Frequently asked questions about baptism at Church of the Palms:
Why should infants be baptized?
In the United Methodist Church, we offer the sacrament of baptism to people of any age and we recognize the baptism of every other Christian denomination as valid. Infant baptism is encouraged in our church, although not required. This practice is in keeping with the oldest traditions of the church, as infants were baptized in New Testament times together with the other members of their families.
In infant baptism, parents take vows on behalf of their children, committing to raise their child as part of a Christian community. Children who are baptized as infants continue to grow in their faith through involvement in the church and "confirm" their baptism vows, taking responsibility for those vows themselves, through confirmation. We do not have an alternative ritual for formally blessing children who are not baptized as infants. A pastor will be glad to offer an informal private prayer of blessing for your infant or other family members outside of worship.
My child was baptized in the Lutheran (or any other) church. Does he/she need to be rebaptized?
No Christian church offers baptism a second time. Some churches who only baptize adults offer an immersion baptism to an individual previously baptized as a child, but they would not consider this a "second" baptism but rather the first valid baptism for that individual. The same is true for those very traditional churches that do baptize infants but do not recognize the baptism of the United Methodist Church or other denominations. In the United Methodist Church, we recognize the baptism of every other Christian church as valid.
What is the process for baptizing older children, youth or adults?
Do I have to be a member of the church to have my child baptized?
Parent membership is not a requirement for the baptism of children in The United Methodist Church. Being a Christian disciple through regular church involvement and committing to raise your child as part of a church community are requirements. [See further explanation below.] If you are interested in joining the church, please share that with the pastor helping you with baptism arrangements.
How do I schedule a baptism?
Does the baptism have to be during a church service?
Yes, unless there is a particular disability or special need that prevents a baptism from being held during regular worship services. In baptism you are making a commitment to your child and the congregation also makes a commitment to you – to walk with you in your child's faith journey and to support your family. For this reason the gathered congregation should always be part of the baptism ritual.
When can I have my child's baptism?
Baptisms may be scheduled at any of our regular Sunday services, but may not be available on some dates due to special events. Baptisms are generally not scheduled on the first or third Sunday of any month due to Communion, but exceptions can be made for special family circumstances. Baptisms need to be scheduled at least 2 weeks in advance. Families are asked to meet with the pastor before the date of their sacrament.
Can I choose my pastor? Can I have a retired pastor or a pastor from another church?
The clergy appointed to serve the church generally perform all baptisms. You are welcome to choose which of the appointed pastors you would like to have officiate at your child's baptism, within the limits of our schedule.
If you have another pastor who is a special part of your life and want that individual to help officiate, please discuss this possibility with Pastor Pete. The invitation to the other pastor must always come from one of the clergy appointed to the church.
Should we have godparents? How many?
In The United Methodist Church we don't have "godparents" per se, but we do have baptismal sponsors. These persons are included in the ritual of baptism and commit themselves to supporting your child's faith development. Sponsors do not need to be church members, but should be baptized Christians. Sponsors are not required for baptism. Two is an ideal number, but one is fine or you may have as many as four. When you meet with a pastor prior to the baptism, you can discuss your plan for sponsors. If there is an individual whom you would like to include in the baptism ritual who is not Christian, please speak to Pastor Pete about it.
What should my child wear to the baptism?
There is a tradition of white clothing (purity) for baptism, but this is strictly optional. If you have an heirloom gown, of course you may use it. But if you do not, please do not feel obligated to purchase something new or expensive for the baptism. Dress your child comfortably!
Who should come forward when the baptism is performed?
Parents and sponsors are always included for the ritual at the font. Older children are welcome and may, if desired, participate in the ritual (e.g. by helping the pastor pour the water). If it is important to you for grandparents or other special people to join you at the font, they are welcome to do so, but keep space limitations in mind. Please let us know if anyone participating in the baptism needs special accommodations (e.g. wheelchair access, a place to be seated).
Can you reserve seats for my family?
Yes! We prefer to do this, so please let us know approximately how many guests you are expecting. Seats will be reserved near the front of the sanctuary, directly in front of the font where the view is terrific. This is also a great place for young children to be seated as there is a bit of space for them to play in front of the first row of seats. Let us know if you expect children in your gathering, and please reassure your guests that children are welcome in worship and are not expected to be especially still or silent.
Can we take pictures?
We would prefer for pictures to be taken after the conclusion of the service. In particular, please do not take flash pictures during the church service. Guests taking photographs or video should please remain seated during worship.
Can we personalize the baptism?
In baptism, your child is named before God and before the congregation. Of course we want it to be personal! . If there is a song or scripture you would like shared during the worship service, share that with Pastor Pete and arrangements will be made to include it whenever possible.
What does The United Methodist Church teach about baptism? Will unbaptized children go to hell if they die?
In The United Methodist Church we teach that baptism is a sacrament - a ritual commanded by Jesus in scripture that mysteriously conveys the grace of God. This sacrament is a precious gift from God who already loves your child, but God's love is never limited to those who have received the sacrament.
One of the important and somewhat distinctive beliefs of The United Methodist Church is God's prevenient grace. In other words, God loves you from the beginning of your existence and certainly before you are ever able to love God in return. All people, whether baptized or not and whether believers or not, are surrounded by God's prevenient grace. God's love for a child could never be lessened by the lack of a sacrament of ritual.
So baptism is not a "get out of jail free card"! Because of God's special grace in the sacrament, the ritual itself is important. Baptism, however, is not magic. It can be compared to a seed: the full potential of the mature plant lies within the seed, but that potential cannot possibly be reached without the seed having the proper environment and care. Likewise, the grace of God in baptism can only come to full fruition when an individual continues to be surrounded by the Christian community, living and growing in faith. Life in the church allows us to grow into and experience God's justifying grace, which saves us from sin and God's sanctifying grace, which helps us to grow more Christlike and loving.
Because the vows taken in baptism cannot be fulfilled outside of an active relationship with a church, pastors will usually recommend that the sacrament be delayed if a family is unwilling to promise continued involvement in a Christian faith community.