The cleansing act of baptism is widespread among different Christian denominations. The specifics concerning the types of baptisms vary from church to church, but most Christians believe that baptism is necessary for salvation. Most churches follow the example of Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Testament and use water in some way to symbolize purification and cleansing. However, many groups differ on the method and meaning of baptism, as well as the age of the participant.
One of the most common types of baptism is infant baptism, or christening. This is a ceremony in which water is used to cleanse the child and a prepared ceremonial rite is spoken. Generally, a congregation's priest or minister will administer the baptism while parents, grandparents and godparents look on. Many Christian babies are baptized either by a minister pouring water on their heads or sprinkling blessed or holy water on them. Some Christian churches, such as Eastern Orthodox, completely immerse babies in a baptismal font.
Many Christian churches, including the Lutheran, Roman Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian churches, believe that infant baptism is necessary. The practice of infant baptism, known as paedobaptism, is thought to impart grace upon the child and has a spiritual value upon the infant. For believers in original sin (humanity being born into a condition that lacks holiness), infant baptism cleanses the child's soul and brings them into the covenant community of their church.
Most parents of infants who will be christened invite close friends and family members to the ceremony via baptism invitations. Girls are often dressed in a long white gown made of lace and other fine materials with lovely details of ribbon, flowers and trimming. Boys are generally dressed in white outfits as well. Christening bonnets and shawls may also be a part of an infant's baptism outfit.
Other types of baptism come from Christian denominations that reject infant baptism and generally do not believe in the concept of original sin. These groups feel that only adult believers and children old enough to profess faith should be baptized. This group is generally known as credobaptists. They believe that God's grace and membership in his church is given to those who are capable of receiving baptism of their own free will. Some of the Christian churches that practice believer's baptisms are Baptists, Church of Christ, Jehovah's Witnesses, Pentecostals, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and Seventh-Day Adventists.
Baptisms for these members can occur as soon as people have passed an age of accountability, which is different for each group. For example, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints believes that the correct age is at least eight years old, while the Church of Christ does not set a specific age of accountability but rather determines it on an individual basis.
Believer's baptism is typically performed by immersion, which means to be completely submerged under the surface of the water. Because this is how Jesus Christ was baptized, according to the New Testament, many churches believe that it is the correct way to baptize new believers. Generally the person being baptized is dressed in white, as is the person performing the baptism. The baptism can occur anywhere that water is deep enough to perform the ritual. Many people are baptized in rivers or ponds, while others use their church's baptismal font. There have even been instances of baptisms occurring in swimming pools and in the ocean.
Regardless of the age, church or manner of baptism, it is common for friends and family to throw a baptism party. Because a baptism is an important milestone, loved ones gather to wish the recipient well and celebrate their spiritual cleansing.
Select a venue for the baptism party that is appropriate for the solemn joy of the occasion. Many churches allow families to hold gatherings immediately after the baptism. Other appropriate areas could be a park, restaurant or conference center. For an infant baptism, it's a good idea to invite immediate and extended family, as well as friends of the parents. If the baptism is for an older child or adult, discuss the guest list with them, and decide who should attend.
When planning activities, food and entertainment for a baptism party, remember that the atmosphere should be a little more solemn than a birthday party or a family reunion. While it's important that the party be fun and entertaining, remember that people will likely be dressed in more formal attire and therefore won't be as active. Decorations can be kept simple with simple white embellishments, plus Christian symbols such as crosses, doves or lilies.
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