Sometimes concepts like baptism can seem too large to talk about with our children. Where do we start? We can best support their faith by respecting their experiences while helping them find vocabulary and practices to sense, name, question, and wonder about God. One of the best places to start is at home with our own sacred stories.
Curling Up with a Good Baptism Book
Some of my earliest memories are snuggling up with my younger sister, parents, and a pile of picture books. From Madeline to the Berenstain Bears to There’s a Nightmare in My Closet, I would request my favorites again and again. Our family bookshelf was brimming with picture books I loved. However, as I grew older, I realized that not one of these books portrayed a family that mixed different cultures together, like my own family, which is both Caucasian and Chinese.
Today, I still love picture books and find them for parents to use to wonder about God and faith as a family. A few years ago as I was sitting with a group of parents who were preparing for their children’s baptism, I noticed that the books I usually hand out, although excellent in artistry and content, did not reflect the families in the room where I sat. After months of searching to no avail for a baptism book that did reflect these families, I decided to create my own.
For the past year and a half, I have been working on this project: researching how to create a book, sending query emails, writing a book proposal, and crafting the text. Sharon Ely Pearson at Church Publishing took a chance on me and agreed to be my sponsoring editor. Three months and a ten-page book proposal later, Church Publishing said yes. The book needed an illustrator to bring the text further to life. Peter Krueger, an artist and a Godly Play storyteller, spent several months creating the vibrant illustrations.
Today is a Baptism Day
The resulting book, Today is a Baptism Day (Church Publishing, Amazon), will be released in September 2018. I hope that it will be one voice of many when wondering about baptism and that it reflects the beautiful diversity of God’s kingdom. I also hope it will be a tool for families to explore baptism together.
Sometimes concepts like baptism can seem too large to talk about with our children. Where do we start? The good news is that children have a concept of God and a sense of the Holy that changes as they age. As adults, we can best support their faith by respecting their experiences while helping them find vocabulary and practices to sense, name, question, and wonder about God. (We don’t need to have all of the answers.) One of the best places to start is at home with our own sacred stories.
Here are some family practices for exploring and living our baptisms, adapted from the back of my book.
Share the baptism story of each member of the family. Where did it happen? Who was there? Did your child sleep through the baptism? Cry? What did you feel? What were your hopes? How has your life changed because of that day?
Show pictures, videos, and other memorabilia like service bulletins, christening gowns, baptism certificates, cards, and gifts.
My friend Margit recently sent me pictures of her daughter, Kari, baptizing her doll. Kari had attended a baptism at their church earlier in the day, and unprompted, engaged through play with what she had seen and heard. As you may play house or school: play baptism.
In addition to Today Is a Baptism Day try:
- Welcome Child of God Anne Ylvisaker
- At Your Baptism Carrie Steenwyk and John D. Witvliet
- Water Come Down Walter Wangerin Jr.
Wonder together about these stories. Wonder what part is most important to you. Wonder what part you would leave out. Wonder about the differences between them. Do not assess each other’s reflections as right or wrong. Instead, hold up each response as holy.
Put baptism anniversaries in your calendar as you would birthdays and create a way to celebrate them every year. Light a baptismal or special candle. Pray baptismal prayers from the service or other sources. Offer a special blessing to the celebrant from each family member. If you are not in the same place as the person celebrating a baptism anniversary, send a card or letter or call them.
Whatever you choose, I hope you will adapt, personalize, and expand these practices for your family. May your baptism be a day forever after.
Anna V. Ostenso Moore spent years reading a picture book in worship every Sunday, wondering where God was within the words and images. She is currently the associate for family ministries at St. Mark's Episcopal Cathedral, Minneapolis. Wife, priest, daughter, sister, aunt, godparent, friend, and expectant adoptive mother, she lives in Minneapolis with her husband, David. You can find out more at
Illustration ©Peter Krueger