Baptism preparation was probably the area of ministry in vacancy that became almost impossible to keep up with by simply visiting individual families one by one. I knew I wasn’t being very effective, and was sure that it wasn’t really engaging people with the church, even though I worked hard to show this CPAS video, talk through their reactions to what baptism is really about, show them the liturgy/promises and encourage families to attend services/Wayfinders/Messy. The supporting Deanery clergy were always great too at visiting the families after me, before they got to the ‘dunking’ stage!
There was a constant backlog of families wanting to be ‘done’, and often people upset that the process is slower than they would like. Some of that can’t be changed, but I was sure some of it could be.
But the new vicar arrived with a plan… or at least something that had worked in his last parish that we could adapt. Now he’s in Malawi doing other useful stuff for a fortnight and I’m trying to make the first shot at “Encounter” happen in St Peter’s for when he gets back! The big encouragement has been so many folk from our congregations want to get involved helping, making this a better example of the active, faith-full fellowship share.
The idea is that a whole group of families enquiring about baptism are invited to “Encounter” – that helps with the visiting load immediately.
They are invited to come to our 11.15am service, where because it’s a nice time of morning most of our baptisms take place. (Even though it’s not necessarily the most family orientated of our congregations they are very welcoming and know how much their ministry is needed).
Then we’re going to offer them a light buffet lunch of kid friendly food… St Peter’s does catering really well, and hopefully it’s a chance for some informal chatter about what goes in at church and people’s reactions to having seen a baptism happen.
After a brief intro to what’s going to happen, we’ll show them the CPAS First Steps DVD – hopefully via laptop and data-projector on the big screen (it lasts roughly 10 minutes). Then our lovely new vicar will discuss with them for 15 mins-ish some of their reactions to the baptism service they went to earlier, their expectations of baptism, the symbolism in baptism (cross, water, light). He’s been a vicar 20+ years so I guess he knows how to do so much so quickly, though having seen the DVD will help – I shall watch and learn!
Then one of our church families who have chosen to have a Thanksgiving Services for their children will talk for five minutes about why, and what it includes and doesn’t include.
Next up will be two of our children’s leaders talking about Wayfinders (our Bible-based baby/toddler groups), Messy Church (monthly) and other kids groups. This is because increasingly we find families wanting bulk baptisms with the eldest children sometimes being well into school age.
As we get towards the end there will be another song from Peter’s Puppets, before I explain how they can now book a Baptism or Thanksgiving Service if they want to go ahead with the idea. Booking a baptism will be by 1st/2nd/3rd choice of some dates we offer on a form… we will then confirm by phone. For Thanksgivings, these don’t need to be in a morning service, so will be booked direct with the vicar I think. They won’t be able to book at Encounter (so they have a cooling off period, and we don’t get a ‘rugby scrum’ of bidding for dates), but will need to drop the form back to us after they’ve had a ‘cooling off’ period to discuss all they’ve seen and heard!
The vicar will close the session by about 2.15pm with prayer, and we’ll hand out the response/application forms at the door as they leave!
The leaflet I’ve just finished to send out with the invitations is here, but please remember even the vicar hasn’t seen it yet because he’s in Malawi, so I’m expecting him to edit it before our second session of Encounter: Encounter Baptism-Thanksgiving Leaflet Oct11 I’m hoping the new vicar doesn’t mind me sharing all this – it’s his bright idea after all… I’m just doing what I call “the knitting”!
I’m really encouraged by the number of people who have volunteered to “do stuff”, especially the puppet team, our ‘thanksgiving’ family, and our children’s leaders.
So, that’s the plan for October 30th. Thanks to Revd Simon Cutmore and Revd James Ogley (among others) for encouraging me to blog about it. Feel free to pray for us that day, and I’ll report back at the end of the month on how it went!