Holy Baptism is the entrance rite of the Christian Church, and the first Sacrament. It is defined (Book of Common Prayer, p.858) as “the sacrament by which God adopts us as his children and makes us members of Christ’s Body, the Church, and inheritors of the kingdom of God”. The outward and visible sign in Baptism is water, symbolizing both a washing and a new birth, in which we proclaim our union with Jesus Christ in his death and resurrection, birth into God’s family, and the beginning of new (eternal) life in the Holy Spirit. Baptism is administered in the Trinitarian formula, which means “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”.
Those baptized as adults are expected to renounce Satan (and all the works of the Evil One), repent of one’s sins, and accept Jesus as one’s Lord and Savior. Infants are also baptized. This is because parents are given both the prerogative and responsibility of making decisions on behalf of their children until their children are grown to the point where they can assume control of their own lives (which happens in the Church at Confirmation). Until that time, parents are encouraged to have their children Baptized so that they can be full members of the Church and Christ’s Body and assured of the benefits thereof. Sponsors (also known as Godparents) are called to assist parents in the raising of children in the faith by being role models, mentors, and intercessors. They themselves must be Baptized Christians, but need not be Episcopalians.
Because Baptism means full incorporation into the Body of Christ, the consensus of the Bishops of the Church urge that they take place during the major worship service of one of the four major Feasts of the Church year, which are Easter (specifically, the Easter Vigil), Pentecost, All Saints Day (observed the following Sunday), and the Epiphany (observed the following Sunday). At Trinity this is strongly encouraged, however it is not required. Similarly, if one of these Sundays is not convenient, any Sunday except during Lent or Advent is permitted. However, in the case of new members of the parish, or at other appropriate times, private Baptisms may be performed.
Individuals considering Baptism should speak directly with the Rector. Where appropriate private instruction may be given, which will be adapted to the experiences and situation of the seeker.
As soon as possible after the birth of a child, or after receiving a child via adoption, the parents should contact the Rector to receive the prayers of the Thanksgiving for the Birth or Adoption of a Child (Book of Common Prayer p.439). This often takes place in maternity wards, but can be done at home or at the church. This pastoral blessing is an opportunity to focus on the parents, and particularly the mother, to give God praise and to thank God for a healthy birth. It also marks an important step in the parents’ and child’s spiritual journey toward Baptism.