Feedback wanted: New material for new believers

When someone becomes a Christian, how does the church make sure they are properly educated before they are baptized? When Christianity was the dominant religion, knowing the faith was not a problem, but in post-Christendom Canada, people often need a refresher (or an intensive seminar) when they convert, return to faith, or present their children for infant baptism.

This period of education is called the catechumenate and in recent years many people have become interested in what this could or should look like. A group of Anglican clergy and laypeople, led by the Rev. John Hill, Diocese of Toronto, has worked steadily to produce new resources to fill the gap in the Anglican Church of Canada.

The group is offering this package of material to be used on a trial basis by the church. The goal is to have this material officially endorsed by General Synod at some point and, in the meantime, feedback is encouraged and can be emailed to Mr. Hill. The material (all PDFs) includes:

Far from stuffy, this material is full of practical tips, an awareness of congregations’ “baptism fatigue” and humour. Contributor the Rev. David Montgomery jokes that when it comes to pre-baptismal instruction, clergy either “impose requirements…or they baptize pretty well anything that moves.”

This ambiguity wasn’t always the case, explains Mr. Hill. Catechumenate rites were part of the church’s practice in its early years, but when it became an agency of the Roman Empire, the need for such rites died out. In 1972, after Vatican II, the Roman Catholic Church began again to produce material for what it called “adult initiation.” The need for catechumenate material was also evident in modern missionary situations where converts grappled with a foreign Christian worldview.

Few churches in the Anglican Communion have officially developed their own catechumenate rites and resources, even though, with a generally un-Christianized public (in the West, at least), this need is on the rise. The Anglican Church of Canada considered, but ultimately did not include, catechumenate resources when assembling the Book of Alternative Services.

Is it time for catechumenate rites in the Anglican Church of Canada? Do you agree with Mr. Montgomery that our church is in a “baptismal muddle”? Read the stories, analyze the liturgy, and let the group know what you think.

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