The Practice Of Baptism

Source: The Complete Library of Christian Worship, Robert E. Webber, General Editor

The documents of this section are representative of baptismal liturgies within Christendom. First, a foundational document from The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus provides the student with a sense of baptism in the early church. The baptismal liturgies of the historic churches-Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches-show how baptismal worship has developed from the historic sources. The influence of these sources is then demonstrated by presenting a wide variety of baptismal liturgies...

The Apostolic Tradition Of Hippolytus

Hippolytus was an important church leader in the Roman church in the last years of the second century and early years of the third century. In the following passage, his famous Apostolic Tradition is reconstructed and translated. According to most scholars, this text describes the baptismal practice of the Roman church around the second century. It also is the foundation for later liturgical innovations and reforms.

The Eastern Orthodox Baptismal Liturgy

The following text is one example of a twentieth-century baptismal liturgy from the Eastern Orthodox tradition. It is based on an English translation of a Greek Orthodox liturgy found in An Orthodox Prayer Book, edited by Fr. N. M. Vaporis and translated by Fr. John von Holzhausen and Fr. Michael Gelsinger (Brookline, Mass. : 1977). The following service orginates in the Syrian liturgical tradition. Given the continuity of liturgical texts within the Orthodox tradition, this text may be taken as representative of the tradition as a whole.

The Roman Catholic Baptismal Liturgy

Since the Second Vatican Council, the Roman Catholic church has been active in promoting liturgical renewal in its parishes throughout the world. The following liturgy for baptism was written in 1969 in response to the directives of the Second Vatican Council and in light of liturgical reforms of the period.

A Methodist Baptismal Liturgy

The baptismal rite presented here is found in The United Methodist Hymnal as approved by the 1988 General Conference of the United Methodist Church. The 1992 General Conference approved a forthcoming United Methodist Book of Worship in which the essential text of the rite is unaltered though instructions and rubrics are expanded. Where these 1992 elaborations are deemed particularly significant, they will be noted in the commentary. The process of revising the rite following the 1968 merger of the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church began in 1976. During the next dozen years, various forms of the text were issued for use and evaluation, leading to the adoption of the version that appears in the 1989 hymnal.

A Reformed Baptismal Liturgy

The following baptismal liturgy is an approved form for use in the Christian Reformed Church in North America, a denomination in the Reformed tradition with roots in the Dutch Reformed Church. This particular form is intended for the baptism of children. It was approved for use in 1976 and is printed in the 1987 Psalter Hymnal (Grand Rapids: CRC Publications). This liturgy maintains the basic structure and content of baptismal liturgies that were used in the Reformed churches of the Netherlands and the region of Germany near Heidelberg in the mid-sixteenth century.

An Ecumenical Baptismal Liturgy

Some church historians have already labeled the twentieth century as the ecumenical century, noting the wide variety of institutional and attitudinal openness toward ecumenical expression. Similarly, some liturgical scholars have described the twentieth century as a great period of liturgical convergence, noting the significant cross-fertilization of liturgical practices across denominational lines. In line with such descriptions, liturgists have attempted to write sacramental liturgies for ecumenical use. The following is one such liturgy, written by Fr. Max Thurian to illustrate the famous Lima document on baptism, Eucharist, and ministry.

A Believer’s Baptismal Liturgy

Church traditions that practice the baptism of believers tend not to prescribe specific texts for various liturgical acts and sacraments. Thus, the following service is only one possibility from among the variety of approaches to a service of believer's baptism. This text is taken from Orders and Prayers for Church Worship: A Manual for Ministers, compiled by Ernest A. Page and Stephen F. Winward (1960).

A Charismatic Baptismal Service

Baptism is usually held where running water is present (such as a stream or lake), but church baptisteries or swimming pools are also used. If the baptism is held indoors, the baptism, ideally, should be part of a regular service where most of the congregation can be present as witnesses to the event.