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. 

Rainbow Sunday

Today (16th March 2014) is Rainbow Sunday, an initiative started by Inclusive Church to celebrate and affirm LGBT people in our churches. At the church where I am children’s minister, we marked Rainbow Sunday in Ark, our children’s group, with discussion, stories, prayer, and the creation of a beautiful rainbow altar frontal. Then we took our altar frontal into church, put it on the altar, and I had about a minute to talk to the congregation about what we had been doing and why.

All Saints has sometimes tended to keep our message of inclusion “under the radar”, as a colleague put it this morning, occasionally mentioning sexuality as an afterthought in a list of groups we are not excluding, but “not making a big thing of it”. Our congregation is in every sense a broad church, and I am aware that there is a very wide range of views on this subject. Today felt a bit like sticking my head above the parapet!

This is (roughly) what I said:

“Today is Rainbow Sunday, the day in the church calendar set aside for affirming and celebrating LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans*) people in the church. The rainbow, as we know from the story of Noah, is a sign of hope. It has long been used as a symbol by the gay community to represent the hope of equality, a brighter future, and the right to be and to celebrate who God made each person to be.

The church does not have a good track record when it comes to how we have treated gay people.  Too often our brothers and sisters have been hurt and rejected simply because of who they, these precious children of God, are.  Still, when equal marriage becomes a reality at the end of this month, same sex couples won’t be able to get married in this church, to experience that joyful celebration and blessing of their love as part of the body of Christ. Still our church leaders are too slow and too hesitant to speak out against the support shown by some of their African counterparts for violently homophobic laws.

Still, in so many ways, the church fails to be the face of God’s justice and love. And I believe God weeps for that.

At Ark this morning we’ve been looking at the last two verses of today’s gospel reading, which N will read for us [John 3.16-17]. Everyone who believes inherits eternal life. Jesus came not as judge but as saviour. How can we hear those words and not be moved to do our bit to right the wrongs done to our LGBT brothers and sisters?

And so today we are making this small start. We are saying that discrimination is never the will of God, and that in this church we will not accept it. We are saying that there is nothing about anyone that is not fearfully and wonderfully made by God. And we are celebrating in all the colours of the rainbow the fabulously diverse group of people God calls us to be.”

 Then the vicar led us in this prayer, which I wrote for the occasion:

“Loving God,

We thank you that each of us is made in your likeness

And that every aspect of ourselves is a gift from you.

Help us to celebrate and treasure each other

As your precious children.

We thank you for the rich diversity of sexuality and gender

And pray that we may come to value one another

And support each other

As we grow more and more into the people you made us to be.

We thank you for the example of creativity and love

Shown by our children today

And ask that we may all face you and each other

With the openness and honesty of a child.

May your church become ever more like Jesus,

Filled with the generous love of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.”

Here’s a picture of the altar frontal:

Image

And finally, a quote from one of the children who helped make it: “it’s to show everyone who comes into our church that God loves them just how they are”.