Friday, December 03, 2010

Joseph's Baptism

Sunday was a major milestone not only in Joseph's life, and the life of our family, but in the life of Xenia Naz as well.  It may have been the first infant baptism ever at my church, and certainly the first one done like this.

I ended up tweaking a few things in the final version of the liturgy under the advisement of our assistant District Superintendent, who is presently serving as our interim pastor.  He was remarkably supportive of all this, and did a fantastic job "setting up" the baptism. (You can listen to his comments/explanation during the first 5-6 min of his sermon from Sunday - although I encourage you to listen to the whole thing - it is masterful....and he invokes Rob Staples, so bonus points for that!)

All in all, it was wonderful.  Immediately after the service, I found myself in several conversations, most of which were of the "so-we-actually-do-that?" variety...and not in an offended or concerned (heh) sense, but more arising from intrigue/fascination/curiosity.  The most thorough discussion I had was with a woman with a Catholic background who sings in my choir.  Her elementary-age daughter was baptized in the Catholic church, and I think she just genuinely wanted to know whether that baptism was valid...legit...sufficient.  I told her: absolutely.

Also, let the record show that my dad did a exceptional job officiating, especially in a "scripted" context that is a bit outside his comfort zone.  Events like this remind me and Gloria what a means of grace our family is.  And although I teased my dad a bit about dousing Joseph six times (correct me if I'm wrong: I think this was a "sextuple affusion"...?) instead of the traditional three, I have to agree with my friend Jeremy's comment: "Make that grace as visible as possible." Amen.

How would a ritual like this fly at your church?  What about the church you grew up in?

(If you'd like a .doc version of the liturgy so you can use/amend it, email me.)


Joseph said...

Welcome to the Family, Joseph!!!

Jeremy D. Scott said...

Nice! Welcome, Joseph.

We've had six infants baptized in the time I've been at North Street Community. Three of those were mine. All four of mine were baptized (my oldest before we got here on Christmas Day 2005, which was a Sunday that year). My girls were baptized on Pentecost 2007, which made it nice to have the red paraments, which I prefer to white as representative of the Church. My youngest, Brysen, was baptized this past March on Lent C5. For each of my children, I played "dad" for most of the time with the grandfathers (both Nazarene elders) overseeing the liturgy.

I've had little negative feedback with any of the six at North Street. One time that I did was when we baptized another of the infants of the church. A Nazarene elder who was in attendance that day sent me a whole email asking how it was that I could wear a robe and stole for a "nonsacramental ritual." It was a good opportunity to talk to him about it. I'm sure he still disagrees, despite the Manual. But we love each other. :-)

It's also been a great opportunity to talk with these young parents about what it means to bring a child up in the Church community as well as to talk and challenge the Church community about what it means to commit to our children.

Here are some of my thoughts after the girls were baptized.

Grace & Peace,

Brannon Hancock said...

Thanks guys.

Jeremy - that's awesome. Well done, brother. However, I find the response from the Naz elder you said wrote you the letter to be mind-boggling. First, he took issue w/ the robe and stole!? As though a robe is only appropriate for a sacramental ritual? Where does he get this? I mean, despite my opinions, the COTN doesn't regard marriage as a sacrament, and yet that's probably the even more common situation in which a Nazarene elder might be found wearing a robe. I just don't understand that at all.

And for him to take issue with that and not with the validity of the infant baptism itself is completely strange. And then for him to fail to understand that baptism is a sacrament, regardless of the age of the baptizand, is hard to believe as well...seems like that's an easy one to prove via the Manual, but...whatever.

I did hear yesterday that the service created some offense/problems for a young man who was visiting with family who are regular attendees. He took issue with the practice of infant baptism, but his family did a good job of sticking up for me (and they are transplants from the Church of God Anderson, which as I understand it would be less sacramental and more "ordinance" oriented - although they get the "forgotten sacrament" of footwashing right, in my opinion). But from what I can gather, this guy is just looking for something to quibble with in any church so he has excuses to reject and not attend church in general. Sad. I hope I get a chance to talk to the guy at some point. Maybe he'll be back.

Todd Stepp said...

Fantastic! Praise be to God!

If you don't mind, I would like to put this on my blog, and, of course, reference back to your post.

The first infant baptism at the church I served in Greencastle, IN was my daughter. She was born on Aldersgate Day and was baptized on Pentecost. - Later, my son, who was born on St. Catherine's Day was baptized on Pentecost, as well.

Both times, I had our d.s. come and administer the baptisms. I used much of the Manual ritual, but included a preface suggested by Rob Staples, and re-wrote the first part of the ritual.

My d.s. was perfectly fine with this.

For my daughter's baptism, we borrowed the Presbyterian's font. By the time my son was born, we had a font of our own.

After Sarah's baptism, I did have one lady make reference back to the service by saying something like, ". . . you know, when Sarah was dedicat . . . or baptized . . . or you know, when the d.s. was here."

Almost all of the "infant services" during the twelve years at that church were, however, dedications. (sigh!) - But there were a couple of infant baptisms.

At our church in Grace, I had a wonderful opportunity to talk with a family about infant baptism, and they really came alive in their understanding of the sacrament. In fact, not only was their infant daughter baptized, at the same time, their two young sons were baptized, as well. Later, I had the privilege of baptizing another son.

When parents ask for dedication, I have always made it a point to explain the option of baptism and the differences between dedication and baptism. I also ask them to read the two articles that appeard in Holiness Today in their "Point Counter-Point" edition. Staples wrote on infant baptism, while Stan Toler (pre-g.s. years) wrote in opposition of baptism and in favor of dedication.

I have not been bashful about expressing my preference, but in a denomination that allows for both, I have honored both choices. - Now, if I were ever to plant a church, I would consider making baptism the "choice" of the church.

