by Carol Wehrheim
Celebrating a child’s baptism anniversary is one way for families to nurture the faith of the child as well as each member of the family. However, I don’t know this from personal experience. I didn’t know my baptismal date until well into adulthood when I was planning a session on baptism and wondered about it. Fortunately, I could locate my baptismal certificate and learned that I was baptized on Mother’s Day.
In the baptisms at my church, a ruling elder asks the question to the congregation on behalf of the Session. Sometimes a family requests a particular elder, who may be a family friend. Often the elder is a volunteer from the current Session. I don’t know how many times I have asked that question on behalf of a child (and one grandfather–granddaughter combination) but today I have a flock of 18. Yes, I have been the elder for each child in some families. Each one receives a birthday card, a Christmas card, an Easter card, and a note on the anniversary of her or his baptism until the child is confirmed or finishes high school. It’s the note for the baptism anniversary that I hope prompts the parents or the entire family to recall the baptism of that child. No, not every child is confirmed and some move away.
Over the years I have written various books and articles for parents about the baptism of their child. I often wonder whether this has changed the significance of baptism for anyone. These three books were published by Westminster John Knox and their children’s books division Flyaway Books in 2018:
- The Baptism of Your Child, A Book for Presbyterian Families In this revision of an earlier one by the same title, you will find information about baptism specific to the Presbyterian Church along with suggestions for celebrating the baptism anniversary and other ways to nurture the child’s faith through age twelve. At the end is a brief bibliography of resources for children, parents, and families.
- The Baptism of Your Child, A Book for Families This book is similar to the title above but speaks more generally about baptism in the Reformed tradition.
- Baptism Promises This presentation board book for the child being baptized is one way families can recall the child’s baptism. The story can be read to the child as a story of the child’s own baptism. Included are a few simple prayers for young children to learn. The illustrations by Roz Fulcher are simple, colorful, and include all of God’s people.
Each of these books can be purchased in quantity at a discount.
Providing parents of young children with resources when a child is baptized is not only important for the faith nurturing of the child, but it could be your best way to provide nurture for the parents, too. Every educator knows that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. As parents nurture their child’s faith, they grow in faith themselves. Don’t let this opportunity for educational ministry slip through your fingers.
Carol Wehrheim is an educator and writer. She cries at every baptism and answers the questions to the congregation enthusiastically. She lives in Princeton, NJ, where she is a member of Nassau Presbyterian Church. Among other tasks there, she has been clerk of session for 19 years.