“What do United Methodists believe about Baptism?” Baptism is a symbol of God’s claim on your life. A participatory sacrament wherein we recognize God’s grace being bestowed upon us in a special way.
What about infant Baptism? Scripture supports this. When men were converted to Christianity and baptized, the entire family was converted (male dominated society, remember?) In the United Methodist Church tradition, we leave it up to the family to choose infant Baptism or later as a youth before confirmation or as an adult when they join the church.
Does Baptism guarantee salvation? No, only our faith in Christ does.
I was baptized in a different denomination, do I have to be re-baptized? No, for the United Methodist Church believes we are NOT baptized into a denomination, but into the universal body of Christ. To deny the first Baptism implies God’s presence was absent then and if then, why this time or the next? Or, it implies that only one church/denomination has the correct theology of Baptism and we believe Baptism is dependent upon God, not humans or human institutions. Believers Baptism per se, is dependent on church to baptize. We do not re-baptize, but we do recognize Baptisms from other Christian faiths. (We also do not re-marry those who were married in a different church!)
There are three forms of Baptism we utilize sprinkling, pouring or immersion. We believe the intent, not the form, is most important.
We do have a service of remembering your Baptism, which is a service of renewal and re-dedication. Infants/children who are baptized early in life are led to explore their Baptisms during Sunday school, confirmation and similar events. At the point they make their own confession of faith in Christ, they continue that journey of faith.
We normally celebrate the sacrament on the first Sunday of each month, plus: Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Christmas Eve. Communion is a participatory sacrament in which we acknowledge and receive God’s love and grace through the cup and loaf. There are many meanings attached to this special time: forgiveness, restoration, renewal, inspiration, community, peace, healing, hope. When we approach the table, we all have different needs on any given Sunday and we come to receive, in symbolic form, the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins.
What about children taking the sacrament? We leave that up to the parents to decide. But, communion is a participatory event. It is what we do as the body of Christ. Just as we sing together, pray together, children learn by participating. When children are young, they may not fully comprehend the concept of “love,” but they experienced it. Hence, we may not fully “understand it intellectually,” but it is an event to experience at any age.
Can only confirmed United Methodists take the sacrament? We practice open communion for we believe it is also a “converting sacrament,” whereby a life may be transformed by God’s grace. Who are we as the church to judge a person’s “worthiness” by saying that only card-carrying United Methodists can receive God’s grace? If we have all fallen short of the glory of God, if we have all sinned, are any of us worthy to take the gift? No, but God extends his loaf and cup anyway to bring us back to his kingdom.
Is kneeling the best way to take communion? We take the elements by faith in our hearts, not by the correct physical posture. The disciples received the first communion lounging at a table not kneeling at an altar rail. God is present at the communion rail as well as in the pew or in a circle in a park! Our attitude is more important than our altitude. However and whenever we receive this gift, we can be transformed!
How do I prepare for communion? First, be here. Pray that His Holy Spirit will fill you. Pray for guidance, for forgiveness, for reconciliation, for community. Come with open hearts to receive God’s blessing. Just come & receive.