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What is baptism?

Baptism, in the Reformed/Presbyterian tradition, is a sign and seal of God’s gift of salvation — of the saving work that has already been done for us in Jesus Christ. Through baptism, we respond to God’s gracious gift, offering our lives to God in service and entering into covenant relationship with God as members of the body of Christ. Ordinarily, the sacrament of baptism (baptism with water and in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit) takes place at the time of profession of faith, whether by oneself (as in the case of adult or believer’s baptism) or by one’s parents/guardians (as in infant baptism). Either way, it is God who chooses, calls and claims us, long before we are able to articulate our faith on our own.


The Reformed tradition understands Baptism and the Lord’s Supper to be Sacraments, instituted by God and commended by Christ. Sacraments are signs of the real presence and power of Christ in the Church, symbols of God’s action. Through the Sacraments, God seals believers in redemption, renews their identity as the people of God, and marks them for service. (Directory for Worship, W-1.3033)

Can I have my child baptized at First United Presbyterian Church of Tarentum (FUPCT) if I am not a member?

Membership at First United is a requirement of baptism and in most, if not all Presbyterian Church USA congregations.  In very rare occasions a baptism can be done for a non-member if you are an active member of the military or a transfer of baptism to another Presbyterian Church USA congregation of which you are a member.  All baptisms are approved by and at the discretion of the session (the ruling body of the congregation).

Why is membership a prerequisite for baptism?  Baptism is about community.  At a child’s baptism the parent/s pledge to raise the child in the Christian faith.  The congregation also pledges their assistance in helping the family in raising the child as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  Neither are easily fulfilled outside a community of faith.

What do I need to do to become a member at First United? 

Please see our FAQ concerning membership at First United Presbyterian Church of Tarentum.

When is the appropriate time/age to have my child baptized? 

The Book of Order of the Presbyterian Church USA says that a child should be brought for baptism “without undue haste”.  In other words, there is no rush to have your child immediately baptized after birth.  Many families with infants wait several months to have their child baptized, some wait even up to a year or more.  There is not one specific time that is better than another.  It is mostly about the parent/s willingness to commit to the promises made at baptism.  These promises/declarations are faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, renunciation of evil and its power in the world, raising your child in the Christian faith, willingly and regularly being present in a worshipping community with your child.

Are parent/s the only ones who may bring a child for baptism?

The short answer is no, a parent/s is not the only one who may bring a child for baptism.  On occasion a grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc, is the primary caregiver for a child.  With the permission of the parent/s, a child may be brought for baptism by a grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc.  The same promises/declarations would be made by the grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc.  As always, the baptism of a child is approved by the session of the church.  In addition, membership at First United and the promise to bring the child regularly to worship and to raise him/her in the Christian faith is expected.


What is the process for a baptism being approved at First United? 

Please contact the church office for a form to be filled out and returned to the church office.  The form asks several questions that are important for us to have to approve a baptism.  In addition, you should be in touch with the pastor concerning several dates that would work in the church calendar for baptism.  Once the form is received, the session will act upon the request at its next regular meeting (typically the third Tuesday of the month).  You will be notified following the meeting of the session about approval and a finalization of date will be done at that time.

Can I have a baptism done at my home or following a worship service? 

Baptism is an act done in the community and with the congregation during worship.  It would be highly unusual for the session to approve a baptism outside of our worship service.  If you have a question concerning baptism outside of worship, please contact the pastor.

Can we have Godparents for our child?

The term "godparent" is not used in our congregation. Instead, we speak of baptismal "sponsors." While "godparents" are often understood to assume a special role in the life of a baptized child on behalf of the child's parents, baptismal "sponsors" serve the one being baptized, whether child or adult, on behalf of the entire congregation. Baptismal sponsors are approved by the church session on behalf of the entire church. When presenting their children for baptism, parents may request specific sponsors, whom the session then endorses for service in this capacity. Sponsors act on behalf of the church to assure that the baptized are indeed nurtured by the community in the Christian faith.

Is special water used for baptism? 

The water used for baptism is “regular” water from the church.  The water is applied to the person by pouring, sprinkling, or immersion (this is the choice of the parent). By whatever mode, the water is applied visibly and generously. The pastor uses the name given the person to be baptized and baptizes in the name of the triune God.

Download our Baptism Adult form here.

Download our Baptism Infant form here. 

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