The Sacrament of Baptism is the initiation rite in the Episcopal Church. Holy Baptism is, in the words of our Book of Common Prayer, “full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body and the Church.” In the Episcopal Church, we do practice infant baptism. In our baptismal rite, the parents and the godparents covenant to raise the child “in the Christian faith and life.” They covenant that with God’s help they will “continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers.”
Unless there is an emergency, we do not practice private baptisms. Baptisms typically take place in the context of a Sunday Eucharist service. As the parents and grandparents make promises to “continue” to attend church, to raise
their child in the Christian faith and life, the congregation covenants to “do all in their power to support these persons in their life in Christ.” Following the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, even young babies are entitled to receive Holy Communion, since they are full members of the Body of Christ.
Because of the serious nature of the commitments being made in Holy Baptism, we at St. Stephen’s do, in the absence of an emergency such as an infant’s serious illness, require that the persons presenting a child for baptism (typically the parents) regularly attend St. Stephen’s Church for at least four months before setting a date for the baptism. We think it is important for parents to have a full understanding of the commitment they are making, as well as an opportunity to experience St. Stephen’s and make an informed decision that this is the church community that they wish to be a part of with their children. We also require that the parents and (if possible) the godparents meet with the Rector before the baptism occurs to review the commitments being made. If possible, we ask that the parents make babysitting arrangements for this meeting. Finally, we also request a $200 donation which can be reduced under extenuating services.
Many times people call the church and ask, “What is the procedure for having my baby baptized at St. Stephen’s?” The answer is simple: begin attending church here. Often times it seems that parents do not understand that when in having their child baptized, they are agreeing to be part of a Christian faith community, to bring their child to church and to to grow in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Living the Christian life in the context of church community is a commitment, but it is also a great joy. After parents have regularly attended St. Stephen’s for a few months, the Rector will then be happy to discuss the matter further with you and answer any questions you may have.