Baptisms and Confirmations
What is baptism?
Baptism is a sacrament. It's a sign of God's grace and love acting in our lives. Through baptism, a person becomes a member of the Church and commits themselves to a life of following Christ. Different Christian traditions have different baptismal practices, but every Christian baptism has two things in common. Water and the name of the Holy Trinity.
Why should I get baptized?
Baptism is a sign of God's grace and love in our lives. It's not that different from that first kiss between two lovers or between a parent and their newborn child. It seals the relationship and acts as a physical sign to the world that this person's life has been turned over to Christ. Baptism does not by itself make God love you. It does not automatically save you from the fires of Hell. It does not establish the godparents as legal guardians should the parents die. But it does seal the relationship between the person being baptized, God, and the Church (the people of God).
Does the Episcopal Church baptize infants?
Sure. Just as we baptize adults. We baptize adults who are drawn to the love of God and have never been baptized before. We baptize infants even though they can't speak for themselves because we see it as a mark of belonging, and you don't have to understand what's going on in order to belong. In the same way, when parents bring a baby back from the hospital, the baby has no understanding of family, but they are definitely a welcome and beloved part of that family.
Do I need to be a member of St. James' to get baptized or have my child baptized?
While it is not strictly required to be a member of the parish in order to have a child baptized, it is required that you attend church regularly. After all, if baptism is all about belonging to the church and committing to follow Christ with the church, how can you not attend regularly? To put it another way, if you have no intention of attending on a regular, ongoing basis, what's the point of having your child baptized?
I would like to get my child baptized. How should I go about doing this?
It's important to understand that baptism is not just a ceremony - it is a spiritual commitment on behalf of the parents and the congregation - before God - to care for and raise a child as a Christian. It is not something to be entered into lightly and is definitely not something we on short notice.
As a rule, Baptism is only administered during Sunday worship. While it is available most Sundays, the Episcopal Church encourages it to be reserved to four special Sundays each year: Easter Vigil, Pentecost, All Saints, and the Baptism of the Lord (the first Sunday after Epiphany). What's more, we do not offer Baptism (or weddings) during Lent.
If you would like to be baptized or have your child baptized, there are required classes to attend. Please see the clergy to arrange them.
Does the Episcopal Church offer private baptism?
As a general rule, no. We believe that baptism marks the entrance of a new member into our Christian community, and we believe that the community should be a part of this joyous occasion. After all, you wouldn't want to join a family when the family isn't present.
If you have special circumstances that prevent you from being able to be at the church, or if there is a medical emergency, then private baptism may be necessary. However, you should contact the clergy for more information about that.
I was baptized in another Christian denomination. Do I need to be re-baptized?
As long as you were baptized with water and in the name of the Trinity (The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), then no, you don't. We recognize all Christian baptism. Period.
I am not sure if I have been baptized. What should I do?
If you're not sure (for example, if you think you might have been baptized as an infant but can't find any information about it, or if you're unsure whether the name of the Trinity was used, the Episcopal Church offers what is know as "Conditional Baptism." Essentially, it's saying, "If you haven't been baptized already, then we now baptize you."
Does the Episcopal Church practice immersion baptism?
Sure. It's not required, and it's pretty rare, but there's no reason not to do it other than practicality. Most Episcopal Churches have fonts for pouring water over the person being baptized (this is called affusion), usually just covering their head. But there are Episcopal Churches with baptistries that make immersion possible. St. James', however, has a small font.
Please note that we do not believe it matters how the water touches the person being baptized, nor do we believe that every inch of the person must be covered. Baptism is a sign, not magic.
What should I or my child wear?
There is a wonderful phrase in the church: adiaphora. It means "indifferent things." But what it really means is, "It's no big thing." What you or your child wear is entirely up to you. Sometimes people dress infants in special "christening" gowns or family heirloom gowns, but that's purely a matter of personal preference. What we care about is that you're here.
What is a Sponsor/Godparent? Who can be one? How many do I need?
