Baptism in an Ecumergent Context

This Sunday I will baptize my daughter Perl Teresa Amory-Pinkerton at Church in the Cliff and invite everyone to join us for worship. This will be my first time to administer the sacrament of baptism and what a strange and glorious thing to be able to baptize my own little one, born almost exactly one year ago.


In fact, I went into the labor the evening of another baptism, that of my sister Heather’s baby Aiden. Heather and her partner Kate were the first same sex couple to have their baby baptized at First Richardson UMC. I remember with such clarity the power of being in front of that large community, praying over Aiden- his head still wet, feeling the touch of the Spirit around me and through me. The senior pastor of First Richardson who officiated the baptism was so supportive and members of the congregation stopped their car in the parking lot to congratulate Heather and Kate and reach out to them. This day healed many wounds for my family, one of many faithful Methodist families and individuals working for full inclusion of GLBT folks into our church.


The very night of Aiden’s baptism with thunderclouds blowing in I stepped out on our veranda and invited our baby to be born. I stood in the wild wind and I felt it move and I felt the baby move and I said yes God. Yes, I am ready. Yes baby, yes we are ready for you. We will catch you and keep you and love you. And sweet Perl was born at high noon the next day, August 11 2008.


Baptism is an ancient practice which speaks to the movement of God in our lives. Like the winds on the night of Perl’s birth, God’s grace blows before we are even born, throughout our lives, and continues after our death. Baptism is an act of God in and through the church. Through infant baptism we celebrate that God says yes to us before we are even capable of saying yes to God.


In an ecumenical and emergent environment like at Church in the Cliff, we have the privilege of celebrating the diversity of the Christian tradition and consequently infant baptism may be a new practice for some and I welcome your participation. CitC is our church family and Richie, Coleman and I look forward to celebrating this special day with you all. I think the multiple perspectives we bring on these ancient sacraments only helps us to look at them more closely, to study them more fully, and to hold them more dearly. And hopefully to love each other more deeply in them and through them.


Please join us tonight as we eat Indian food and talk more about baptism and the theme of this week, hanging out with children as a spiritual practice. We meet at the Semrad’s home at 6:30 (call 213.233.4605 for directions) and all are welcome!


Grace and peace to you this day,



Comments 1

  1. Several folks said they liked the insert in the bulletin we had on Sunday on baptism traditions so I am posting it here for reflection and feedback. courtney

    Traditions of Baptism & Dedication at Church in the Cliff

    At Church in the Cliff, we are committed to fostering a diverse church community that honors a variety of Christian traditions about baptism, including both “infant baptism” and “believers’ baptism.”
    In some denominations, including the United Methodist Church, baptism is understood to be “all-ages baptism,” and so is open to infants, children, and adults alike. According to this tradition, baptism is considered to be a sign of God’s grace and care, offered to everyone from the very beginning of life, even before an individual can know or understand it. Just as an infant receives her mother’s love and nourishment before she is fully conscious of it, so a child can receive a sacramental sign of God’s grace. This form of baptism may be administered by pouring water on the child’s head or through full immersion in water.
    In this tradition, even a young child may be baptized into the fullness of Christian community participating in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. With the help of parents, family, and the church community, the child will grow in the Spirit, maturing into an ever-deepening faith and response to God’s call. Later in life, a teenager or adult may choose to consciously affirm his or her baptism in a service known as “Confirmation of Baptism.”
    In the Baptist tradition, Christian baptism is understood to be “believers’ baptism.” According to this tradition, baptism is considered to be an individual’s response to God’s call by publicly committing to pursue a Christian life, and so is offered to all people when they are old enough to make this conscious decision. This form of baptism may be full immersion in water, or sprinkling. In this tradition, infants and young children are not baptized; instead, they are welcomed into the church community in a robust way with a ceremony called a “Service of Dedication.”
    At a Service of Dedication, parents, family, friends, and the gathered community present and bless the child, and together they commit to educating and nurturing the child so that he or she may eventually feel warmly invited to baptism. At Church in the Cliff we affirm and celebrate both of these traditions due to our commitment to an ecumenical and emergent ethos, our Baptist roots, and our Methodist pastor!

    If you would like to explore the possibility of Christian baptism, please call the church: (214) 233-4605

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