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Churches Welcome Babies, Adapt Baptism During COVID-19

Churches Welcome Babies, Adapt Baptism During COVID-19
Chelsey and Caleb Vandenberg with their three daughters as the youngest is baptized at Bethel CRC in Acton, Ont., July 5.
Sophie Vandenberg

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to affect the lives of people all over the world, churches have adapted the way they gather, celebrate communion, practice outreach, offer summer programs, and more. Churches blessed with families welcoming a new baby at this time have had to consider how to enfold the new child into the community and how to extend ministry to the growing family.

Rachel Kapetyn, children’s ministry coordinator at First Christian Reformed Church, in Barrie, Ont., said, “In April, a young family was in the process of moving into their new house when their first baby arrived early. We got a call from the grandmother, a long-time member, who asked if we had any baby items that could help this young family out, since all the stores were closed. After a brief visit to our church nursery, the grandmother borrowed a few items. We were happy to have the items being used instead of sitting idle.”

Adam Rodeheaver-Van Gelder, pastor of congregational life and youth ministries at First CRC, in Grand Rapids, Mich., said, “During the pandemic we've tried to continue tangible support to families with new babies. The clearest way we've done this is by providing meals. When a family has had a child, beyond the usual communication checking in to see how the baby, mother, and family are doing, their elder reaches out to see if the family would like some meals provided by the household.”

In late June, First Vancouver (B.C.) CRC performed a baptism outside with the pastor wearing a face shield. Pastor Trevor Vanderveen said, “Sacraments draw us into God's work and his promise to be with us in whatever we face. Just as we adapted communion to be practiced virtually, we felt it important to make baptisms available as a reminder to the parents and our worshipping community that we are held by our loving and faithful God.”

Vanderveen said, “I explained to those present that while baptism is deeply personal, it is not private, and they represent the rest of our worshiping community in promising to help raise this little one in the faith.”

At Bethel CRC in Acton, Ont., Pastor Ray Vander Kooij baptized two babies July 5. The two families stood at either end of a table, each with their own bowl of baptismal water. One mother, Chelsey Vanderberg, said the pastor instituted the baptismal words, while her husband applied the water as she held their daughter. “There was something extra meaningful about Caleb being the one to sprinkle the water on her head,” she said.

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