Baptism and Confirmation
Baptism and Confirmation are referred to together as “rites of initiation.” Baptism brings us into the life of the Church and Confirmation strengthens us in our commitment to the faith. Those interested in Baptism should contact Fr. Jonathan in the church office at 610-789-6754. Adults interested in Confirmation or Reception should also contact Fr. Jonathan. Parents interested in having their children confirmed should contact Director of Youth Ethel Wesley at ethel_w_19143[at]yahoo.com
Baptism of Infants and Younger Children
At Holy Comforter, we happily baptize babies and young children into the family of God. While infants are not yet capable of fully understanding the Christian faith, we believe that the promises of God are for all people, and that God doesn’t want to wait until you’re an adult to begin a relationship with Him.
Infants and younger children (those 12 and under) are not required to make a profession of faith to be baptized. Nevertheless, Baptism is a serious undertaking. When the Church baptizes an infant, we’re making a promise to help raise that child and to form him or her in Christian faith and practice. We’re taking responsibility for helping the baptized child to grow up into a young man or young woman who knows Jesus and who can make a mature decision to follow Him as Lord.
While the Church as a whole takes on this responsibility, parents play a crucial role in raising their children in the Christian faith. Therefore, for an infant to be baptized at Holy Comforter, at least one parent must be a professing, baptized Christian and a member of this parish in good standing. Likewise, both parents must give their consent for their child to be baptized (except in circumstances in which only one parent has parental rights). Two sessions of instruction for parents are required prior to Baptism.
Children may have as few as one and as many as three godparents each. The role of godparent is to assist you in looking after the spiritual well being of your child. Godparents must attend at least one of the sessions with the priest. Godparents need not be members of the parish but they must be baptized and professing Christians. It is encouraged that at least one godparent be an Episcopalian.
Because Baptism includes the whole Church, all services of Holy Baptism take place in the context of Sunday morning worship and include celebration of the Holy Eucharist. At Holy Comforter, we baptize infants four times a year: The Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord (early January), The Great Vigil of Easter (the Saturday night before Easter Sunday), the Day of Pentecost (fifty days after Easter), and All Saints’ Sunday (November 1st or the first Sunday thereafter). However, under special circumstances we may be able to schedule a Baptism for another Sunday. Baptism is not permitted during the seasons of Advent or Lent, except in life-threatening emergencies.
Baptism of Adults
For adults and older children, Baptism comes after an experience of personal conversion. In other words, we baptize adults and older children when they’ve come to a place in their journeys with God in which they’re able to freely profess their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.
In Holy Baptism, we enter into a covenant with God (Book of Common Prayer, page 304). A covenant is a relationship of mutual affection in which both parties agree to honor the other with love and devotion. In the Baptismal Covenant, God promises to forgive us of our sins, to strengthen us, to love us, and to walk with us for the rest of our lives and beyond. In turn, we promise to love God, to obey Jesus as Lord, to trust in Him and in His Church, and to strive for justice and peace in our community and in the world.
At Holy Comforter, we honor the ancient ritual of the Catechumenate, a period in which new believers are instructed in the basics of the Christian faith and guided through the first fledgling steps of walking with Christ.
The Catechumenate involves three stages. In the first stage, those interested in Baptism take the class Mere Christianity which includes instruction in the Christian faith. In this stage, no commitment will be asked of you. This is a time to discern and test your Christian calling. Feel free to ask questions and to explore.
At the conclusion of Mere Christianity, if you still feel called to the Christian life, you will be assigned a sponsor who will guide you through the formal period of the Catechumenate. At the beginning of the Catechumenate, you’ll be asked to stand with your sponsor before the congregation and to commit yourself to a journey towards becoming a disciple of Jesus. During your Catechumenate, you’ll be required to attend worship regularly, if you’re not already doing so, and to experience life in the Christian community. The amount of time spent in the formal Catechumenate will vary, depending on your experience and needs. The priest and your sponsor will work with you to determine a length of Catechumenate that is right for you.
Finally, a few weeks before your Baptism you’ll be admitted as a candidate for Baptism. During the weeks leading to your Baptism, you’ll be given opportunities for prayer, fasting, and special devotions that will prepare you in body, mind, and spirit for what you’re about to receive. The congregation will also engage in special acts of prayer and devotion for you, spiritually walking side by side with you.
Baptism of adults and older children is generally done at the Great Vigil of Easter, with candidacy beginning on or near the first Sunday in Lent. Children under 12 are generally discouraged from entering the Catechumenate.
In the sacrament of Confirmation we receive strengthening in our faith, by the power of the Holy Spirit, through the laying on of hands by a bishop. For those baptized as infants, it’s an important opportunity to take ownership of the promises that were made at Baptism. For those baptized as adults, it’s an opportunity to reaffirm the faith and to enter more deeply into the life of the Church.
Confirmation of Youth
Children age fourteen and up are eligible for Confirmation. The candidates go through a period of instruction that leads each candidate towards making a decision about whether or not to accept and embrace the faith that has been taught to them. The instruction process culminates in an overnight retreat. Candidates are also assigned a sponsor within the parish who mentors the young person.
Confirmation or Reception of Adults
Baptized adults who wish to be confirmed are invited to take the class Anglicanism 101 offered each fall. This five session course, open not just to Confirmation candidates but to all who are interested, gives a basic summary of the Anglican Christian tradition.
Adults who were confirmed in another tradition in which there are bishops with apostolic succession (for instance, the Roman Catholic Church or any of the Orthodox Churches) are received rather than confirmed. To be received, an adult candidate goes through the same process of instruction as those seeking Confirmation. The difference is that on the day in which the bishop lays hands on you, instead of confirming you he or she will recognize your confirmation and welcome you into the Episcopal Church.
Confirmation happens once a year at Holy Comforter. The date of Confirmation varies with the bishop’s schedule.