Baptism Box

This is what I use when preparing children age 3-10 (ish) for baptism. These are children who are going to be ‘answering for themselves’ – ie. making their own baptismal vows – but will also usually have Godparents who will make those promises with (not for) the child. I usually do baptism preparation 1:1 with the child’s parent(s) present as well. 

This is my baptism box:

baptism box.jpg

It is brightly coloured and a bit shiny – it certainly looks like something special. I only use it for this purpose, so children won’t have seen it before. It is about 25cm square.

In my baptism box are:

  • white cloth
  • bowl
  • jug
  • flask of water
  • doll
  • candle
  • matches
  • oil stock containing oil
  • Bible (age-appropriate)
  • book about baptism (age-appropriate)
  • photo of a baptism (preferably of similar-aged child)

I explain that the baptism box contains special things to help us think about this special occasion. I get them out a few at a time, speak to the child about the part of the service they relate to, and invite them to ‘wonder’ with me about what the various objects and words might mean or remind us of.

First, I spread the cloth on the floor/table and get out the water, jug and bowl. I pour the water into the jug, and invite the child to pour it into the bowl. We discuss what we can use water for (washing, drinking, growing plants, etc). Many children will comment that water is necessary for life. Then we discuss bible stories with water in them – creation, flood, exodus, baptism of Christ, wedding at Cana, walking on water, etc.

Next I introduce the doll and invite the child to choose a name for him/her. We discuss the importance of names. The child might know something about their own name – what it means, or who they are named after. Then I demonstrate baptising the doll, and invite the child to have a go. I often ask the child how they think the doll feels about being baptised – this is often an opportunity for them to talk safely about how they themselves feel.

Then I get out the candle and matches. We talk a bit about light and fire, and what they might mean or do or be for, touching on the idea of the Holy Spirit being represented by fire, and Jesus being the Light of the World. I light the candle and give it to the child to hold. There is usually a bit of silence at this point. Then I introduce the words “shine as a light in the world to the glory of God the Father” and we discuss what that might mean. The child blows out the candle, and we talk about the idea that the light of Christ cannot be blown out.

Next we get out the oil stock. The child might try to guess what is inside. Then I invite them to open the stock, touch the oil, and guess again. I demonstrate making the sign of the cross on the doll’s forehead, and invite the child to do the same. Again, I ask how the child thinks the doll feels.

Then I explain that there are some special things about baptism that we can’t see – these are the special words we use. We look together at the key words used and the promises made at baptism. We discuss what promises the child will make at their baptism, and what promises God makes to them.

Finally I get out the books – a bible and a book about baptism, both appropriate to the child’s age and/or reading ability. We might read the book about baptism (or part of it) together. I will leave the books for the child and their family to borrow (or, if there seem to be not many books in the house, to keep).

I then invite any questions from the child and their parents(s) which often leads to more discussion.

By the end of the session, the set-up looks something like this:

baptism-box-contents

Then I invite the child to help me pack everything back into the box, remembering what each thing is for as we put it away.

This session is supplemented by a rehearsal on the day before the baptism, at which  we will recap the key words and symbols, as we walk through exactly what will happen on the day of the baptism. This includes another opportunity to ask any questions. 

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One Day…

I took my youth group to Greenbelt again this year. All sorts of things moved and inspired us, but perhaps most of all this song, “One Day”: http://www.greenbelt.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/One-Day.pdf

So at our first youth group session of the new term, we wrote our own “One Day” verses – and were inspired  all over again. Here they are:

One day there will be no war anywhere in the whole world.

One day the world will be a less violent and more eco-friendly place.

One day there will be no more famine and everyone will be able to get a job.

One day everyone in the world will be kind to each other.

One day everyone in the world will care about the environment.

One day there will be no racism.

One day we will experience world peace.

One day all people will be respected.

One day grown ups will listen properly to children.

The last one seems particularly telling. Perhaps we can start that today?

An awfully big adventure – a sermon for the start of the school year

I’m going on an adventure.

It’s going to be a big one.

I’m not scared.

Who’s coming with me?

I wonder where we’ll go?

 

We’re going on an adventure.

It’s going to be a big one.

We’re not scared.

I wonder where we’ll go?

I wonder what we’ll need?

I wonder who we’ll meet along the way?

 

Have you ever been on a great big adventure?

Have you read a story about an adventure, or seen a film about an adventure?

 

Some of us went on an adventure last weekend. We went to Greenbelt, where we camped in a field, listened to music, watched acrobats, built shelters, debated issues, ate cake, and went to a communion service totally led by children. It was a brilliant adventure.

 

But we didn’t just go. We had to get ready. We had to think about what we would need – tents, food, cooking equipment, warm things, waterproof things, suncream. We had to prepare.

 

Some of you are getting ready to go on an adventure. Some of you are starting a new school, or nursery, or college. Lots of you are going into a new year, a new class, at school.

 

But you don’t just go on that adventure either – you have to get ready. You have to make sure you have your uniform, and your bag, and your pencil case. You have to make sure you know how to get to your new school, and what to do when you get there. You have to prepare.

 

All of us are on an adventure of sorts. We’re all going on the great big adventure that is following Jesus. We’re all on an adventure with God.

 

But what Jesus is saying in today’s gospel reading is that this too is an adventure we don’t just go on – we need to be prepared. And this time we need to be prepared not by taking things with us, but by being willing to leave things behind. To leave behind “all our possessions”, all the things we hold most dear, in order to set out on a new adventure with Jesus.

 

Of course, however much we prepare for an adventure, we can’t plan for everything. We will always meet with the unexpected along the way – that’s part of what an adventure is.

 

When we went to Greenbelt, we came across plenty that we weren’t expecting: talks that made us laugh, songs that made us cry, people we didn’t expect to meet. We didn’t expect that one of our group would be reading his own poetry in public for the first time. We didn’t expect a 3 hour thunder storm either, or that sheltering from the storm together would be so much fun.

 

When you start a new school, or a new school year – or any kind of new stage in life, come to that – there will be things that you don’t expect. Some will be good things: meeting new friends, learning new skills, trying new things. Others will not be so good: facing new challenges or problems, dealing with things that seem difficult or scary.

 

And with the great adventure of following Jesus, we must also expect the unexpected. However well prepared we think we are, there will always be some situation beyond our control, beyond what we had expected, which challenges us.

 

That is why I am thankful that we follow a God who doesn’t expect us to be prepared for every eventuality, but only to be prepared to follow, trusting that God will be ready for anything even when we aren’t.

 

When Jesus calls us to walk with him, he doesn’t ask us to make sure we bring everything we could possibly need. He doesn’t need to, because he already has – indeed, he already is – everything we could possibly need.

 

Jesus call us not to bring everything with us, but to leave everything behind. He calls us to trust that his provision, his grace, is sufficient for us, wherever the adventure takes us.

 

So, as many of you prepare for a new adventure, a new chapter in your adventure with God, remember this. Don’t be afraid. Jesus is with you every step of the way. And he already has everything you need – for the things you expect and the things you don’t.

 

We’re going on an adventure.

It’s going to be a big one.

We’re not scared.

I wonder where we’ll go?

I wonder what we’ll find there?

 

We’re going on an adventure.

It’s going to be a big one.

We’re not scared.

We know that God goes with us

Wherever we may go.