Again, thanks for sharing! And congratulations!

Oh, and, I must say, I really liked that you could hear the water being poured on the video!


Brannon Hancock said...

Todd: absolutely, share it on your blog! Thanks for your comments and stories. I share your perspective on this...while I am not a senior pastor and am not as often in the position of being asked to perform the ritual, I do take every opportunity I am given to explain the option, express my preference and my rationale, but ultimately honor the request of the family. I've not yet been put in a position where I've been asked to re-baptize someone - I think I would have to draw the line there, although I'm sure there are other members of our pastoral team who wouldn't have the same qualms about it (perhaps that's a good subject for a future post - how to deal with that predicament).

I loved that you could really hear the water being poured, too. I have two videos, actually - this one was shot w/ a Flip, so was easy to get up to the web pretty instantaneously. The other was shot with a much nicer Sony HD camera and operated by a guy from church who was a news cameraman for 20 years, so it's got some fantastic shots - close-ups and such. I've captured it now, so I'll have to upload it at some point. He pulls in tight on the water being poured, on the consecration, etc. It's really lovely. We watched it last night (Gloria hadn't seen it yet).

Also, there has already been some misunderstanding that I've picked up on where some folks seem to be assuming that Joseph would simply get baptized again when he's older. Mark, our asst. DS, did a great job of explaining that one day Joseph will have to choose for himself what we are choosing for him...but I think some people interpreted that to mean, he'll choose to get baptized again "for himself."

Anyway...I guess I shouldn't be surprised by such misunderstanding in a church as "confused" about these practices and the theology that underlies them as we are...but it's a misunderstanding I look forward to having opportunities to clarify moving forward. For example, I said to someone yesterday, "If Joseph someday feels like he needs to be baptized again, I will feel that Gloria and I have failed to teach him what his baptism as a 1-yr-old meant and means."

Todd Stepp said...


Re-baptism would be a good topic. - I have been able to avoid such events by explaining why we don't do that, and by offering a public re-affirmation of our baptismal covenant. - So far that had worked well.

Of course, now serving in a UM congregation, I can also say that UM simply don't do that. It's against the rules.

Let me add to my story about the family in Evansville: The babies grandmother and great-grandmother both are very active in the church. When the great-grandmother found out the baby was to be baptized, she was really opposed to such a . . . (wait for it) . . . "Catholic" thing (!).

However, when the babies mother told her that it was a "Nazarene" thing, and then showed her in the Manual, the great-grandmother was perfectly fine with it! - In all of her years, she had never seen a baby baptized in a Nazarene church. But, since it was in the Manual, it must be okay!

Also, let me say, I did like all of the water used in your service. The one . . . frustration I have with our kids' baptisms is that our d.s. seemed to be a minimulist. It was "a little dab will do you" approach (and I mean a little dab!). On the other hand, at least there WAS a dab of water. - Of course, this was nearly 16 and 12 years ago, and I have hopefully learned a few things since those days.



Brannon Hancock said...

Todd: I envy UM ministers in this regard. "Yeah, sorry - can't do it. In fact, I could be disciplined for rebaptizing you. Oh well."

re: the "dousing" - when I told him I thought it was funny that he just kept pouring it on past the 3rd application (he said, "I didn't do it more than FOUR did I?" "Um, yeah, try 6!" lol) my dad's comment was, "well, I just wanted to make sure I got him good and wet." Right on, Poppa Mike! (as he is known to his grandsons)

The " long as it's in the Manual" thing is pretty funny. Good evidence that your efforts with GA resolutions and such are indeed worthwhile, Todd!

J.B. Chapman said...

Welcome my brother Joseph.

Thank you Gloria and Brannon for sharing this celebration with us.

1st, this service brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful celebration.

2nd, your father was masterful, as I am sure this was a little out the normal for him. Well done.

3rd, the only area I can see anyone get "concerned" about was your sign of the cross. :).

Brannon Hancock said...

J.B. - yeah, my buddy I was talking to about it yesterday (the father-in-law of the young man who took issue with the ritual, to which I referred in a previous comment) said he noticed me cross myself - I didn't even remember doing it, and certainly didn't think about it being so conspicuous in the video! With my back to the congregation, I wouldn't have worried about them noticing it, although I am frequently spotted crossing myself at communion, and have even had people question whether I have a Catholic background - I know they're just trying to make sense of it, since they've probably only ever seen Catholics do it...and I always enjoy explaining what it means, why I do it (and why I do it when/where I do it), and that it's really no different (except for being much more historically defensible) than raising one's hand(s) in worship or any other outward expression of devotion/consecration/etc. :-)

I'll share your comment w/ my dad (if he doesn't see it himself - he's a lurker around here from time to time). He certainly did a tremendous job. He told me afterwards that he thought about asking to borrow my Wesley robe), but didn't want to freak my congregation out TOO much. :-)

Matthew Francis said...

Congratulations on your son's baptism, Brannon! May God continue to bless and keep you and yours. Thanks for your work on the blog here, and for the baptism video -'my heart was strangely warmed' to see Nazarenes taking baptism more seriously.
- Matthew

Eric + said...

It might be onteresting for some of you pastors to look back through the old church records. When oir first son was baptized I assumed... based on the reaction of many in our parish... that it was their first. When I looked back through the records I found that the pastor before me (20 yr tenure) dedicated exclusively. But prior to that it was a mixed bag of dedications and baptisms with baptism outnumbering dedications. Just goes to show the power of a nice long pastorate.

Rich Schmidt said...

You asked: "How would a ritual like this fly at your church?"

I think it would go over just fine. The strangeness would be in the formality of it, not the baptism. I've probably done about an equal number of infant baptisms and infant dedications in the 10 years of our church's life.