Baptism at Saint Mark's
Saint Paul loved to speak and write about the people of the early churches as members of the Body of Christ. He used the metaphor to emphasize the importance of the diversity of parts as well as their unity. He (and those he taught) was very clear about how to become a part of that body: by the gift of Baptism.
Baptism is a Sacrament of the church, which means that it is a ritual act, using a specific, outward and visible sign to show us the inward, invisible gift of God's love, which we call "grace." We use this special word to describe God's love because we know that, especially in the world today, we can confuse "love" with romance, responsibility, fascination and a lot of other things. But God's grace is perfect, unconditional love, which is poured out on us whether we deserve it or not, whether we earn it or not, just because "God is love."
We believe that God calls all people, by his grace, to love him and to love one another. In Baptism, we are initiated into the household of that love, so that we never have to wonder whether or not we are a part of the Body of Christ. If we have been baptized, the answer is, Yes.
Baptism is also the sign of new life that is given to members of the Body. It is the assurance that our tendency to make mistakes, to hurt one another, and to fall short of God's highest expectations for us - all of which the church has traditionally called "sin" - will not prevent God from loving us and bringing us to the promise of salvation and the hope of new life in the world to come. We don't know what happens to us after death, we believe that life is not ended at the grave, it is changed. At the other side of the mysterious and frightening chasm of death God waits with promises of good things we cannot even imagine in this life. Baptism is the seal of assurance that these promises are meant for us.
When we have been baptized we recognize that we have entered into a covenant with God: a special relationship in which God makes promises to us (to love us and to give us the gift of new life) and we make promises to him (to be faithful by doing our best to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves).
At Saint Mark's we welcome infants (and children of any age) to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. We don't hesitate to baptize infants and children too young to make the vows for themselves because we recognize that the Sacrament is first and foremost a gift from God. A child is no less able to receive that gift than an adult. In these cases, parents and godparents make the vows on behalf of the child. It's expected that when a child reaches an appropriate age, he or she will make a public affirmation of those vows in the service of Confirmation.
Baptism is always available to adults who have not previously been baptized and whose growing faith has led them to a desire to share in the life of the Body of Christ. The church always rejoices when new members are added to the Body of Christ.
Anyone wishing to be baptized or to have their children baptized should contact one of the parish clergy.
Christians believe that the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus are the decisive acts of God's love that show us God's promise of hope. What Jesus did to bring us new life he did once and for all - Baptism is the beginning of our participation in that new life. All mainstream Christian denominations recognize the validity of baptism with water in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And if one has been baptized it is never necessary to be baptized again.
When children or adults are baptized, this makes them Christians, not a particular brand or kind of Christian: an Episcopalian or Roman Catholic or Presbyterian, etc. It is in Confirmation, that we ally ourselves with a particular denomination. While some people may decide to change denominations, this is done by Confirmation or Reception into the church. Re-baptism is never required or appropriate.
N.B. Those baptized at any age in Eastern Orthodox churches have received the ancient, unified rite of Christian initiation, which includes the anointing and laying-on-of-hands that constitutes Confirmation, and are therefore considered members of the Orthodox church.
Baptism and Eucharist
In Baptism we are made full members of Christ's Body, the church. As full members, all baptized Christians (regardless of age) are welcome to receive the Sacrament of Christ's Body and Blood in the Mass, the Holy Eucharist.
Instruction about the Mass is regularly a part of Christian Education at Saint Mark's, since we can never exhaust the rewards to be found in inquiring about the mystery of God's love. Children and adults are encouraged to take advantage of these opportunities to deepen their understanding of the faith of the church and the Sacraments.
Public and Private Baptisms
The church welcomes the inclusion of Holy Baptism as part of her public rites and Baptisms occasionally take place during the Sunday liturgies at Saint Mark's. Public Baptism is always appropriate at the Great Vigil of Easter, the beautiful night-time service that users in the greatest feast of the church year, when the whole church renews the vows made in Baptism. Certain other times of the year also present especially appropriate times to include Baptism as part of the Mass and the clergy are happy to discuss this possibility with those inquiring about the Sacrament.
Private baptisms - i.e. those that take place outside of the regular schedule of services - may also be arranged. Most often these baptisms take place around the Font, near the main doors of the church. Whenever possible we try to schedule such baptism to take place before or after a normally scheduled celebration of the Mass, the other great Sacrament of God's grace.
N.B. Some Christian denominations' discipline does not permit the reception of Sacraments in other churches. We respectfully suggest that it is a matter of conscience for members of those denominations to consider before receiving Communion at Saint Mark's.
Godparents are sponsors of a child who is presented for Baptism. They make the vows on the child's behalf, along with the parents, and must, therefore, be baptized themselves. Parents often ask special friends or family members to serve as godparents. Traditionally, boys have two godfathers and one godmother and girls have two godmothers and one godfather. This decision is entirely at the discretion of the parents.
To find out more about Baptism at Saint Mark's, please contact one of the parish clergy.