In 2011, our family moved to another state so that my husband, Andrew, could pioneer a new ministry on a college campus. Though unplanned, this change in address also brought a change in our denomination. On one of our first Sunday mornings in our new town, we sat down in the pews of First Presbyterian Church, and I gave my husband’s hand a squeeze. He nodded knowingly in agreement. This was going to be our home.
Except one (big) problem for these two Southern Baptists: What to do about infant baptism? I loved the liturgy, agreed with the theology, but I had some problems with the sprinkling of those babies. Did the parents presume these were saving waters? Did they think this was their child’s ticket to salvation to be cashed in at confirmation class? Was it all just a stuffy tradition?
Very slowly, I began to intellectually understand why one would choose to baptize their children. I understood the concept of the visible church (church membership) and the invisible church (redeemed hearts). I could make the links between circumcision in the Old Testament with baptism in the New, and I could see how baptism was now a marker showing who belonged to this visible church. I saw no interruptions in Scripture, where families were traditionally dealt with as households. And this made sense to me—that because my children lived in a household of faith, they were set apart in some way. Baptism was a sign to the world and to our children that they were a significant part of the church; they belonged there.
But then there was a moment when all of this clicked in my gut, which was a different sort of understanding. A pastor said something to me that changed my whole perspective on my children’s place in the church. He said that one of the best things that we can do for our children is this: Make sure they don’t feel as though we are pushing them outside the gates of the church, and then asking them to find their way back in. They should hear the gospel with clarity, while experiencing the safety of a covenant community. That image of my children being welcomed into the gates of the church settled my heart and gave me a new picture to understand what it meant for them to be in a covenant family…