“Most of us are looking for a God who is too small and too tame…What does this tell us about the power of baptism? The awesome dynamism of God the Spirit should lead us to ask ourselves with what kind of expectation and anticipation do we prepare for baptism, whether our own, or that of someone we love? Do we really expect to be shaken to the foundations? Do we really expect to change? Are we willing to discover that volcanic inferno beneath everydayness? Most often, I suspect we are not.”
Claiming Baptismal Identity with Confidence and Joy
Catechumenate (kat-i-kyoo-muh-neyt)– Cate-WHAT?
Too often baptism, in contemporary practice, is merely a scheduled event rather than initiation into a radical new life, oriented towards God and God’s purposes. Through regular experiences of reflecting on worship and scripture, through fellowship, prayer, and active engagement in ministry, Christians of all ages and abilities become disciples marked for mission, God’s mission, in the world.
The catechumenate is a process that guides and supports people into Christian life and practice as they respond to the movement of God in their lives. It is not a program. It is a journey, often described as The Way, the way of living into conversion into Christ, the way of entering into the Body of Christ, the way of preparing for baptism, the way of discerning one’s God-given vocation, all with the support of other Christians in community.
“All who have been baptized by water and the Holy Spirit are called to ministry “far beyond the walls of any church building. They are Christ’s ambassadors to the world. They are agents of good.”
– Marianne Micks, Theologian and Professor
The catechumenate might best be understood as apprenticeship into faith in Christ. It is both very ancient and timeless. Its pattern is drawn from the Exodus and the Paschal Mystery of the dying and rising of Christ. These two historic narratives define the nature of our human relationship with God, our journeys from exile to adoption, of being converted and ultimately entering life in Christ. Its practice is lived out in the dynamics of worshiping congregations that follow the liturgical year, attentive to the movement of the Holy Spirit through text, tradition, and transforming moments of everyday life.
“We have all failed the dream of God,” writes the late Verna Dozier, who was a life-long Christian educator. “The terribly patient God still waits.” Christian formation is about strengthening hearts and challenging minds. At its most basic, theological education is about creating intentional communities of transformation. This work is yet to be fully realized; there is much work to do.
For those already baptized and seeking to deepen their faith, the Catechumenate provides a natural framework to prepare for Confirmation, Reaffirmation or Reception.
The methodology is simple: structured reflection upon experience of worship, scripture, and service in the light of the ongoing history of salvation. Through regular opportunities for prayer, study, and conversation, and supported by mentors, personal stories contribute to the story of the larger community of faith and God’s evolving mission. Lives are changed and congregations grow deeper and wider.
Four Distinct Stages of Christian Initiation
The traditional catechumenate offers four distinct stages toward Christian initiation, each marked by a public rite when individuals discern they are ready.
“I Want To Believe”
The Stage of Inquiry that leads to a Rite of Welcome or Admission.
“I Am Committed To Learn About Being Christian”
The Stage of Catechumenate that leads to a Rite of Enrollment for Baptism.