NEWS

The recovery of baptism

Reverend Canon Greg Smith

Rev. Canon Greg Smith

By Rev. Canon Greg Smith

In most parishes in this diocese, one is likely to find a note in a Sunday worship bulletin or possibly a verbal announcement that says: “All baptized Christians are encouraged to receive the bread and wine. All others are welcome to come forward for a blessing.”

Far less frequently is found a welcoming announcement of the process in which a seeking person can participate to travel more deeply with a faith community.

Is participation in the eucharist a reflection of how we value and embody the meaning of baptismal life, and how does someone become a part of that? Or is it just one of the mysterious privileges of membership?

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Synod meetings and other church gatherings were devoted to the discussion of issues surrounding the practice of baptism. In the Diocese of Huron, many may recall the work of individuals such as Patti Carlisle, Bishop Morse Robinson and Archdeacon David Woeller to have the body of the Church take seriously its practices of initiation.

Is every Christian community and every Christian eager to share baptismal life with the spiritually searching multitudes we hear about in our world today?

This work culminated in a re-commitment (at Synod and in subsequently published diocesan guidelines) to the integrity of the sacrament of baptism through several priorities:

Adult baptism is recognized as the historical norm, with the extension of infant baptism as a radical innovation that came with the expectation of a nurturing environment for faith development.

Baptisms are always celebrated at public gatherings when the Church is assembled and at a few key moments in the Christian calendar (for example, Easter, Pentecost, All Saints Day, the Baptism of Christ, patronal festivals).

Those responsible for preparing individuals and families for baptism will always make provision for adequate time and content for preparation

The role of parish sponsors for baptismal candidates is encouraged.

Parishes agreed to work collegially to support the discipline of baptism.

For some who have become engaged in the ecumenical North American network for the catechumenate – life-long formation for baptismal living — there is a lingering question of whether these still remain priorities.

Is every Christian community and every Christian (not only the clergy) eager to share baptismal life with the spiritually searching multitudes we hear about in our world today?

If we have found, among the abundance of spiritual options available, that following Jesus and entering into his way of life through death and resurrection and nurturing ourselves with the food of that life is a joyful and effective path, do we find ways to share that path meaningfully and help others into the journey?

In the recovery of a meaningful practice of Christian baptism, a first step may be to visit the website of the North American Association for the Catechumenate at www.catechumenate.org or to “like” and “join” its Facebook group (NAAC Public Group) and engage with others who feel the same.

Another opportunity may be to explore, for continuing education, the NAAC annual gathering taking place in June in Albuquerque, N.M., with input from musician Marty Haugen, Rev. Dr. Lizette Larson-Miller, professor of moral and pastoral theology at Huron University College, and Rev. Dan Benedict, abbot of the Order of St. Luke.

You might also explore the resources available at the Anglican Church of Canada website at at http://www.anglican.ca/faith/worship/catechumenate/.

Such renewal is at the heart of Christian life and practice.

Rev. Canon Greg Smith is director of field education in the faculty of theology at Huron University College and a member of the board of the North American Association for the Catechumenate.
[email protected], 519-438-7224, ext. 251.