Baptismal Service

Dearly beloved:
Baptism is a ritual of the church in keeping with the example of Jesus,
who himself was baptized as a sign of faithfulness.

Baptism is a symbolic act that is rich with meaning
for the believer and the congregation.
The church baptizes us upon the confession of our faith
when we acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and Saviour.
We confess our sins, and our desire to give our lives to Jesus.
Baptism symbolizes dying to self,  being cleansed of sin
and being born to new life through the grace of God.
Baptism symbolizes the anointing and receiving of the Holy Spirit.
Baptism is the choice of an individual, but it is not an individual act.
It takes place in community,
for through baptism we enter fully into life in the body of Christ.

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Sermon: Creating Sanctuaries–Abuse in the Church – Psalm 32, Exodus 25:3-9

Schools, businesses and professional organizations of all kinds have safe place policies. Now I know that we have high hopes for the church. As followers of Jesus, shouldn’t we have a lower percentage of bad behavior? We strive not just for civility and not killing each other, we strive for love in the church. Shouldn’t the church be a safer place than other places?  Yes, there is love and caring in the church but unfortunately, people bring every part of their humanness to the church, and that includes the humanness that leads to hurting each other.

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Sermon: You are a Greeter in God’s House – Psalm 84, Luke 15:11-32

But I wonder. Sometimes, some of our actions to newcomers can feel like we are the doorman or the gatekeeper. Things we do and say, can feel judging rather than welcoming, even if we don’t mean them that way.  I want to share a few stories of my own experiences as a newcomer…. for the visitor, every person they meet is the gatekeeper of the church.

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Sermon: The Constant Gardener–Confronting our own Sin – Hosea 10:12-13, Galatians 6:7-10, Matthew 7:15-20

This is where the image of God as a Constant Gardener comes in. God knows every stupid thing we’ve planted. God knows what kind of fruit we are eating, and the effect it is having on us. Unfortunately there is no such thing as spiritual Roundup, that blasts everything evil out of our lives, that withers the sin in us instantly. No magic answers. Jesus is a Saviour with his hands in the dirt, our dirt. God is willing to be a Constant Gardener, helping us with the digging, the rooting around, the ripping out, the discarding.

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Mutiny on the Disciple Ship

Getting on board the disciple ship
was not what I expected.
I imagined clear sailing,
Jesus at the helm,
the congregation a happy crew
learning the ropes together. 
Back then, I didn’t know how close quarters
can sometimes drive us
to gnawing on the ties that bind.
Conflicts rolling over us like sea billows.

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The Whole Score

God breathes and the world answers in a symphony of faithfulness.
Songs of services in chapels, halls and tabernacles,
arias of councils and conferences and conventions,
oratorios of missions and campaigns and committees.
The devoted bursting forth in a hundred million hymns,
harmonious, dissonant, raucous and serene.
The voice of the church exhaling its devotion,
praising Father, Son and Holy Ghost,
Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer and Friend.
Angel voices and the saintly crowd of witnesses
hum along as God’s kingdom call echoes in the world. 

For so long we’ve tuned into only one part, ours,
examining it, analyzing it to the nth degree,
arguing over our notes, perfecting them, enjoying them.

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True Home Call to Worship

“Can a mother forget the infant at her breast, walk away from the baby she bore?
But even if mothers forget,  I’d never forget you—never.
Look, I’ve written your names on the backs of my hands.
The walls you’re rebuilding are never out of my sight.”

Thank you, God, that worship is always our true home.
Thank you that it is here that we are welcomed,
here that we can show our true selves
and be truly accepted and loved for who we are.
Help us in this hour to rest in your love,
in the presence of our church family,
children of God, together.

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About Carol Penner

I am a Mennonite pastor currently teaching theology at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, Ontario. I’ve served congregations in Ontario and most recently, Alberta.

I love to write and to lead worship! If you are finding my writing helpful, I would love to hear from you! Feel free to use or adapt the material here, it is all written by me. If printing material, please credit “Copyright Carol Penner” (and say whether you modified it). If publishing, please contact me for permission. Contact me at

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