The Sacrament of Baptism
Understanding of Baptism
Within the Methodist tradition, Holy Baptism is a sacrament. John Wesley described a sacrament as “an outward sign of inward grace”, in other words, it is a visible sign of what God is doing spiritually. It is a great mystery, one that we are unable to fully comprehend, but in faith, we trust that God is working within us. In Holy Baptism, God is covering us by His grace, adopting us as His children, and placing a seal on us identifying us as His own (2 Cor. 1:21-22). The baptismal candidate is entering into a covenant with God, in response to all God has done, is doing, and will do. The covenant responsibility on the candidate’s part is to promise to be faithful and love God. Since no person is able to save themselves, and upon recognition that we are all dependent on God’s grace, we acknowledge no distinction between infant and adult in our ability to receive this gift. By receiving this Sacrament, infants and adults are entered into the covenant community, which is the universal Church of Jesus Christ.
While baptism is a means of salvation, the act itself does not save you. An outward act does not always reflect an inward change. The proper response to God’s gift of grace is to “take up your cross daily” (Luke 9.23) and follow Jesus Christ. Adults must be convicted in their minds of their sinful nature and repent of their sins through faith. Baptized children must be raised under the teaching, example and direction of their faithful and obedient Christian parents so that when they do come of age, they will be ready to publically confirm their faith in Jesus Christ. To help facilitate this milestone, the United Methodist Church offers “Confirmation Class” to baptized youth who are ready to claim allegiance to Christ.
Body of Christ
Baptism is “the front door of the church” and the means by which we are incorporated into the Body of Christ. It is within the covenant community that we live out our faith. Within the Baptismal Covenant of the United Methodist Church, the congregation makes a vow to “nurture one another in the Christian faith and life” (Book of Worship, p.89) and place the candidates for baptism under the care of the community. This is not a private and personal affair; it is a community celebration.
We believe that once you have been baptized, either as an infant or an adult, you have entered into a covenant relationship with God. While you may break your promises and wander from the path God desires you to follow, God is faithful and never breaks his promises. We may need to recommit and reaffirm our relationship with Christ, but God always remains faithful. Therefore, we do not believe in “re-baptizing” because God has never cancelled his covenant.
Baptism at Centreville UMC
- Adults – if you have never been baptized and desire to repent of your sins and become a disciple (student) of Jesus Christ, then meet with our senior pastor and express your desire to be baptized. We will require your faithful presence during worship for at least one month so the church community has an opportunity to get to know you through fellowship. We will schedule your baptism during a Sunday worship service and we will enroll you in our next New Members class.
- Infants of Active Church Members – if the parents or grandparents of the child are disciples of Jesus Christ and, with the child, both regularly and actively participate in the life of the church through their prayers, presence, gifts and service, then they are welcome to meet with our senior pastor and schedule a baptism during a Sunday worship service. It is important that there is a faithful, godly presence in the life of the child and that the child will be raised within a Christian community.
- Infants of Non-Members – While we are happy you desire your child to be baptized, we need to see evidence of Christian faithfulness and commitment. Therefore, we expect at least one parent to demonstrate a faithful presence during worship for at least one month and to enroll in and successfully complete our next New Member class. If you are transferring membership from another church community, you are invited to meet with the senior pastor and discuss.
Dates for baptism shall be agreed upon by the pastor and families after taking into account other events at the church for any given Sunday.