A. The First Order
The traditional Prayer Book services have this structure:
1. The Ministry of the Word and Prayer
a. Exhortations to the congregation, prayers for those being baptised, and Bible reading;
b. Exhortation to godparents or to those being baptised, followed by questions about repentance, faith and obedience.
2. The Ministry of the Sacrament
a. Prayers for those being baptised, followed by baptism in the name of the Trinity;
b. Reception of the baptised 'into the congregation of Christ's flock', accompanied by signing with the cross;
c. Exhortation to the congregation to give thanks and pray for those baptised, followed by prayers;
d. Exhortation to the godparents and candidates, in the case of those able to answer for themselves, about persevering and growing in the Christian life.
This combination of exhortations and prayers explains the meaning of baptism and the responsibilities of candidates and sponsors. While stress is placed on the need for genuine repentance, faith and obedience, the prayers express dependence on God to wash away sin and work by his Spirit to bring new life in Christ. Without such prayer, the focus would simply be on the sacramental action, and the implication might be that baptism has some automatic effect.
B. The Second Order
Modern versions tend to reduce the number and length of the exhortations, and sometimes the number of prayers before baptism. But they provide new prayers for candidates and sponsors after the baptism. There have been attempts to combine baptism and confirmation, and to restructure so that the service fits more easily within the framework of the Holy Communion or Morning and Evening Prayer. More significantly, there has been this sort of structural change:
- Preparation (with an exhortation to all)
- Ministry of the Word
- Presentation of the Candidates (with questions to the sponsors)
- Decision (with questions to candidates and/or sponsors, and prayers for the candidates)
- Baptism (involving prayer for the candidates, the Creed, and baptism in the name of the Trinity)
- Reception of the baptised (with signing of the cross and other symbolic actions)
- Prayer for those baptised and their sponsors
Although there are good features in this sort of structure, it is more complicated, especially in separating the decision of the candidates from the affirmation of faith. The desire has been to link this with the saying of the creed by the whole church. Simplicity of structure, with essential content, is important where baptism is part of an ordinary Sunday gathering. Many guests may be present who are unfamiliar with the gospel and uncomfortable being in church. The aim should be to communicate as simply as possible the meaning of the rite and encourage the congregation to pray for the candidate and sponsors, as vows are made and baptism is administered.
C. Sunday Services (2001)
This order provides a briefer version of the 1662 service in modern English and contains most of the important elements found in that order. However, it lacks the congregational prayer found at the beginning of An Australian Prayer Book Order 1, and in a briefer form in Order 2. There is an explicit prayer for the candidate after the confession of faith and immediately before the baptism in Sunday Services. It is important to include such a prayer at this point so that there is a specific appeal to God to receive and forgive the candidate, and to fill him or her with the Holy Spirit.
The words of reception after the baptism are quite brief in Sunday Services. Consideration could be given to using the sequence of responses after baptism found in Order 2 in An Australian Prayer Book, providing for a more explicit welcome to the candidate into the body of Christ's people. These responses have the benefit of involving the congregation more effectively in the welcome and in commissioning the candidates to live as faithful disciples.