faith.
In our congregation, we want each service of consecration to be personal, even when more than one child and his or her parents are dedicated. The family is invited forward, and after some initial remarks, the parents are asked to make some promises concerning their important role in raising this child. As some families involve a single parent, these vows are adapted to fit their needs. Church parents or sponsors may also join in dedicating themselves to the task. Then the congregation promises to receive and nurture this child, as well as her or his parents.
One of the most joyous parts of the service is the actual consecration, when the pastor takes this precious bundle into his arms, shows him or her to everyone assembled, gives a spoken dedication, and prays. Of course, not every child finds this so enjoyable and lets us know it. However, itís remarkable how most often they face these moments with the same wonder that they face every new experience. And we who see it are filled with wonder, also.
A sample dedication service can be viewed here. If you are seeking more information on adult baptism, check out "Count Well the Cost"
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