Walking in water : nurturing baptismal identity through congregational worship
How can congregations prepare our young people for the challenges of an unknown future? I came into this project with three assumptions: the key to preparing our young people for the future lies in identity formation; the identity that will sustain them in the unknown is the one given to them in Baptism; and the best opportunity for churches to shape and nurture this identity is through the ongoing, life-long experience of congregational worship. Thus, this project questions how identity is shaped, what identity the young people of our congregations are currently being shaped in, what the content of Baptismal Identity is, and how congregations can best shape and nurture that identity through congregational worship. Identity, the project finds, is shaped as practices and liturgies of the various cultures in which we live, work, learn, play, and worship inform our understanding of who we are, who our people are, and what our hope and purpose are. The project investigates the various cultures in which our young people dwell and the faith our churches are largely teaching them; and then claims that the identity these cultures and faith instruction are shaping and nurturing in our young people will not sustain them in the unknown challenges of the future. Following a broad study of Biblical covenant history, creation in the imago dei, new creation in Christ, the covenant family of God, and the call to live out God’s relational purposes and redemptive plan; I propose a definition of the identity our young people receive in the waters of baptism which will provide the solid ground on which they will need to walk in the unknown future. To assess how worship does, or can, communicate these truths, I conducted a survey of my own congregation’s formative worship experiences. Based on the results of that study and the learning of this project, I offer several general and specific suggestions and resources for the nurturing of Baptismal Identity through congregational worship.