A sponsor (also known as a godparent), is someone who promises to accompany you on your walk with Christ. They promise, if godparents of a child, to act as guides and examples. That means that godparents are required to be baptized Christians, active in their own church and regular in attendance. Sponsors/godparents must attend the baptism classes with the parents and candidates for baptism. Because it is important that the godparent be present in the spiritual life of the child, we require that at least one of the godparents be a member of St. James'. But don't worry! There is no limit to the number of sponsors/godparents that you can have. So if you have relatives who absolutely must be a godparent, you can still do this while fulfilling the obligation of having a member of the parish. Please Note: If you are worried that you don't know anyone in the parish well enough to ask them to be a godparent, the solution is to hold off on baptism until you do know people. This is a relational faith - it's all about the relationships we build. There is no rush on baptism, so relax and get to know folks!
If your baptism has been registered in the Episcopal Church, you are considered a baptized member. If you are 16 years of age or older, you are considered an adult member. It is expected that all adult members of the Episcopal Church will be confirmed or received at some point.
What is Confirmation?
Confirmation is a sacrament. That means it is an outward and visible sign of God's inward and spiritual grace. Like Baptism, there is not magic in it - but there is power. The power of Confirmation is that people who have been baptized, especially as infants or children now have an opportunity to make a public confession and commitment to Christ as member of the Christian faith. In this sacrament, we are strengthened by the Holy Spirit for service to Christ and his church. In the Episcopal Church, it is required that a bishop officiate at Confirmation. The bishop lays hands on the confirmed during public worship as a symbol of support for their spiritual journey.
When do we have Confirmation?
Because Confirmation is only administered by a bishop, it is held only the bishop is present. In the Diocese of New York, the bishop comes to most churches every other year. At St. James', that is usually in November or December of even-numbered years.
What age should a person be for Confirmation?
In general, the minimum age for Confirmation is 16. There are exceptions, but the candidate for Confirmation (not their parent) must speak directly with the rector to explain their reasons for wanting to be confirmed.
What is the difference between Confirmation, Reception, and Reaffirmation?
Confirmation is "a mature and public affirmation of faith and commitment to the responsibilities of Baptism." (BCP)
Reception is common for people who have been members of a denomination in Apostolic Succession who now wish to become Episcopalians.
Reaffirmation is for people who have already been confirmed in the Episcopal Church. These might be people who have been away from the church for awhile and want to make a new beginning. Others might be people who sense that they are at a new stage in the spiritual life and want to affirm this in ritual.
How do I get Confirmed?
The first step is always to meet with the rector and express your desire to be confirmed. The next step is to register for Inquirers Classes. These classes usually meet weekly for several months and cover topics such as basic theology, scripture, liturgy, church history, and church structure. There are typically about twenty classes. In addition, there may be essays. Candidates for Confirmation are also required to participate in at least one worship-oriented ministry and be regular in their worship attendance. Other activities such as a field trip and a retreat are to be expected. These classes and events are designed to equip you to make a mature decision about whether or not Confirmation is for you and how you will live out your faith.
If you are interested in being Confirmed, contact the rector for more information.
I was Confirmed in another Christian denomination. Do I need to be "re-Confirmed"?
That depends. If you were confirmed in a church that is in Apostolic Succession, then you do not need to be Confirmed. Apostolic Succession refers to churches that have maintained the three-fold orders of Bishop, Priest, and Deacon, in direct descent through the laying on of hands all the way down from the original apostles.
Most Protestant churches are not in Apostolic Succession, but Roman Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the Orthodox churches are. If you belonged to a denomination that is not in Apostolic Succession, then you must be Confirmed in the Episcopal Church to become a full member of the church.
If, however, you have been Confirmed in the Roman Catholic Church or Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA), you may choose to be "received" by the bishop instead. This is because the Episcopal Church recognizes that the bishops in these churches have valid Apostolic Succession dating back to the time of the Apostles, and that Confirmations performed in these churches are considered valid. You will, however, still need to go through the Inquirers Classes.
I want to be Confirmed, but I can't make the classes. What can I do?
In general, everyone should attend the Inquirers Classes. However, if this isn't possible due to work or other valid constraints, the rector may be willing to arrange private preparation. Alternatively, there may be a way to create a program combining private preparation with attendance at some of the classes. There are options, but you should contact the rector to learn more.