York-Scarborough Bishop’s Page

Bishop Patrick and Kathy at Lambeth

Latest Best Practice:

Baptism as a congregational act

Bishop Patrick Yu

I have heard that some parishioners stay away from baptisms. At baptisms, they say, the church is taken over by strangers; there are crying children and talking guests; flash photography disrupts. Practically, their view is often obscured by a wall of standing sponsors.

I have Kathy to thank for asking me where to worship on All Saints morning. I wasn’t scheduled until the afternoon. At a whim, I suggested going to the Church of the Transfiguration. To my surprise it was a baptism. There I saw something which reminded me of a best practice in other places in the Area as well.

We were treated with good music. An oboe, a cellist and a pianist played before and through the service. The choir was not robed and sang beautifully. What was different from many baptisms I have witnessed was that the congregation was invited to move to the font, which is at the back of the church. They crowded around and some stood people on pews. When people took pictures, it was somehow not disruptive. The prayers were taken by various members of the congregation. It was a visible sign of the congregation gathering and supporting the incoming family. Whatever it was, it was not boring. You will have heard me rant about unproductive silence while readers and intercessors parade up to the front. In this service every participant was in place for their part, and the whole service of baptism, with movements, was one hour and five minutes. You can watch all or part of that service on their website at churchofthetransfiguration.ca.

At a recent discussion about baptism at Momentum with newly ordained clergy, I introduced the idea that there are three main parties at a baptism: God, the candidate and his or her sponsors, and the congregation. Baptism is a gift and a sign for the Church as much if not more than for the individual. Any way to get church members involved highlights this important truth.

Lastly, I want to emphasize that this “best practice” involve no innovation, no re-writing of the Creed or other parts of the liturgy, only thoughtful application of our own liturgy.

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