Pastor’s Corner – Jan. 29

Today at St. Paul’s we celebrate both a Baptism and New Member Sunday. For today’s Pastor’s Corner, I thought I’d share just a bit about what these two important events are all about.
 
For infant or a child’s baptism, our custom is to have interested parents contact the office. From there, they meet with our Coordinator of Children’s Ministry, Lynn Van Nice. She reviews the baptismal service with them and then schedules the baptism. Families can choose either service on almost any Sunday. (We do not offer ‘private’ baptisms because baptism by nature is not a private sacrament. It is the public act of welcoming a child into the Christian community.) We also make scheduling a baptism as simple as possible because, as we say in the ritual itself, ‘baptism celebrates God’s free gift of grace, offered to us all.” Our hope is that the parents of the ‘baptizee’ commit to raise the child in the church, learning to follow Jesus – either with us or in another Christian community.
One of the things many people do not realize is that baptism is the one sacrament almost universally recognized across Christian denominations. Most mainline Christian churches do not re-baptize. In fact, contrary to the ways we sometimes talk, people are not ‘baptized Catholic’ or ‘baptized Methodist.’ When we are baptized, we become part of the Christian family and subsequently choose to live that out in a particular community or congregation – Episcopalian, Presbyterian, United Methodist, etc.

So that leads to the concept of membership. What does it mean to become a member of a church? First of all, membership presumes baptism. Membership presumes that somewhere, at some time, a person was baptized and that now he or she is choosing to live into that baptism by joining with a particular group of people (like the people of St. Paul’s). For me, membership is about choosing to live and grow my faith with a community that challenges and nourishes me. Frankly, I don’t think membership is something God requires so much as it is something we need. We need each other as we struggle to do the hard work of living faithfully as followers of Jesus. The one thing we ask of people who wish to join St. Paul’s is that they attend an Amazing Grace class. It is a one evening class taught by one or both pastors during which we share some history of Methodism, and more specifically, how we at St. Paul’s live into our faith. It is a good way to meet other people, share insights, ask questions, and get just a bit more familiar with this church community.

I extend a warm welcome today to Cassidy and her family and to our new members, Maggie and Lee Tickell and Dennis and Laurie Mock. Their commitments remind us of our own. Together may we live into the vision of Jesus, becoming the beloved community, committed to loving and serving all.

 

Grace and peace,
Marianne