How old is your daughter? We just baptized our 2.5 year old daughter last weekend at our home. We planned to have the ceremony in our backyard and the weather cooperated. At the very beginning of the service, our officiant bent and filled a small Asian bowl (just one she'd found in our kitchen cupboard when she got to the house that morning--nothing intrinsically meaningful) with water from the creek. We stood on the creekbank and our guests stood around behind us. We had carried down two chairs for the elderly grandmothers (though my mom was up taking pictures when we walked down, and our daughter climbed right up on the empty chair, so my mom had to stand!) I noticed that my young nephews sat on a low-lying tree branch down by the creek bank.
The gathering was small. We decided to do it at our house mostly for logistical reasons, but it did give us the freedom to do it as we wanted. Shortly after my daughter was born, I had asked some friends to be godparents. The godmother was also the pastor of my church (we had become friends while she was still a student in divinity school, and her path led back to that same church we'd attended together while she was at Harvard.) At that time, we planned to baptize our daughter as an infant and assumed it would be happening in the first months of her life. I particularly loved many elements in the baptism service of the church we were attending.
We ended up unable to set a date because my mom had health problems/hospitalizations that prevented her from traveling after my daughter was born, and I decided to wait on the baptism until she could join us. THEN, my husband got a different job and we made a big move (too far from the church) and at the same time, the godparents also made a big move, leaving that church. We've been attending a Congregational (UCC) church in our new town, as there's no local church in my own denomination. We could have had the baptism there, but I really wanted to honor our original intentions to have our friends as godparents, and she (godmother) is still pastor of a church and wouldn't have been able to come to our church on a Sunday. That's how we came to have the baptism at our own home, in a natural setting, on a Saturday morning.
We were on the edge of the woods, standing by the creek. It was cool and sunny. I was free to use the text we'd originally favored, so it had beautiful elements (to me.)
I'll offer an overview of the form of the service we followed, which might help you decide on a basic structure to fill with whatever language or actions are meaningful to you.
There was a brief gathering statement
(Ours was as simple as this: "Let us now celebrate the sacrament of baptism together." This was when our celebrant/godmother filled the bowl with water.)
There was a passage from the Bible
with an introduction -- our reading was the text of Jesus' injunction to baptize, and the passage about children being brought to him to touch. It was introduced as his invitation to baptism and a reminder of his gracious welcome of little children.
Next was the meaning of baptism
, in which it was all laid out, very clearly: what is meant by the sacrament, what we are baptizing her into, and what the various elements symbolize (specifically the meaning of water, and the meaning of the sign of the cross on her forehead.)
We were not baptizing into a specific denomination or church, and furthermore, the text made explicit that we were baptizing her into "the Christian church" in a broad ecumenical concept of it.
That portion of the text (from the "Meaning of Baptism" section) reads:
|In the sacrament of baptism, we promise that by our own personal example as parents, by guidance wisely and lovingly given, by providing for our children's spiritual education and deeper self-discovery, and by surrounding them with love in the home, we will nourish and encourage their full development as human beings and as children of God.
This is a great challenge. To meet it, we need to align ourselves with the forces working for good. Another word for these forces is the Church, not as a denomination, but as the broad fellowship of all men and women of goodwill everywhere who worship God as they know God and seek to do God's will as they are given to see it.
Therefore we do not baptize into this denomination, but into the Lord's church in that broad ecumenical concept of it.
I thought that was pretty clear about what we thought "church" meant! I also liked that it got into what the water symbolizes.
Next was the baptism commitment
which had one of my favorite parts, talking directly to the parents.
After laying out the parental responsibilities, and the way the significance of baptism rests on the health of the parent-child relationship, this portion had the "vow-like" response for the parents:
|In the light of this understanding of baptism, do you desire to have your child baptized into this spiritual life and faith?
(The parents shall answer)
Next, the godparents responded to a call to do their best to uphold the intentions of her baptism, to surround her through the years with spiritual love and understanding, and to lead her as they feel directed by the spirit of God.
After that, was an invitation to prayer
. (My favorite line from the prayer: "As you guide her in your ways and enlighten her by your holy Word, we know that you will defend her in times of trouble, and lead her to attain the spiritual wholeness for which you have created her. Amen.")
This was followed by The Lord's Prayer
Then came the Baptism and Blessing
. This was literally just the actual text of the baptism statement ("....I baptize you....") while she dipped her fingers in the water and applied it to our child's forehead by tracing the sign of the cross on her forehead. Immediately after that, she placed her hand on our daughter's head and pronounced the blessing ("The Lord bless you and keep you....")
The text for the actual baptizing was:
|child's full name, with angels all around, and in the spirit and light of the wholeness of God, I baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The next segment is called the Reception into the Church
, which I view as kind of a reflection on or acknowledgment of, to those present, of what just happened. In our case, it was a brief statement (baptisms in churches often include a vow/response by the congregation at this point, promising to welcome and support this child in their community as she grows), followed by a prayer.
For us, the "reception" part was:
|This child now baptized with water is received into the Lord's church on earth, to the end that by a life open to God she may come to choose the life of heaven. Let us give thanks. (prayer)
After the prayer came the Benediction
. ("The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, evermore. Amen.")
That was the end.
In our service, the "meat" of it was in the Meaning of Baptism
portion and the Baptism Commitment
portion. That's when the purpose of baptism was explained, and when the symbolism was explicitly explained. The rest of the service accomplished the important aspects of gathering and dismissing, doing the actual sacrament
, and responding/reacting to it.
The pastor at our current, local church implied that baptism was basically meaningless if not done as part of a community (in a local church), and while I think I understand what she was trying to convey, I have to disagree with her. (We were asking if she would officiate in a service at our home, so that our friend could be godmother instead of officiant AND godmother, but our pastor was not comfortable with that. Which I understood. We ended up changing the wording of the godparent part a bit so it would work with our friend doing the baptizing AND becoming the godmother.)
I do believe in a community at large, beyond the local church, and would not say that there is no meaning or point in celebrating the sacrament outside a specific congregation. I am not fundamentally opposed to having a ceremony in church, but I definitely felt the specialness of the setting and structure of our intimate baptism at home.
Especially interesting with a child old enough to talk, who is very thoughtful and had to be prepared for the event.