One of the most moving commemorations for me on the Church Calendar is the Feast of All Saints. We will celebrate All Saints this year on Sunday, November 4 (although the official date for this feast is November 1).
According to the Episcopal Church’s Lesser Feasts and Fasts, which is a supplement to the Book of Common Prayer, All Saints came into being out of a need for Christian people “… to express the intercommunion of the living and the dead in the Body of Christ.” In other words, All Saints is a reminder that through Baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we who are alive in this life are still connected with, in communion with, our loved ones who have died and are now in the direct presence of God.
Since the living and the dead are still connected in Christ, the liturgy on that day will begin with a necrology, special prayers for those in the St. John’s community who have died in the previous year. These prayers are rooted in the Church’s observance of All Faithful Departed (November 2).
Because of what All Saints means, it is a Principal Feast of the Church. It is also one of the four observances on the Church Calendar when Holy Baptism is especially appropriate (along with the Baptism of our Lord, the Easter Vigil, and Pentecost).
Thus, St. John’s will celebrate Holy Baptism on the Feast of All Saints: Sunday, November 4.
Instruction for Holy Baptism will be held on Saturday, October 20 from 9am to Noon. This instruction is required for the Baptismal Candidates, their parents and godparents (for infants), or sponsors (adults). And on Sunday, October 21 at the 10:30am service, I will introduce the Baptismal Candidates, parents, godparents (or sponsors) to the St. John’s community, offer a prayer for them, and invite the community to pray for them in the days and weeks leading up to the Baptism.
The Book of Common Prayer offers clear guidelines for those who desire Baptism (page 298):
“Each candidate for Holy Baptism is to be sponsored by one or more baptized persons.”
“Sponsors of adults and older children present their candidates and thereby signify their endorsement of the candidates and their intention to support them by prayer and example in their Christian life. Sponsors of infants, commonly called godparents, present their candidates, make promises in their own names, and also take vows on behalf of their candidates.”
“It is fitting that parents be included among the godparents of their own children. Parents and godparents are to be instructed in the meaning of Baptism, in their duties to help the new Christians grow in the knowledge and love of God, and in their responsibilities as members of his Church.”
Before contacting me about Holy Baptism, parents and godparents should be able to answer with integrity the questions posed in the Baptismal liturgy. The questions directed towards parents and godparents from page 304 are as follows:
“Will you be responsible for seeing that the child you present is brought up in the Christian faith and life?”
“Will you by your prayers and witness help this child to grow into the full stature of Christ?”
The Catechism asserts parents and godparents will “… guarantee that the infants will be brought up within the Church, to know Christ and be able to follow him” (page 859).
If parents and godparents can faithfully answer “I will, with God’s help”, as directed in the Prayer Book, they must then consider the question posed to the congregation, since Baptism is not a private act.
Those in attendance are asked: “Will you who witness these vows do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ?” The congregation is asked to willingly and proactively have a role in seeing that those presented for Baptism are brought up in the Christian faith and life, and grow into the full stature of Christ.
The liturgy in the Book of Common Prayer (not to mention the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians) tells us that while there is only one Baptism, Baptism is more than a one-time event. It is a lifelong commitment on the parts of the Baptismal Candidate, parents, godparents, and congregation. Baptism is a Sacrament of the Church with eternal implications.
If you are interested in deepening your commitment to Christ and his Church through Baptism, or if you have any questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (989) 793-9573, extension 2.