A New Ritual for Reaffirmation of Baptism
By Derek Weber
Most of those who have served as pastors in the local church have been asked at one time or another if they could rebaptize someone who has had a significant faith experience. Our theological position is that baptism is a one-time event and does not need repetition. But simply saying no parishioners who want to acknowledge some change in their faith life seems to miss the pastoral moment. Though our Book of Worship and Hymnal contain a ritual for reaffirmation of baptism that is designed to be a corporate remembrance, Worship Professors Dr. Mark Stamm, of Perkins School of Theology, and Dr. Lester Ruth, of Duke Divinity School, have responded to this moment of discipleship in the life of a congregation and individuals in the life of the church, by providing a ritual for the reaffirmation of baptism for someone seeking rebaptism.
We offer it here for use in the local church and for conversation in conferences and districts.
Reaffirmation of Faith for Someone Seeking Rebaptism
Submitted by Lester Ruth and Mark Stamm
Note: This rite intends to address a common pastoral situation: a request by someone to be rebaptized. It seeks to address with a bold sign-act the person’s desire for public witness to her or his Christian discipleship without, as Baptismal Covenant IV currently says, using water in ways that can be interpreted as baptism. By moving the location of the application of the water to the feet and by connecting this act with verses from John 13, this rite hopes to find the sweet spot between having something organically connected to baptism without being confused for the same.
INTRODUCTION TO THE SERVICE
Brothers and sisters in Christ:
Through the sacrament of baptism
we have been initiated into Christ’s holy church.
We have been incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation
And have been given new birth through water and the Spirit.
All this is God’s gift, offered to use without price.
Through the public acknowledgement of faith,
We renew the covenant declared at our baptism,
acknowledge what God is doing for us in Jesus Christ,
and affirm our commitment to Christ’s holy church and the way of discipleship.
Pastor: I present Name(s) who come(s) to reaffirm their faith in Jesus Christ today.
The rite can proceed at this point by providing an opportunity for testimony from the person seeking to publicly reaffirm his/her faith.
If a congregation wishes to add a congregational reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant to this individual’s public witness, then the following can be addressed to the entire congregation. If no congregational reaffirmation is intended, then the questions can be addressed solely to the individual making the public witness.
On behalf of the whole church, I ask you:
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?
The pastor addresses the following questions to the individual making the public witness of discipleship as well as the church.
According to the grace given to you, will you remain faithful members of Christ’s holy church and serve as Christ’s representatives in the world?
Will you nurture one another in the Christian faith and include one another in mutual care, love, and forgiveness, and service to others?
Will you pray for one another and the world, that we may be true disciples who walk in the way that leads to life?
The pastor continues:
Let us join together in professing the Christian faith as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.
Do you believe in God the Father?
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
Do you believe in Jesus Christ?
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord, [who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, is seated at the right hand of the Father, and will come again to judge the living and the dead.]
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit?
I believe in the Holy Spirit, [the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.]
Reading: John 13:1-17 (if not read earlier in the worship service)
Standing at the baptistery and facing those wanting to reaffirm their faith, the pastor says: Remember your baptism and be thankful. Amen.
The pastor then washes the feet of those wanting to publicly reaffirm their faith, preferably using some or all of the water in the baptistery to do so. Immediately after, those whose feet have been washed now wash the feet of two other members of the congregation, including someone who is a close acquaintance of the reaffirming person and one who is not. It is fitting for this sign-act to be accompanied by congregational song, especially with songs easily learned by ear.
After the foot washing, the pastor, and others if desired, may place hands on the head of each person whose feet have been washed, perhaps using scented oil to anoint these persons’ heads, saying:
The Holy Spirit work within you, that having been born through water and the Spirit, you may live as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. Amen.
When there is a congregational reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant, at this point water may be used symbolically in ways that cannot be interpreted as baptism. Such ways of using water include the following:
- Members of the congregation are given the chance to have their feet washed and to wash the feet of others.
- Members of the congregation may be invited to touch the water and, if desired, touch their foreheads with a moistened finger.
- The pastor may scoop up a handful of water and let it flow back into the font so that it is heard and seen, saying, “Remember your baptism and be thankful.”
- The pastor may touch the water and mark each person on the forehead with the sign of the cross.
The rite may conclude with a congregational song interpreting the significance of the occasion such as Swee Hong Lim’s “Love Consecrates the Humblest Act.”
It is most fitting that the service continue with Holy Communion.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.