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Baptism versus Dedication: Liturgical & Theological Considerations

A lesson plan to accompany Living Worship curriculum that addresses how liturgy and theology affect and inform each other, especially in connection with the choosing of a liturgy for baptism or dedication or both.


Some congregations practice baptism as an initiation rite for infants and small children, while others practice dedication and some practice both. This issue, like many that a congregation faces, has both liturgical as well as theological implications. This lesson helps students see the relationship between theology and liturgy and think about how doctrine and practice inform each other, while thinking more about what baptism and dedication mean.


1. Know some basic concepts of liturgical theology

2. Explain how liturgy and doctrine affect one another, specifically in the case of initiation liturgies and doctrine

3. Evaluate the initiation practice of students’ own churches in terms of doctrine and practice and how they interrelate.

Best Context:

This lesson is intended for higher-level seminary students in a practicum of a liturgics or worship class. It is highly suitable for a class on church baptism or ecclesiology. This lesson can stand on its own or can follow the lesson, “Christian Initiation and Community.” In the latter case some of the before-class work would carry over from that lesson to this one.

Before Class:

Have students read: From the Community section of Living Worship, the students should read both subsections of “Initiation Rites at Ravenswood.”From the Order of Service section read the bulletins for both the Edstrom Dedication and the Nielson baptisms.

Have students write: A one to two page summary of how Christian initiation rites are used in the Christian community of which you are a part. Be sure to pay attention both to the written liturgy and the performance of the rite. Write in detail about a particular rite that you have observed,paying special attention to what doctrines are taught in the performance of the rite.

Have students watch: The Edstrom dedication service and the Easter baptism service on the DVD. Write down at least three questions about practice and/or doctrine from each service.

During Class:

Begin the class by watching Don Salier’s segments: “Liturgical Theology,” “Central theological categories for worship,” and “Competing categories for today” from the Living Worship DVD. Draw out key ideas from these segments defining liturgical theology and delineating the key themes in Christian worship. Lead the class in discussing the dedication service and the baptism at the Easter service at Ravenswood, beginning with the questions that they identified before class. Guide the students to discuss the practices seen at Ravenswood and the doctrines and themes that those practices emphasize.

From the Witnesses section of the DVD show Vincent Bacote’s segments: “Dedication vs. baptism rites” and “Gabriel’s dedication.” Continue the discussion bringing out and writing down central issues of doctrine and practice seen in these services. Guide the students to explain how the doctrine and practice relate to each other in these specific rites.

Watch Ruth Meyers’ segments from the DVD. Discuss the theology of baptism and initiation. Have students briefly explain to the class the doctrine and practice of baptism and initiation in their assemblies. Guide them in beginning to evaluate these practices, looking at the importance of both doctrine and practice, and their interrelationship.

Assign students to write a two-page reflection paper evaluating the initiation practice of their own communities in terms of doctrine and practice.