Here are the top ten reasons why Washed and Welcome: A Baptism Sourcebook is different from other baptismal resources, appealing for pastors and Christian educators, impressive in its scope and format, and needed in our churches:
1) Many pastors have not been in the habit of providing pre-baptismal instruction, and this resource makes the process accessible. The resource should be assigned as a textbook in every seminary.
2) Washed and Welcome puts all the resources needed for pre-baptismal instruction together as a set of core resources.
3) The lessons offer various entry points into the significance of baptism: the liturgy itself, the catechism, the metaphorical meanings of baptism, and Daniel Erlander's books.
4) Young parents are totally in love with their babies, and taking time together with them to go over the meaning of baptism prior to the baptism will help develop a deeper relationship between pastor, parents, and infant.
5) Using these materials will deepen the pastor's or educator's faith and remembrance of their own baptism.
6) Resources in many of the sections are completely unique and new, and appeal to a wide range of teaching and learning styles.
7) Additionally, there's some deep baptismal theology on offer, important looks at liturgical and biblical texts, and an abiding playfulness about the role of baptism.
8) As I was writing and developing these lessons, it enriched and renewed my own preparation for working with families in preparation for the baptism of their child. You also will experience renewal when you make use of the resource.
9) The sourcebook includes a CD-ROM with take-home pages and all resources available as pdfs and RTFs for easy adaption to your context.
10) Pre-baptismal instruction can function as a covert form of faith formation-adults who might not otherwise attend an adult education class will attend in order to learn on behalf of their child.
I know that for many readers of this blog, December 1st, 2010 is not a signal day just because of the release of the Augsburg Fortress sourcebook for baptism, Washed and Welcome and companion resources. I hope this top ten list has convinced you that it should be, and that you should go directly to the AF web site and order the new material.
Full disclosure: Since I am the primary author for the lesson plans that form the core of the resource, I'm biased. I'm proud of what we have produced, and hope it will be used widely in congregations.
Finally, let me tell one story that illustrates both the importance and power of this resource. About two months ago, maybe about the same time the Washed and Welcome resources had gone to the printers, I brought together five families for a pre-baptismal class. In this case, we had ten parents and seven infants present for the class, including two sets of twins! You would think that a group of ten parents and seven infants (plus one older sibling) would be a challenging educational context (altogether in September-October-November, nine infants and children were baptized into Christ in our open-country congregation in South Central Wisconsin).
In fact, bringing the families together for such a learning event was not only enlivening and fun, it also built a sense of community between those present. It illustrated to the families in very tangible ways that baptism is not simply an inoculation, something they and the church do together to make sure the baby goes to heaven. Instead, by taking time to study, pray, reflect, and rehearse, the families learned that baptism is incredibly important to me as a pastor, and a central commitment and sacrament of the church. We discovered in new ways how it is a washing in the name of Jesus, a new birth, dying and rising with Christ, being clothed as a prince or princess for the kingdom of God, the gifting of the Holy Spirit, and bodying into the body of Christ, the church.
I am convinced that on the day of the baptism of their child, all the liturgical actions we performed took on heightened significance for them. It is worth the time. I am also convinced that part of the reason our congregation (in a rural context) was having increasing numbers of baptism, and increasing participation on the part of younger families with children, was precisely because we took pre-baptismal instruction seriously, and then followed up intentionally with families over the long haul helping them live into the promises they made at the baptism of their child, together with sponsors and the congregation.
I encourage you to purchase a copy of the sourcebook right away, and then consider gathering with neighboring pastors and Christian educators to discuss how you will make use of the resource to deepen pre-baptismal formation in your contexts. Thank you.