Epiphany -- Worship Ideas -- Baptism of Christ

Immerse Yourself:
Baptism of Christ
Elements for a Liturgy on Baptism of Christ Sunday

Water in various forms--

  • $ A desktop fountain could be used to greet people as they enter, the gentle sound of running water continuing throughout worship.
  • $ A cooler could be filled with ice, placed in the chancel area. (Some ice could purposefully be put outside of the cooler, left to change from one form to another during worship.)
  • $ A cool mist humidifier could be placed near the altar or communion table, adding to the visual effect of water in different forms.

Yards of blue fabric (in several shades) may be draped down an aisle, or arranged to flow from
the baptismal font. This is even more dramatic when people feel that they are Astepping@ in
the water as they make their way to their seats. (Note: care should be taken with those who
have difficulty walking; specifically, have greeters assist as needed or suggest another aisle.)

After the gathering music, continue worship with a soloist singing the spiritual Wade in
the Water as a Call to Worship. The soloist may symbolize our personal relationship with
God. The soloist begins, then may be joined by a choir or a small group of singers and
finally by the congregation, reminding us of our relationship with each other and our
communal relationship with God.

HYMN SUGGESTIONS from The New Century Hymnal :
No. 3 - Wakantanka Taku Nitawa (Many and Great, O God Are Your Works)
Use a simple drum beat to aid this moving hymn which effectively captures the spirit of the Hebrew Bible
reading (Genesis 1:1-5).
No. 167 - Mark How the Lamb of God's Self-Offering
The text for this hymn takes us from the Baptism of Jesus to a challenge Ato live the faith our lips declare.@
No. 169 - What Ruler Wades through Murky Streams
If you have a liturgical dancer in your congregation, or someone who is eager to try, this is a great hymn to
interpret with dance. Imagine the possibilities with the refrain: AWater, River, Spirit, Grace, sweep over
me, sweep me! Recarve the depths your fingers traced in sculpting me.@
No. 326 - Crashing Waters at Creation
The text for this hymn effectively ties together the Hebrew Bible and Gospel readings, offering A crashing,@
Aparting,@ A cleansing@ and Aliving@ water images.


  •  Explore the powerful story of the spiritual AWade in the Water.@ One approach would be to offer an interpretation based on the Hebrew people of the Old Testament. Bound in slavery they relied on their faith to sustain them. The words of the spiritual remind us that our faith needs to sustain us as well, especially in troubled times. Even today we need to trust God as we find ourselves in the troubled waters and wonder where the waters will take us.
  •  Offer the story of Moses and the parting of the Red Sea. God provides a way to freedom, troubling the water to cut off the enemy. Is Asafe@ passage dependent on trusting God, even when it would seem easier to follow another path on our journey?
  •  The spiritual spoke in times of slavery, as enslaved people sought freedom. The instructions in the spiritual told of a way to escape, covering tracks and scent by entering the water. Did God trouble the water to save those seeking freedom?
  •  What does it mean for God to trouble the waters in our time and place? Are we to wade in the water even as we know that God intends to trouble them? Is troubled water a necessary part of our journey, whether that be our individual or communal journey?
  •  Explore the imagery of water offered in the worship space.
  •  Acknowledge the power of water to destroy as well, and depending on your area of the country, the devastating results of flooding/troubled water, of water gone wild.
  •  Offer hope as the water of baptism connects us with Jesus and with all people of faith, an intimate connection with God. What lies behind our baptism?


May be offered with several voices, or as a call and response, or read dramatically as it is interpreted with
dance or other movement. May work as a sending forth/benediction

One: God of the waters. Water of birth,
Many: moving us from safety into the world.
One: God of the waters. Water of connection,
Many: engaging the playful Spirit,
the passionate Christ,
the challenging God.
One: God of the waters. Water of life,
Many: sustaining,
One: God of the waters. Water of trouble,
Many: journeying us from here to there, from the known to the unknown.
One: God of the waters.
Many: Birth us.
Connect us.
Live in us.
Trouble us.

Immerse Yourself: Elements for a Liturgy on Baptism of Christ Sunday, was written by the Rev.
Scott A. Ressman, Minister for Worship, Music and Liturgical Arts, Local Church Ministries.
Copyright 2009 Local Church Ministries, Worship and Education Ministry Team, United Church of Christ, 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH
44115-1100. Permission granted to reproduce or adapt this material for use in services of worship or church education. All publishing rights


Rev. Susan A. Blain
Minister for Worship, Liturgy and Spiritual Formation
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland, Ohio 44115