Each January, the first Sunday after Epiphany is Baptism of Jesus, where we read and talk about Jesus’ baptism. This is a great opportunity to talk to the whole congregation about baptism, especially the children in the congregation.
In worship, doing an Affirmation of Baptism or Thanksgiving for Baptism in place of Confession and Forgiveness at the beginning of worship can remind everyone about the gift of baptism and frame the service for folks. During that part of the service, as is safe based on community COVID levels, people of all ages could gather at the baptismal font and dip their fingers in the water, splash around, and make the sign of the cross on each other’s foreheads in water. This is a good reminder that baptism is joyful.
If there are only a couple kids in worship, they could help pour a pitcher of water into the font before or during the Thanksgiving for Baptism. If your congregation asperges (uses a tree branch or something else to sprinkle water on everyone), kids could help to sprinkle the water, dipping extra branches in and waving them around. With this, there is no need to be worried about getting water everywhere, because that’s the point!
If you have transgender children in the congregation, or teenagers or adults who are transitioning, this is also a great time to do a naming rite during worship if they want, naming explicitly God’s love for them, for their chosen name, and for their choice of pronouns. If you offer this option, ask privately beforehand and be sure to make it clear that this is optional; not everyone likes attention from a group, especially in this kind of situation.
Children’s time or Sunday school is a great time to gather around the font and talk about the promises made during baptism: promises from God of love, forgiveness, and new chances to love God; and promises to God to grow, learn, explore, question, and work for the world God calls us to join in building with Them.
At home, you can light a child’s baptismal candle or another candle and tell them the story of their baptism. There are also many great books about baptism that you could read to go with the story, including On the Day You Were Baptized or Come to the Water, Little One. These are especially helpful for kids who might not remember their actual baptism because they were too young at the time. For older kids who might be interested in podcasts or some deeper conversation, the Nerds At Church podcast did a deep dive into baptism last year for Baptism of Jesus, which you could listen to together and talk about.
Baptism is also a great way to connect to service and justice work in the congregation. You could do a clothing or food drive to help with a January slump in donations after the holidays. You could talk about upcoming legislation and write letters or plan a time to talk to legislators in favor of bills that support the ways God loves all people, or against bills that cause harm.
This is also a great time to talk with everyone in the congregation about ways that we can remember our baptisms, giving thanks to God for Their love. Reminding people that whenever they encounter water—as rain or snow, while showering, washing hands, or doing dishes, or even just drinking it—it is a great time to give thanks to God for baptism and for God’s love!