Baptism is the initiation ceremony of the Christian Church. Each denomination performs its baptisms in its own unique way. The Episcopal Church in the United States baptizes both children and adults by pouring a small vessel of water over their heads. The procedure and liturgy for Episcopal baptism is found in the Book of Common Prayer.

Choose a Parish

Baptism in the Episcopal Church is a community event. Before baptism, baptismal candidates should have a relationship with a parish. Candidates should start the process for a baptism by talking to the parish priest about their desire to be baptized or to have their child baptized. The parish priest may ask candidates to attend classes or counseling sessions to make sure they know the theology and the implications of baptism.

Scheduling

Before the baptism, the candidate or the candidate's parents choose the sponsors -- for children they are also called "godparents." The sponsors, usually two of them, must be Christians. They should be people with an interest in the spiritual welfare of the candidate. The candidate, sponsors and priest schedule the baptism, which will be on a Sunday during a Eucharistic service.

Presentation

On the Sunday of the baptism, after the readings and sermon, the candidates for baptism are present. The priest, candidates, parents and sponsors gather around the baptismal font. The candidates are asked if they want to be baptized. If the candidates are infants, the parents are asked if they want their children to be baptized.

Renunciation

The liturgy for baptism begins with the "renunciation." The officiant asks the candidates or candidates' parents if they renounce Satan, evil powers and sinful desires. The response is, "I renounce them." The officiant then asks the candidates if they turn to Jesus and accept him as savior and if they promise to follow him and obey him. The response is, "I do."

Baptismal Covenant

The baptismal covenant is based on the Apostles' Creed. The officiant asks both the candidate and the congregation if they believe certain key doctrines. The congregation, candidates and sponsors respond by reciting the Apostles' Creed.

Prayer for the Candidate

The officiant then prays for the candidates. The prayers are for a rich spiritual life. The congregation responds, "Lord, hear our prayer."

Baptism

At this point, the officiant says a prayer of thanksgiving over the water, touching the water to bless it. If the candidate is an adult, he or she bends over the font. If the candidate is a child, the officiant holds the child over the font. Addressing the candidate by name, the officiant says, "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen." The officiant then pours a small amount of water over the crown of the candidate's head.

Anointing

The officiant then places a hand on the candidate's forehead and, using consecrated oil, traces a cross on the candidate's forehead. The anointing prayer is, "You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever. Amen."

Reception

The congregation then says, "We receive you into the household of God. Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood."