What is Journeys in Faith?

Journeys in Faith is a ministry of St. Mark's Lutheran Church for people who are considering Baptism or Affirmation of Baptism.

If you have never been baptized, Journeys in Faith is the perfect context for preparing to receive this sacrament. If you have already received Christian Baptism, Journeys in Faith helps you reconnect to that event and grow in your understanding of the implications of Baptism on everyday life. (See What is Affirmation of Baptism? below.) The Journeys in Faith ministry is led by a team of committed lay people who want to help you become a vital and active part of the St. Mark's community and/or to help you grow in your faith. As part of this ministry, Journeys in Faith provides a structured time to pause and consider some of life's big questions: Who am I? What is the role of faith and the church in my life? And how does my faith impact what I say or do every day? A Journeys in Faith group meets once a week for about five months to share our experiences of faith in Christ.

What is baptism? What if I'm not baptized? Can I be part of Journeys in Faith? When can I be baptized?

In Baptism, God delivers us from the forces of evil, puts our sinful self to death, gives us new birth, adopts us as children, and makes us members of the body of Christ, the Church. In Baptism, we are liberated from sin and death by being joined to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Baptism also inaugurates the beginning of a life of discipleship. In Baptism, people become members not only of the Church universal but also of a particular congregation. St. Mark's currently celebrates adult baptisms twice each year: at the observance of All Saints (the first week in November) and on the Saturday before Easter (sometime in March or April).

I am a long-time Lutheran and I've already been confirmed. Why should I affirm my baptism now that I'm thinking about membership at St. Mark's?

St Mark's invites all people considering membership to affirm their baptism. The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)—the denomination of which St. Mark's is a part—encourages Lutherans to celebrate an affirmation of baptism whenever someone experiences a significant life change: "The public rite for Affirmation of Baptism may be used at many times in the life of a baptized Christian and is especially appropriate...at times of reception or restoration into membership. When there are changes in a Christian's life, affirmation of Baptism...could mark the passage: moving into a nursing home, beginning parenthood or grandparenthood, choosing or changing an occupation, moving out of the parental home, the diagnosis of a chronic illness, the end of one 's first year of mourning, the ending of a relationship, or retirement—are all examples of life's transitions that could be acknowledged by [Affirmation of Baptism.]" (ELCA, The Use of the Means of Grace, 32). Long-time Lutherans already have a great deal to contribute to our Journeys in Faith groups! And you may also discover that your life experiences since your confirmation back in middle school or high school have contributed to new and changing ideas about faith and the role of the church in your life.

I'm already a member of St. Mark's. Why would I want to affirm my baptism?

Our culture has various ways of re-connecting us to the significant events and people in our lives: family and class reunions, celebrations of significant anniversaries or events such as a renewal of wedding vows. In Affirmation of Baptism we reconnect with this significant, sacramental moment in our lives that for most of us happened many years ago. Affirmation of Baptism is a powerful reminder of our new identity as Christians and helps us realize that even though Baptism is a once-for-always event, the effects of Baptism are never complete in this life.

What is Affirmation of Baptism?

Affirmation of Baptism is a public confession of faith and a commitment to baptismal living: To live among God's faithful people, To hear the word of God, To share in the Lord's supper, To proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, To serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and To strive for justice and peace in all the earth.

What happens at a typical Journeys in Faith gathering? Why do we meet as a group?

We come together as a group because as Christians we experience the Christian life in community—we interact, learn and grow in our faith together. At St. Mark's we've chosen the metaphor of the journey as a reminder that none of us has yet "arrived" at our destination—much less with all the answers—but also that none of us is meant to walk alone. A typical Journeys in Faith gathering has a fairly simple structure. We normally open with some time for focus and prayer. We then proceed with what we refer to as "Dwelling in the Word" where we read and discuss a reading from the Bible (usually the Gospel reading) from either the previous or current Sunday. Dwelling in the Word is followed by a discussion of a specific question assigned for the gathering. We then close the gathering with prayer.

Can my spouse, partner or another significant person in my life attend Journeys in Faith gatherings?

Yes. Journeys in Faith is not meant to be an exclusive group—all are welcome—especially those who play a significant role in the lives of those considering baptism or affirmation of baptism.

What if I can't attend all of the Journeys in Faith gatherings?

We realize that people have busy schedules and conflicts may arise where you need to miss a gathering or perhaps even a rite. However, it is important that you let the Journeys in Faith team know this via the contact information listed on the calendar—particularly if the event is listed in bold. If you already know that you will need to miss a substantial number of gatherings, you may want to consider joining a different Journeys in Faith group at a time that works better for your life or schedule.

What is a rite? Why do we do all these rites? Why are they so public?

When we speak of "rites" in this context, we mean the celebration of public blessings and prayers for those who are preparing for Baptism or Affirmation of Baptism. We perform these rites to demonstrate the support of our congregation for you and, in turn, to remind the congregation that the Holy Spirit is active in bringing new people into our midst and bringing new life. These rites help call the entire community to take an active role in welcoming new members and to consider the significance of their own baptism. As participants in these rites, you help remind the entire community of the grace and responsibility inherent in Baptism.

What is a sponsor? What role does a sponsor play?

A sponsor is a member of St. Mark's who represents the entire community and acts as a guide and a personal presence at all of the rites. A sponsor will be assigned for each person who will be baptized or affirm their baptism.

What if I become part of Journeys in Faith and then I'm still not sure if I want to be baptized (or affirm my Baptism) when the time comes?

Becoming part of Journeys in Faith does not mean you've necessarily committed to being baptized or affirming your baptism. If you need additional time or decide this is not an appropriate step for you right now, that's perfectly fine. If you are thinking about membership, the Journeys in Faith process is here to help you discern whether St. Mark's is a good spiritual home for you and whether you indeed wish to make or affirm the promises that Baptism entails. For more information on Journeys in Faith, or to join the next cycle, e-mail journeys@stmarks-sf.org.