Sacraments of Deathrnby Harold O.J. Brownrn”^rv.,,rnAmong the sacraments of the Christian churches, the onernmost frequently received is the Lord’s Supper, also knownrnas the Eucharist or Hoh’ Communion. In the classic Englishlanguagernliturgy of the Book of Common Prayer, the ministrantrnoffering the consecrated bread will sav, “The Body of the LordrnJesus Christ, broken for thee, preserve thy body and soul untorneveriastinglife.” Thus the sacrament at one and the same timernevokes the memory of the death of Jesus and looks forward tornthe resurrection life of the believer who is joined to Christ byrnfaith.rnThe tie between death and life is also present in baptism,rnwhich unlike the Lord’s Supper, is a once-for-all event: goingrndown into the water symbolizes the death of the “old man,” dyingrnto self and to sin, and the emergence from the water the risingrnto a renewed life, which begins here on earth and is fulfilledrnin the Resurrection. (It is true that the symbolism is ratherrnweakened by the widespread practice of baptism by effusion, inrnwhich a small amount of water is poured or sprinkled, but evenrnthose churches that do not regularly immerse teach that baptismrnimplies both death and renewal.) George H. Williams,rnHollis Professor of Divinity emeritus at Harvard, used to pointrnout how different Christian fellowships find different ways tornmeet the same spiritual needs. Adults who come to faith inrnChrist need a symbolic experience of initiation and acceptancerninto the company of believers, and adult baptism, usually byrnimmersion, clearly provides such an experience. When suchrnbelievers have children, however, there is naturally a desire tornhave their children incorporated into the “family of Cod,” eenrnthough they are not mature enough for believer’s baptism. Eorrnthose in the great liturgical traditions—Roman Catholics, East-rnHarold O.]. Brown is the director of The Rockford Institute’srnCenter on Rehgion and Society and teaches theology and ethicsrnat Trinity Evangehcal Divinity School. His latest book is ThernSensate Culture (Word).rnern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed, among othersrn—this is done by infant baptism, a practice rejected by thernBaptist traditions that hold that baptism must follow, not precede,rna personal confession of faith, and for this reason do notrnbaptize immature children. Such “baptistic” parents neverthelessrnhave a natural desire to bring their children into the Christianrnfamily, and therefore infant dedication—which one mightrncall a kind of “waterless baptism”—is practiced.rnEor those who do baptize infants, a different spiritual andrnpsychological problem arises. The person baptized as a babyrnhas no experience of making a formally recognized and sealedrnpersonal decision or a mature commitment to Christ. To fillrnthis need, confirmation is introduced. Many people “come forward”rnor “make a decision for Christ,” either at a public meetingrnor in private. Some of these, although they may have alreadyrnbeen baptized as children, follow up their experience ofrnpersonal commitment with a second, adult baptism, even if,rnunlike the Baptist-inclined fellowships, they do not deny thatrninfant baptism is actually baptism.rnOther often unnoticed parallels between seemingly ratherrndifferent practices of different branches of the Christian familyrnreveal the fact that all those who accept Christ and intend torntrust Him as their “only hope”—to use the words of the HeidelbergrnCatechism—have similar concerns and emotionalrnneeds that have to be addressed. In consequence, the variousrnbranches develop prayers, ceremonies, ordinances, and usages,rnsome based clearly on the Bible, others less clearly so, in orderrnto address those concerns and to meet those needs.rnEor one and a half millennia, the Christian churches havernprovided a universe of meaning for the people of Europe, andrnlater of the Americas. Even those who were not thoughtfullyrnand consciously committed to the faith found the great eventsrnand phases of life embraced and set into a framework of meaningrnand ultimate significance bv the rites of the church and thernseasons of the year. The rhythm of work and repose was cele-rn16/CHRONlCLESrnrnrn