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Baptism now, Communion in a minute

Baptism now, Communion in a minute

“On call” baptism.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori dropped this phrase in video taped remarks on the issue of Communion without Baptism, and frequent Cafe commenter Jonathan Grieser picked it up. He writes:

But what would an Episcopal baptismal theology look like that invited people at the beginning of their exploration of faith to undergo the rite? What would it mean to have the baptismal font featured as a central element in our liturgical spaces. In some churches it is, but in many, its location at the entry of the nave is obscured by its small size and by the minimal amount of baptismal water that remains in the font week to week.

I’ve had as a theme this Easter season the Ethiopian eunuch’s question of Philip: “What is to prevent me from being baptized?” Philip’s answer should be ours–Nothing! And an immediate invitation to join us at the font. If we want to practice radical inclusion, that’s where we should begin. That’s where the early church began. Baptism is a beginning, not an end point, and a theology of baptism that embraces an infant as well as an infant in Christ is radically inclusive and affirms the spiritual journeys of those who find their way to our church.

If I am understanding correctly, “on call baptism” would lower what some people consider a barrier to communion by making it easier to be baptized. I find this intriguing and would love to hear more about it. What would “on call baptism” look like? What are your thoughts?


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Juan Oliver

For what it’s worth, i’m getting tired of the discussion and it’s still May. It seems to me that proponents of CWOB what to imitate Jesus transgressiveness, but would remove the rule that makes the transgression a transgression in the first place. It also sounds to me like their anxiety about “inclusion” though laudable, can only too easily insult guests. By treating them like members of the household. I don’t get it. If you want to give communion to anyone who asks for it, go ahead. Norms always admit exceptions. (pr have Anglicans suddenly turned into rigorists? What’s to happen to our sherry?

Bill Dilworth

“those black lace doilies that used to be available at the entryway, for women who weren’t wearing hats”

Chapel caps, and they didn’t just come in black, Murdoch. My parish in Fort Worth used to have a whole rainbow of choices in chapel caps – everything from black to white.


If it’s magic, you must get the spells right — remember Aunt Clara?

If it’s club, then there should be membership standards and a purpose to be pursued — participants should be joining a working group. (Many times, it seems that Communion is seen as an individual matter — me and my God.)

At one parish we attended, a Jewish congregant wanted to take communion — he was fully participating in the activities of the parish but didn’t wish to convert. Don’t remember how it was resolved, but an uncomfortable time was had by all.

There is also the model of the village pub, a useful institution where all are welcome, if they behave themselves.

Baptism at the door reminds me of those black lace doilies that used to be available at the entryway, for women who weren’t wearing hats.

Donald Schell

An addition to what I just posted – I’m hearing some ask whether offering everyone communion is simply a fear of hurting people’s feelings and where mission and discipleship show up in the practice. Some of us who have been making invitation to all part of our liturgy are working with missionary intent and have found our way to this practice as reluctantly as others in other circumstances where something that seems like it could be the Spirit pushes us against what we know and have been taught. The current Anglican Theological Review has St. Gregory’s story of how we got to that moment in about 1983, what came before, and how it was seeing visitors converted and thinking about Jesus’ meal practice together that pushed us to try something we hadn’t envisioned or sought:

Donald Schell

I’ve been watching this thread and the conversation at Episcopal News Service with interest. It feels like we’re beginning to actually talk when people are offering real experience of actual mission and conversion and talking about real practice (and I mean both practice from the perspective of Initiated-only-baptism and from the perspective of Communion-without-baptism or as I’d prefer to describe it ‘before baptism’).

Clearly baptism and baptismal practice have become central to our thinking in the Episcopal Church, and clearly a communion practice that doesn’t address baptism at all is out of synch with our church.

Speaking from thirty or so years’ experience (when I wrote it) of baptizing people who came to the font via the table, I wrote this piece re-visioning baptism from sources in scripture, tradition, and practice, what do mean baptizing people who are already receiving communion:

I think this conversation is important, that listening to one another’s experience as we talk matters, that the questions of theology and how we do theology that are coming up here matter and I appreciate the patient work people are putting in to listening and trying to think together.

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