Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Observations on a Baptism

Sunday’s bulletin coverA charming little boy, Emerson Paul Goerk, was baptized at the 10:45 service Sunday. It was not a
traditional day for baptisms, of course, but that no longer seems to be a consideration at St. Paul’s.

The “Additional Directions” regarding Baptism on page 312 of the BCP begins with the following paragraph:
Holy Baptism is especially appropriate at the Easter Vigil, on the Day of Pentecost, on All Saints’ Day or the Sunday after All Saints’ Day, and on the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord (the First Sunday after the Epiphany). It is recommended that, as far as possible, Baptisms be reserved for these occasions or when a bishop is present.
I have advocated that we try harder to confine baptisms to the recommended occasions, but my suggestions have not been well received.

There are several improvements we could make to our baptisms, most of which used to be standard practice at St. Paul’s.

We used to indicate in the bulletin that flash photography is forbidden during the service. This admonition is unnecessary for ordinary services, but it is relevant to weddings and baptisms. I don’t think that this forgotten rule was violated Sunday, but it surely has been recently.

We used to have two spotlights aimed at the pulpit and two aimed at the font. In past times, these spots were lit only when highlighting was needed. Changing lighting treatments during a service is no longer practiced at St. Paul’s. Moreover, the four spots are no longer aimed where they used to be. They all seem to be more or less aimed at the altar. Someone actually asked me the last time we had a baptism why the font was so dark. This is why.

We used to begin a service with the cover atop the font. The celebrant lifted the cover before water was poured. The effect was dramatic. Like most other drama at St. Paul’s this little act has been eliminated. The font cover is lifted from the font before the service begins and is only returned to its resting position after the service is over.

There is one practice that I would like to see that, so far as I know, has never been the practice at our church. A baptism is a significant event in the life of a person and a family. The bulletin should clearly and conspicuously announce the names of those being baptized. Worshipers want to know, and the bulletin becomes a keepsake. As a keepsake, it would be thoughtful if the name or names of baptismal candidates were more than just small footnotes in the bulletin. One had to read the last sentence of the Prayer List on Sunday—the last sentence in the bulletin, actually—to learn that Emerson was being baptized. Additionally, the event of Baptism and the actual person or persons being initiated into Christ’s Church, should be worked into the sermon. This is an important event. We should act like it is.

The cover of Sunday’s bulletin is shown above. Ideally, the baptism of Emerson should have been announced on this page, though the objection will be raised that the same bulletin is used for the Saturday and 8 AM Sunday service. If we eliminated the advertising about how great we are on the cover, Emerson could have been given a square inch or two. Wouldn’t that be thoughtful—welcoming, even?

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