At Home Formation: Remembering the Font

This post is part three of a three part series on reflecting on baptism during Epiphany. Find part 1 on creating a baptismal remembrance box here, and part two on exploring the mystery of Jesus’ baptism here.

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Every Sunday morning offers opportunities for reflecting with your children on the story of God’s work in and among us. One thing that can help the children around you reflect on the significance of worship, baptism, and the story of God is teaching them to Notice Sacred Space. After the liturgy on a Sunday, tour the Baptismal font in the Nave with your children. Ask them to take note of the shape of the font, the words engraved in the stone (readers and early writers might want to write it down for reference later), the font’s location in the in the Nave, the location of the bowl of water, Paschal candle, and cross (perhaps even the cross that is used for the children’s liturgy).  The children’s book, A Walk Through our Church, which may be borrowed from our Christian Education Library (under the Christian Life category), is a wonderful guide to the Church’s holy things (pages 1-11 discuss baptism and the font).

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When you return home, invite your children to make an artistic depiction of the Holy Family font. Use crayons, colored pencils, lead pencils, or watercolors to depict the font (You can see my watercolor example above).

Just as baptism and identity are important themes in Epiphany, so these themes continue into the Lenten season. Indeed, as we begin to turn our minds and hearts to reflecting on the cross and later the resurrection, our baptism–living into Christ’s death and resurrection–are natural extensions of Lenten reflection. Sharing stories about baptism can help our families prepare for the Lenten season ahead. Your family may like to work on a table centerpiece for Lent. One feature of such a piece might be small, clay Baptismal Bowls (sculpey clay can be baked and hardened enough to hold small amounts of water). Provide each member of your family with a lump of clay (any color works, blue and green look quite a bit like water once they are marbled together) to make a small (palm-sized) bowl. Carve a cross or other symbol on the side of the bowls and bake them. Fill them with a small amount of water and add them to your family’s Lenten centerpiece or their use to your Lenten devotionals.

You  may want to remind your children that there is a bowl containing water which sits at the edge of our font in the Nave. These smaller bowls will help remind us of our baptism at home just like the bowl at church reminds us of our baptism.

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To conclude this short series:

Remembering our baptism is no small or insignificant task, but is of utmost importance. On this matter, Laurence Stookey  in Baptism: Christ’s Act in the Church writes: “As the formation of the human personality rests on the ability to remember one’s identity, so it is through knowing who we are in God’s sight that we become what we are intended to be.” In our baptism we are incorporated into the Church and begin the journey of becoming who is it that God has asked the Church to be, a sign for the world. Understanding what it means to belong to God and to one another is a lifelong task which depends on our practices of remembering for and with one another.

 

Remembering Baptism at Home: Exploring the Mystery of Jesus’ Baptism

This is the second post in a three-part series on sharing baptismal stories during Epiphanytide. You can find the first post, on creating a baptismal remembrance box, here.

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Just over a year ago, our Church School classes heard the story of Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan. Each class responded to the story in different ways but common to all responses was a moment at the end of class for each student to “remember” their baptism. Every student was invited to dip three fingers into a basin of water and make the sign of the cross upon their forehead. As the classes were letting out, I stationed myself in the commons near a small basin of water and a white candle to greet the children as they left for the week. One child boldly approached the basin, dipped his fingers one-by-one into the water, before pausing, and submerging his entire hand. He grinned, smearing his now dripping hand over his whole face in the sign of the cross. Once. twice. three times. As it turns out, droplets of water on a few fingers weren’t enough!

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At Holy Family, our children have witnessed baptism many times, and even if they don’t remember or recall the day of their own, they are constantly reminded that in the abundant waters of the font, God has claimed them as God’s own. As the children in our parish grow, they will continue to uncover the richness of the gift that is their baptism. Layer upon layer will be added until they come to see the entire life of discipleship as an attempt to live faithfully into their baptismal vows. A seminary professor of mine, Dr. Fred Edie, was fond of calling this life-long process: “learning to swim in baptismal waters.”

Part of this life-long process of living into our baptism, is learning about Jesus own baptism. This story, like all of our Epiphany stories is about Jesus’ identity, it shows who Jesus is.

Here are two ideas for working with this story at home:

Compare the accounts of Jesus’ baptism: All four Gospel writers share the story of Jesus’ baptism. On a given week, spend time as a family reading through each of the Gospel writers showings (they can be found in Matthew 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22, and John 1:29-34). Together, make a list of what happens in each story, paying special attention to the details. At the end of the week, compare the lists from each story. What details are similar to all of the stories and what details are different? What does each Gospel writer highlight? Which is your favorite of the accounts? Do you think each writer is making a different point? Or, the same point in different ways? Are there any details in the story that are surprising? unexpected? confusing? Do any of the stories challenge or shape the way that we tell the story in the future? What do you think is the most important detail? What could be left out and the story would still be the same?

Working with Watercolor: After clearing the dinner table, engage in a silent family reflection and prayer about baptism. Read one of the stories of Jesus’ baptism (above) out loud and give and watercolor paper to each member of your family. Before passing out the paper, you can write in white crayon “You are my son, the Beloved” or “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever.” Ask each person to paint water, a baptismal symbol, or a scene from Matthew or Luke (playing music in the background can help fidgety children stay calm). Each person will uncover the message as they paint. Alternatively, your family can make a list of all of the recent baptisms that have happened at our church. Then, in a short time of silence, pray for each person and their life as you remember and paint together.

 

At Home Formation: Practices of Remembering Baptism

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Epiphany is a wonderful time to remember our baptisms together. Aside from the Baptism of our Lord, which the Church remembered yesterday, Epiphany is about the identity of Jesus. What does it mean to say that Jesus Christ is Lord? In his life and ministry, how do we come to know that this is the case? Remembering the Baptism of our Lord also invites reflection on our own baptism, our own identity in light of who God in Christ is. In the next several posts, I will discuss several ways we can reflect on the baptism of Christ, the significance of the ritual of baptism in Church, and practices for remembering our own baptism.

One way of talking about baptism at home is to create a baptismal remembrance box or book with your child(ren). Purchase, make, or re-purpose an old wooden box. Search for a box in the shape of a cross or a rectangular box on which you and your child can paint a cross (or other baptismal symbols). With your child, go through items you have saved from their baptism–photos, bulletin from the liturgy, candle, a copy of the liturgy from the Book of Common Prayer, etc. Tell them about each of the objects. How does each object help them remember their baptism and the people who were a part of it even if they have no memory of the occasion? Read through the questions that were asked of the gathered congregation at your child’s baptism. Talk with them about how their baptism made them a part of a family that is larger than your own. Put the box in a location that is accessible to them, ideally on a low shelf, near some children’s books about baptism.

Children who are baptized as babies may not remember their own baptism. It is up to their community to remember their baptism for and with them! These stories become significant to the individual child as well as those who fondly remember this particular child’s entry into the household of God. Remember your conversations next time there is a baptism at Holy Family. Help the children point out the various objects they have in their own box at home. Remind them that their baptism was just as wonderful and celebratory as this one.