Today we welcomed Michelle & Mike into the St. Paul family. Michelle comes by profession of faith and baptism. Mike comes by profession of faith. Their granddaughters Hannah, Jailen, and Chloe were also baptized and became provisional members. We welcome them to the family of God and the United Methodist Church.
In baptism, the candidate makes a public confession of her/his faith in Christ, is formally received into the fellowship of believers, and pledges to respond in faithful and loving service to the grace given them by God. United Methodists believe and confess that God pours out the Holy Spirit on the candidate during baptism, washing away their sins and empowering them to live according to the Gospel. This outpouring of forgiveness and empowerment is alluded to in the symbolism of washing by water. The candidate is empowered through the grace of God to begin and to sustain a life of Christian discipleship.
When an infant is baptized, the parents speak for the child in the taking of the baptismal vows, promising, along with the congregation, to provide spiritual guidance as the child grows to be able to honor the vows in the future. When the child becomes old enough to openly profess those baptismal vows, he/she undergoes the process of confirmation: being educated in the meaning of being a professing member of the body of Christ, subsequently making a profession of faith before the congregation.
Older children/adolescents, as well as adults who are of sound mind, do not require the same mediation of the vows that infants do; therefore, they take the vows themselves at baptism. Baptism, as practiced in The United Methodist Church, has commemorative, celebratory, and anticipatory aspects: it commemorates what God’s grace has already accomplished in the believer’s life, it celebrates the forgiveness of sins and the initiation into the Church that are emphasized during the ritual, and it anticipates a future of growing in grace and in closeness to God as one honors the baptismal vows.