Where to put the baptismal font? (Mark Chiang)

Where does the baptismal font belong? At St Andrew’s we know where the baptismal font is. It’s up at the front, behind the communion table, tucked in a corner beside the sound system. If you’re standing at the pew and you tilt your head the right direction, you can just about see it. Of course, you have to know what you’re looking for. It’s wood panelling tends to blend it into the background.
That’s where our baptismal font is — politely set aside and out of the way — but where does it belong? When we asked that question during worship, there were different opinions. Some said it should be at the front, but more centred. Some said it should be at the back. But everyone agreed, it doesn’t belong hidden in the corner.
The most traditional place for a baptismal font is at the entrance of the church. Since baptism is the entrance to our faith, it should be the first thing you see as you enter into worship. But a baptismal font could equally belong up at the front, so everyone can easily see it when conducting baptisms. Most Presbyterian Churches, at least all the ones I’ve seen, have it someplace at the front, usually off to the side — and in some cases, pushed off into the corner.
Off in the corner…when everything in a church sanctuary is placed with theological intention; when the place of the communion table, the pulpit, the Bible all has symbolic meaning; when churches argue about whether or not to have a candle and how many candles they should have; what does it say when the baptismal font is off in the corner? What message are we sending about the significance of baptism? And how seriously are we taking our own baptisms when we only roll out the baptismal font when it’s needed?
In the last part of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Baptizing new disciples is one of the most important things we are called to do. Noting its significance, our Reformed tradition recognizes two sacraments: communion and baptism. Baptism should be as central to our identity as the Lord’s Table. It’s not just a thing we do for babies, it’s a primary part of our calling as mature disciples.
It’s time to bring our baptismal fonts from out of the corner. It’s time to put baptism back where it belongs.

Mark Chiang, St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Edmonton