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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Keeping baptismal promises

It's a challenge and it's crucial when children are sick

Worshiping at Holy Trinity Lutheran in Chicago one Sunday, I joined with the congregation in welcoming three infants into the family of God through baptism. The pastor invited all children to sit in the aisle near the baptismal font. As the worship assistants poured water from the pitchers into the font, a cherub of a boy not more than 5 years old stood up and applauded. Adults in the pews smiled and realized that they, too, could celebrate and welcome these infants into the family of God with similar vigor.

Dirk van der Duim <BR><BR>While a patient
While a patient at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Lilly Isaacs, 4, enjoys talking with Stacey Jutila, an ELCA chaplain.
Before the pastor immersed each of these babies in the life-giving waters, the families offered their baptismal promises that they would “live with them among God’s faithful people, nurture them in faith and prayer,” and help them to grow in Christian faith. The congregation promised to “support and pray for them in their new life in Christ.”

There are countless ways to support these children of God. Some people teach Sunday school or lead youth group activities. Others pray for them throughout the years.

But what do baptismal promises require of us when a child is diagnosed with cancer, liver disease or a seizure disorder? How does a faith community support children and their families in times of illness—as the children undergo chemotherapy treatments or cardiac surgery?

These questions surrounding baptismal promises have led me to serve as a hospital chaplain. Over the past five years that I’ve trained and worked as a chaplain, I’ve tried to find ways that the stories of our faith, Scriptures and sacraments can be strong companions to people in their most joyful days and in their times of greatest need.

Before deciding to go to seminary in 2001, I’d planned to become a physician. As a hospital chaplain, I’m able to bring my interest in medicine together with my interest in pastoral care and theology. I’ve learned about the needs for ministry and the sharing of the sacraments in hospitals.


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