Please also see Nurturing Baptismal Ministries – Some Resources for Group-based Theological Study

Baptism is a coming into the Body of Christ, in which we become members of one another and of Christ – it is about who we are in Christ, and whose we are: God’s own. In baptism we are gathered… and sent forth, in the ministry that is God’s own ministry of transformation, reconciliation, healing and salvation of the world. So, baptism is not just about identity and belonging, it’s also about being sent in mission and ministry. The baptismal liturgy speaks of the foundation of that mission and ministry:

“Baptism is the sign of new life in Christ. Baptism unites Christ with his people. That union is both individual and corporate. Christians are, it is true, baptized one by one, but to be a Christian is to be part of a new creation which rises from the dark waters of Christ’s death into the dawn of his risen life. Christians are not just baptized individuals; they are a new humanity.As the World Council of Churches document Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry has reminded Christians, the scriptures of the NewTestament and the liturgy of the Church unfold the meaning of baptism in various images (often based on Old Testament water symbols) which express the mystery of salvation. Baptism is participation in Christ’s death and resurrection (Romans 6.3–5; Colossians 2.12); a washing away of sin (1 Corinthians 6.11); a new birth (John 3.5); an enlightenment by Christ (Ephesians 5.14); a reclothing in Christ (Galatians 3.27); a renewal by the Spirit (Titus 3.5); the experience of salvation from the flood (1 Peter 3.20–21); an exodus from bondage (1 Corinthians 10.1–2) and a liberation into a new humanity in which barriers of division, whether of sex or race or social status, are transcended (Galatians 3.27–28; 1 Corinthians 12.13). The images are many but the reality is one. Several dimensions of baptism became clear as the early Church developed its practice. Initiation into the Church was a vital concern of the whole Christian community and not only of the candidates for baptism and their immediate families. Preparation for baptism was a responsibility shared among various members of the community, both ordained and lay. Becoming a Christian had as much to do with learning to live a new lifestyle within the Christian community as it did with specific beliefs. When the day of baptism finally arrived, the event took place within the context of the Sunday eucharist, when the whole community was gathered and where the newly baptized received communion for the first time.

From the Introduction to the Baptismal Liturgy of the Book of Alternative Services of the Anglican Church of Canada ©The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada 1985.

The Baptismal Covenant

From The Book of Alternative Services

Celebrant Do you believe in God the Father?
People I believe in God,
The Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
Celebrant Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God?
People I believe in Jesus Christ,
his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit

and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again
to judge the living and the dead.
Celebrant Do you believe in God the Holy Spirit?
People I believe in God the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.

Celebrant Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and
fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the
People I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant Will you persevere in resisting evil and, whenever
you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?
People I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant Will you proclaim by word and example the good
news of God in Christ?
People I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
your neighbour as yourself?
People I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant Will you strive for justice and peace among all
people, and respect the dignity of every human
People I will, with God’s help.
Celebrant Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of God’s creation and respect, sustain, and renew the life of the earth?
People I will, with God’s help.

In its Section Report on “Looking to the Future in Ministry”, the Anglican Consultative Council of 1995 spoke of the ministry of the whole body of Christ as rooted in the “one ministry of Jesus Christ in which all Christians participate by virtue of their baptism.” The document goes on to explain: “This ministry of the baptised is the fundamental ministry of the Church, with the function of ordained ministry being to serve, equip and enable this ministry to take place. If the ministry of the baptised is to be Christian where they live, then it follows that this is chiefly not sanctuary or churchly ministry, but rather a matter of being a Christian parent, employee, employer, unemployed person, (voter, neighbour, friend) with integrity. We need to help people to find out how to exercise these world-focussed ministries. The pattern for us all remains Christ who had a world-focussed ministry.  … the ministry of the whole body come(s) first (not that baptismal ministry is derived from ordered ministry).”

“The purpose of ministry:

  • To promote the unity of the whole church (one);
  • To foster its sanctification (holy);
  • To keep the Church focussed on its universal mission (catholic)
  • And to ensure that it remains apostolic, that is, sent with the same message as the apostles. “

“God the Holy Trinity is a community of undivided love, in which Father, Son and Holy Spirit are both differentiated and united. The Church reflects that pattern of unity-in-diversity, and it is bound together from many different cultures and with many different gifts into one Body. In such a church, there needs to be those whose prime task is to ensure that these gifts are exercised in the community of love which is thelife of God himself. If the ordained are to do this effectively, they must themselves model God’s differentiated unity, in a collaborative, collegial ministry. As the church and the world see different kinds of leaders working together for the good of all, they themselves gain insights into its possibilities and potentials.”

(All from Being Anglican in the Third Millennium: Anglican Consultative Council X, Panama City. Harrisburg: Morehouse, 1997, pp. 152-154.)

The “offering once made” speaks of the one ministry of Jesus, into which we are all invited and commissioned. The ministries of deacons, presbyters and bishops, both personal and collegial, cooperative in nature, lift out, embody the gifts needed by the community, to serve that community in word, sacrament, growth in holiness and unity, so that we might immerse ourselves in the tension of the reality that the kingdom of God is present and not yet full, that we might immerse ourselves in imagining and doing the mission of the kingdom.

The Catechumenate

The “catechumenate” refers to a process, involving the whole congregation, in which new members are brought in, instructed and formed in baptismal identity for mission and ministry, and through which the life of the congregation is itself strengthened and renewed. The North American Association for the Catechumenate works to promote reflection on these processes, and offers resources and a gathering place for work on the catechumenate and baptismal ministry.

Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry

The World Council of Churches Document Faith and Order Paper No. 111. See especially The Calling of the Whole People of God.

Total or Mutual Ministry

Is a way of being intentional about the cooperative relationships between the ministries of all the baptized, in the mission of the church in the world, and the ministries of the ordained at the service of that mission. From this have evolved new models of parish ministry involving mutual or total ministry ‘teams’, in a variety of contexts, with the end of nurturing the ministries of the baptized.  Here are some links to resources for thinking about mutual, cooperative, or total ministry.

Some Suggested Readings

  • Total Ministry: Reclaiming the Ministry of All of God’s People, by Stewart C. Zabriskie The Alban Institute No. AL164
  • All Who Minister: New Ways of Serving God’s People. Maylanne Maybee, Editor. Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 2001.