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Open Baptism?

Easter blessing of the font

Lent brings with it “Ashes to go“. Easter brings with it “Open Baptism”.

The Episcopal Church of St. Mary-in-the-Highlands, Cold Spring, once again offers “Open Baptism” at their 7 p.m. Easter Vigil on Saturday, April 19.

“I know this seems highly ‘unorthodox’ and perhaps even ‘gimmicky’ to some,” the Rector of St. Mary’s, Fr. Shane Scott-Hamblen, explained, “but St. Mary’s hopes to show that the church exists to include people — not to exclude them.”

On Holy Saturday night, the church will continue to welcome — with “no questions asked” — any un-baptized person who wants to be baptized.

Those interested are requested to call Fr. Shane (845-265-2539) or arrive at the church around 6:40 p.m.

St. Mary’s is reaching out to all those who have been denied baptism for whatever reason. They hope that parents or adults who forgot or “never quite got around to it,” as well as those who were formerly turned away, will take full advantage of this invitation — as many other families have in the last several years.

A search online for “Open Baptism” brings up several Episcopal/Anglican Churches which have been doing that at least since the last decade.

It’s not limited to Anglicans/Episcopalians. Here’s what a “non-denominational” website says:

Oct. 26/27 will be an exciting weekend as we celebrate water baptism. This will be an open baptism which means during the service, Lead Pastor Steve Poe will extend an open invitation to anyone who wants to take this next step in their walk and be baptized. Come prepared with a change of clothing. FMI contact audra.kelly@northviewchurch.us.

I will be interested to hear stories, numbers, and insights from those who practice “Open Baptism”. And also comments from others – as usual trying to play the ball, not the person.

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15 Responses to Open Baptism?

    • I was asking the exact same question myself.

      In my (sort-of-pentcostal) Church, a few days before the the baptism service the candidate has an informal chat with the minister to discuss their understanding of the Christian faith to ensure they are prepared, but not a formal catechism. On the day they are asked to share a short public testamony of their faith.

      I don’t know if this would be described as “open baptism” but seems a good sort of middle ground. The only circumstances I could think of where baptism would be denied would be if the candidate was treating it frivolously.

  1. I think “look, here is water!” is fairly good biblical justification. We do have a habit of making people jump through hoops to get sacraments. I hope open baptism leads to discipleship, rather than dunk-and-go. But even then, God’s grace abounds. God is hurt by open baptism, and neither is the church or the candidate.

  2. The quote, Look, here is water” followed upon an extensive conversation the Ethiopian official had with Philip, who in essence offered catechesis. The role of catechesis isn’t to create hoops, but rather to offer a pathway so baptism (with sime kind of support) becomes the right next step.

    • Thanks, Taylor.

      I am still thinking this through. Might the Easter Vigil be akin to that “extensive conversation the Ethiopian official had with Philip”? I am also reminded of a parallel in the non-sacramental version of Christianity, where people are called forward at a meeting for an “altar call”, they pray the “sinners prayer”, “invite Jesus into their hearts” and thereafter regard themselves and are regarded within that tradition as Christians. Is “Open Baptism” the sacramental equivalent to that?

      Blessings.

  3. Interesting thread.
    I spent most of my adult life involved in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in a large Roman Catholic parish in Silicon Valley. I came to appreciate Baptism as a process, not a moment, and further, how a nurturing community facilitates formation of the candidates for Baptism, preparing them for the “what comes after.” I think one of the big gaps in the Episcopal Church is the lack of a catechumenate (in any coherent church-wide way).

    But there’s always the “on the other hand” argument for the spontaneous movement of the Spirit in the life of a seeker.

    That said, I think the pertinent gospel passage might just be the parable of the sower.

    Lou
    lay member of the Episcopal Church
    Sunnyvale CA USA

    • Thanks, Lou.

      I am sorry to hear there is not widespread use of the catechumenal process – I know TEC has formal rites for this. The Anglican Church here in NZ is always moving onto the next thing, and the next thing… so the catechumenate was briefly THE thing here, but that’s regarded as so last year now. I have rites for it in my book.

      Blessings.

  4. Seventeen years ago, I saw something interesting. It happened during the matins, at 3 am, in an Orthodox-Church church that was having its title feast of 15 August. An old woman with a young one and with a baby girl entered the church during the service. They made sign to the dean, saying that they wanted to get baptized. The dean sent a young priest, and this one performed, in an apse, baptism and chrismation (confirmation), then he have them the holy Communion. Everybody saw that and followed it smiling.

  5. Thanks for posting our article and appeal! It was a nice surprise to find. Back story: when I came to this village parish 12 years ago, there were only a few parishioners. We made a decision to offer radical welcome. The majority of the village are nominal members of another, larger, denomination (enough said, I still live here!)
    I encountered a lot of people who were denied baptisms because they were not active parishioners, or the parents were not married, or they were LGBT, etc.
    Also, our easter vigil was very poorly attended. We have had tremendous success with this open policy. This year I baptized 7 adults and children. It’s been the same pretty much every year. Quite a few stay and join the parish simply because we were welcoming when they were still smarting from having the door slammed in their faces. Disarming them with hospitality when they are expecting to be judged again has become one of my favorite parts of Holy Week. I recommend it.

    • Thanks, Fr Shane, for sharing some of the back story and some of the “results”. It sounds like there are similarities to… who is that person being celebrated again that service?… Christ is Risen!

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