Banners help welcome babies into family of God

12/1/2014

A sweet reminder of Piper DeAurora’s baptism hangs on her cotton-candy-pink bedroom wall.

The felt banner, a gift of love from her St. Luke United Methodist Church family, is a visual symbol of her September baptism and entry into the Body of Christ.

The 6-month-old can’t read yet, but when she can she’ll see that the banner says “Piper Seigler” and “Heir of Life Eternal.”

Two felt crosses, a triquetra, three drops of water, and a white dove also decorate the banner.

St. Luke UMC member Ann McDuffie has been making the banners since January. She got the idea after attending her great-nephew’s baptism.

“I think they are a wonderful way to give parents something very visual to symbolize their child’s baptism,” she said.

The banners are personalized and are almost entirely handcrafted; only the felt letters are premade. McDuffie, an avid crafter, created patterns for the banners and symbols. She cuts the dowel on which the banner hangs, attaches finials and ribbons, and sews a bell on the bottom of the banner.

On the back she attaches an explanation of the meaning and importance of each symbol.

A longtime educator – she serves as headmaster of St. Luke School – McDuffie firmly believes in the importance of raising children in church and hopes that the banners will serve as reminders of the faith foundation the children receive at St. Luke UMC.

Though made by McDuffie, the banners are gifts from the entire congregation and a tangible way that it welcomes each baptized person into the church family.

“The banner really symbolizes the congregation and the welcoming of a new little one (into it),” McDuffie said.

The banners hang in St. Luke’s sanctuary during the worship and baptism services and afterwards are given to the child and his or her family.

“It is important to me that they have some way of visually reflecting on the meaning of the ceremony for years to come,” McDuffie said. “It is something that the child can look at as they grow and are old enough to wonder what it is and what it means.”

For Cate DeAurora, Piper’s mother, the pretty pink banner is much more than a decoration. It signifies entry into a family of faith.

“We hung Piper’s up by her crib and I look at it every day and every night when I say her prayers,” she said. “We are giving the gift of our child (to the church), and they are giving us a gift, too. It really feels like we are a part of something. We feel a part of the family of the church.”

On the back of each banner is an explanation of each symbol and its significance:

The St. Luke United Methodist Church family has a gift for children baptized here. This baptismal banner celebrating the Sacrament of Infant Baptism will be displayed during the worship service and presented to the parents as a reminder of this special sacrament and day.

The Crosses remind us of the St. Luke community of faith who celebrate with the parents the child’s entrance into the community of faith. The church is given the mandate to “Go into all the world…Baptizing…”(Matthew 28:19. Baptism is a gift. The church must be instruments of that gift. St. Luke United Methodist Church is commanded to pass God’s good gift on to others – especially to our children.

Christian Name – as part of the Service of Baptism, the child’s first and middle names are used. The naming of the child comes from English culture and has historically been referred to as “christening.” By baptizing an infant and “naming” or christening the child, we as a congregation are pledging that, “with God’s help we will surround this person with a community of love and forgiveness, that she/he may grow in his/her service to others.”

White Dove – expresses innocence and purity. It signifies the Holy Spirit and the Presence of God above Jesus at his baptism (Mark 1:10-11, Matthew 3:16-17; John 1:32-33).

Triquetra – This red symbol is from early Christian tradition and represents the Holy Trinity. The three equal arcs, express eternity in their continuous form, and their center is a triangle, an ancient Trinity symbol.

Three Drops of Water - represent the Holy Trinity in baptism.  Water signifies cleansing, washing and purification.

Heirs of Life Eternal – Baptism is God’s action of adopting, claiming and naming us as God’s children. Those baptized are recognized as full members of the family of god and made heirs to God’s gracious gift in Jesus Christ.