Baptism is celebrated throughout the year as part of our regular worship service.  We require that at least one parent be a member to present a child for baptism.  The Pastor will set up a meeting time with you to discuss what baptism means to you, your child, and our church family.  At this time, the Pastor will also answer any questions and clarify any matters for you as well as walk you through the ceremony.

Adult Baptism is celebrated in very much the same manner as children’s baptism.  We welcome adults of all ages.

 What is baptism?

Baptism is one of the two sacraments celebrated by the Presbyterian Church.  (Communion is the other).  Baptism is the sacrament of initiation into the Christian life.  The washing with water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the sign of a person’s inclusion in the covenant of God’s people and union with the risen Christ.  Thus, baptism highlights the fundamental Presbyterian conviction that God always takes the initiative in redeeming us, that we are saved by God’s grace through faith and that neither the act of baptism, nor the decision to be baptized, confer salvation.  These are responses to God’s grace already given and at work in one’s life.

 What does baptism look like?

Baptism is a faith celebration shared by the whole community of believers (the congregation).  There are several parts to the rite of baptism.  First, parents bring their child forward for baptism during the service and promise to help him or her grow in faith.  Adults ask to be baptized.  Second, the entire congregation promises to love and care for the newly baptized as brothers and sisters in a new family and to provide an example of faith and love.  Third, the congregation stands and offers God a prayer of praise and thanks.  It then calls on the Holy Spirit to make each baptism a sign of new life in Christ.  Fourth, the minister says the name of the individual being baptized and the words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”  He or she then sprinkles water over the individual’s head.  Finally, the minister welcomes the newly baptized person into the congregation and proclaims him or her a member of God’s family.

 Who is eligible?

The First Presbyterian Church in Ottumwa has an inclusive baptism philosophy.  Within the guidelines of the Presbyterian Book of Order, our church welcomes members who desire baptism for themselves or for their children.   Do I have to be a member of the church to be baptized or to have a member of my family baptized?   Yes.  As baptism is union with Christ, so it is union with Christ’s body, the church.  Those presenting children for baptism will promise to provide nurture and guidance within this community of faith and ordinarily will be active members of the congregation.  If one or both of the persons presenting an infant for baptism wishes to inquire about membership, they may begin attending worship at any time and may arrange to speak to Pastor.

 Can we have godparents?

The role of godparents is to take special responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the child.  “Godparents” are not a specific part of the Presbyterian tradition because the entire community is charged with this role.  However, if you wish to include “sponsors” who are close to your family and will be taking particular care to fulfill this spiritual responsibility to your child, they are welcome to stand with you at the font and take the baptismal vows for the child with you.

 Are there scheduled baptisms or can you arrange for a private baptism?

As baptism is an initiation into the covenant community, it is imperative that the members of that community attend and participate in the service.  In addition to the vows you take, the congregation vows to support you (or your child, if infant baptism) as you grow in faith.  Therefore, except in extraordinary circumstances, baptisms take place as part of the regular Sunday morning worship services.  To emphasize the significance and beauty of baptism, First  Presbyterian Church has established four baptism Sundays during the church annual calendar.  We are happy to arrange reserved seating near the font for as many family members as you care to invite to that service.

 I would like to join First Presbyterian Church, but I was baptized in another non-Presbyterian Christian church.  Do I need to be baptized again?

No.  The Presbyterian Church has always placed great emphasis on the unity of the Christian Church (Ephesians 4:4).  We count anyone who has been baptized with water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as a baptized Christian, regardless of the tradition within the Christian church that administered the baptism.  To join the church, you simply need to speak with the Pastor.

 Do I have to be baptized to take Communion?

Baptism is the act of initiation into the Christian community and should take place before you receive Communion, which is the meal Christ left his followers as a means of continuing to experience His presence in their midst.  It is also food and drink to strengthen Christ’s followers for their lives of faith and ministry as His body in the world.

What happens after baptism?

Infant baptism is just the beginning of your child’s and your family’s journey through the Christian faith.  At First Presbyterian Church, childcare is provided for every church service.  Church school begins at the age of three and is held September through May.  Additionally, there are a variety of programs, ministries and choirs for children in grades.  We offer a variety of ways to provide leadership and support for families as children grow and develop.  If you have specific questions, or would like more information, feel free to contact our Christian Education Director or the church office.

 Still have questions?

If you have other questions concerning baptism for yourself or for your child, please call the church office (641-684-5465) to make an appointment with our Pastor.  We welcome the opportunity to talk with you about this important moment in the Christian life.

 Scriptural Foundations for Presbyterian Baptism

Presbyterians point to the Old Testament and to a wealth of New Testament themes to understand the meaning of Christian baptism.  For example, baptism is described as “participating in the dying and rising of Christ,” in which Christ broke the power of sin and death and created new life (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12).  Similarly, it is a sign and seal of “rebirth in the Holy Spirit and reception of the Spirit’s power,” who gives and renews life (Acts 2:38-39; 11:16; Titus 3:5).  Baptism also signifies the “washing away of sin,” and union with the risen Christ through whom God’s grace enables us to make a fresh start and, by God’s Spirit, empowers us to redirect our lives living as Christ’s body in the world (Galatians 3:28).  Baptism is also an event of corporate significance as it welcomes individuals, as members of Christ’s body, into the Christian community, the church (Ephesians 4:4-6; 1 Peter 2:9).  All of these themes are at work in our understanding of the meaning of Christian baptism.


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