The Meaning of Baptizing a Child
Baptism, whatever the age of the person being baptized, is the sole rite of initiation into full membership in the Christian community, the Body of Christ. The Baptism service celebrates the graceful initiative of God in calling and claiming us, and the faithful response of the people as individuals and as a community. Baptism is a Sacrament of the Church, instituted by Christ. By Baptism we enter the Church, where we are nourished in faith and life.
The Christian Scriptures do not specifically say that children were baptized. They do suggest, however, that whole households were baptized together, and we assume children were included in that (Acts 16:15; 1Corinthians 1:16). The New Testament was written during a time when the Church was spreading rapidly, and so, at that time, the Baptism of adults was the most important thing.
In the Baptism of anyone, the personal faith of the one being baptized is important. The water is symbolic of birth into a new kind of life and a new kind of community. The gift of the Holy Spirit which accompanies Baptism gives power to live this new life. The new life is understood as a life of union with Christ and with Christ’s people.
New Testament writers speak of that experience in different metaphors; Paul speaks of participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus; John talks of new birth; still others talk of liberation from bondage and of the freedom of a new humanity. This gift of God in Jesus Christ, celebrated and claimed in Baptism, is the beginning of enduring participation in the journey of God’s people towards God’s New Creation.
The Meaning of Blessing a Child
"People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them.14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them." ~Mark 10:13-17
For families who are not, and do not wish to become, active members of Woodlawn United Church at this time, Woodlawn United offers a Blessing for their child. The purpose of a Blessing is to celebrate the birth of a child and confirm God's unconditional love and blessing for this child. While Baptism takes place during worship, Blessings can take place either during worship or in a more private setting. The Blessing option preserves the integrity of the parents and the sacrament of Baptism (with all its vows and promises connected to membership).