What might a baptismal ceremony look like if it avoided the dualism and the Fall/Redemption language of traditional Christian services?
For a start, it would avoid any reference to the ritual bringing “new life” or “taking away sin” or making the baptized “a child of God”.
It would avoid prayers addressed to an elsewhere God.
It would affirm universal connectedness with the Mystery we call “God”.
It would affirm the sacredness of human love.
It would mirror Jesus words and actions by urging parents and family to recognize their intimate connectedness with God in and through their love.
It would challenge people; this ceremony is definitely not just a social convention – and people should understand this. Sacraments are NOT comfort zones.
Presider: Welcome, everyone, to this baptismal liturgy in which we give thanks for the wonder of life and express our belief that human love is intimately linked with the Mystery we call God.
Baptism literally means “dipping into”. There are two significant ways of understanding this. One is the dipping into or being immersed in water. The other is from the Greek understanding of the word: Imagine someone wanting to dye cloth and dipping the cloth into a mixture, then taking it out and looking to see if the colour has taken, then maybe dipping it in again. In this sense, baptism is not just a one-off event. We need to constantly “dip into” the story of Jesus so that his convictions about our intimate, loving relationship with the mystery we call “God” may colour our lives.
So let us begin by dipping into or sharing something of what we believe.
[Each statement can be read by a different reader. Let us imagine the child to be baptized is to be named Mary Jo. Each reader may wish to come forward and touch/hold Mary Jo as he/she reads the “We believe…” statement.
The “We want … “ sentence may be used as a response by all present or be read by the reader.]
We believe that when we live in love, we live in God and God lives in us.
We want Mary Jo to be immersed in this belief.
We believe that the mystery we call God comes to visibility in human form in each of us. We want Mary Jo to be immersed in this belief.
We believe that God’s presence and activity are shown in Mary Jo’s parents and family in their love for Mary Jo. We want Mary Jo to be immersed in this belief.
We believe that the life and teaching of Jesus set us free from fear of God. We want Mary Jo to be immersed in this belief.
We believe that the Church exists to affirm God’s loving presence with us and to challenge us to give witness to this presence in our love for one another. We want Mary Jo to be immersed in this belief.
People brought little children to him, for him to lay his hand on them and say a prayer. The disciples turned them away, but Jesus said, “let the little children alone, and do not stop them coming to me, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs. Then he laid his hands on them.” (Matthew 19:13-15)
Presider might like to share thoughts on:
What did Jesus “see” in children?
What might his prayer for them have been?
What might his prayer for Mary Jo be?
What does the contemporary story about our universe tell us about this child?
Eg. All the atoms in this body were manufactured in an exploding star billions of years ago – a cosmic journey – now taking shape in this extraordinary life form.
Whatever it is that holds and sustains everything in existence comes to visibility/expression in this child.
Who are we? A life-form that gives “God” a way of coming to expression.
This is the Wow! of human life.
And we – we are the presence of that same God for this child.
Invite those present to come forward and touch, bless Mary Jo in the belief that their touch and presence are the best means God has of touching and being present to her.
Have several people ready to share a spontaneous or prepared prayer/hope/wish for Mary Jo.
If prepared, avoid prayers that address an elsewhere God. Rather, let them be sharings or longings from the heart.
Mary Jo, may you know all throughout your life the joy and security of family and friends who will love you unconditionally.
Mary Jo, all through life may you draw strength and wisdom from the Spirit of Love always with you.
Parental Commitment: Presider: To Parents and Sponsors.
Is it your wish that we now baptise Mary Jo into the faith we Christians profess about our relationship with God ?
Parents and Sponsors: Yes
Will you do everything possible to ensure Mary Jo is nurtured in this faith, so that her faith is healthy and strong?
Parents and Sponsors Yes.
Mary Jo, you were conceived in love and welcomed to life with love. We anoint you with this oil in recognition that human love is sacred, that you are sacred. May the presence of the Spirit of Love in you be nurtured and constantly affirmed by your family, by your friends and by the Church community.
Stole, white garment. Optional:
The baby is presented with a stole or white garment.. A stole is probably preferable since it can be kept as a reminder of the occasion:
Maybe have the grandparents present it, with words such as:
Mary Jo, we present you with this stole. May it remind you all your life that you carry in the depths of your being, in your loving and in all that makes you who you are, the Spirit of Life and Love itself. May that Spirit richly bless you in all you do.
The sponsors/godparents light a decorated candle from the Easter candle, if present, and “present” it to Mary Jo with the words:
Mary Jo, may this candle remind you throughout your life of Jesus, who opened peoples’ minds and hearts to see the “light” of God’s presence within them. May his teaching and example enlighten you to walk humbly and confidently with your God throughout life and may it challenge you to allow the light of God’s presence to shine in you.
Final Prayer and Blessings To the Parents: We rejoice, N and N, in seeing the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Love and Life, in your love for each other, your love for your family and your love for your friends. We gladly join with you today in giving thanks for the wonderful gift of your shared love, Mary Jo, whom we have just baptised.
I bless you in the name of your friends and in the name of the Church community + with the prayer that you will continue to be richly blessed in the fruits of love as you live in love, knowing that the Source of all Love lives in you.
To the Congregation:
We all live in love. May we all continue to draw affirmation and encouragement from the faith which connects our loving with the mystery we call “God” and may the Spirit of Love bless us + and challenge us in all we do.
[Leadership in the Catholic Church in Brisbane and Sydney (and you can be sure that Melbourne is in agreement with them) has strongly criticized priests who do not use the “correct formula” at baptism, ie “ I baptise you in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit” – asserting that the baptisms may thereby be invalid. This is a classic example of reducing sacraments to magic: they do not work without the correct formula; God will not “come”, original sin will not be washed away; the child will not become a child of God; membership of the Church is to be denied – all because the only acceptable words were not uttered. Such thinking by members of the Catholic hierarchy reflects their unwillingness or incapacity to think outside the parameters of Medieval sacramental theology. Cf the article on Sacraments and the New Story on this website]