Leading Worship from the Font and Table
Invitation to Christ, the 2006 sacrament study of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) encourages congregations to “Lead appropriate portions of weekly worship from the font and from the table.” As the authors of the study explain:
What we do and how we do it convey meaning every bit as much as what we say. Intentionally leading worship from the font helps people make theological connections that might not be so clear to them otherwise. The presence of the leader at the font invites the congregation to see and hear anew portions of the liturgy that have baptismal implications. For example, leading the Prayer of Confession and Declaration of Pardon from the font grounds our confidence in God’s forgiveness in our baptismal identity. Lifting water with hands as the words of forgiveness are spoken makes this connection even more strongly.
Imagine the increased meaning of all acts of promise making if done at the font where God’s covenant pledge to us is enacted. Reception of new members, including youth, ordination and installation, dedication, commissioning and marriage might all take place around the font.
The congregation can also engage the font while receiving the Lord’s Supper. When worshipers pass by the font as they come forward to receive the bread and wine, some will look and see, while others will reach into the water and remember their baptism actively.
Baptism gives the church its mission, as well as its identity. Offering the Charge and Blessing from the font (again, lifting water with hands) is a reminder that we are a sent people, baptized for service in the world. Ministry, mission, stewardship, and ethics are all rooted in our being washed in grace for self-giving in the world.
Leading the intercessions or extending the offering invitation from behind the Lord’s Table can help make similar connections. At this table where the hungry are fed, our prayers and our gifts for others come into focus as ways we respond to the Word and reach out to serve the world Christ loves.
This page offers ideas and resources for worship leaders who wish to explore this recommended sacramental practice.
- Calls to worship
- Calls to confession
- Prayers of confession
- Declarations of forgiveness
- Invitations to discipleship
- Invitations to prayer
- Invitations to the offering
- Charges to the people
- Water prayers
- Table prayers
Other Suggestions for Font and Table
On pouring water into the font, Invitation to Christ says:
It is appropriate to start with some water in the font and to have a pitcher with which to pour additional water during worship. The pitcher might be placed on a small table, on the floor beside the font, or carried in procession. The minister, an assisting elder, or even a child may pour the water. It is important to help the one pouring understand the baptismal meanings evoked in this grace-filled act.
As for when to do this in the order of worship, the sacrament study offers a range of possibilities:
There are many different opportunities during worship where pouring water or engaging the font helps deepen our understanding of baptismal life. Water that can be seen and heard — as worship begins, at confession and pardon, at offering or sending — brings attention to our baptismal identity as God’s own, to our ongoing need for grace, and to our calling into lives of discipleship.
On the recommendation to keep the cup and plate on the Lord’s Table each Lord’s Day, Invitation to Christ explains:
Together these vessels point the congregation to the core meaning of our eucharistic life, a life of thanksgiving for who we are in Christ. When you are not celebrating the Lord’s Supper, keep an empty paten and chalice central on the table so that these symbols may speak to us of our hunger for Christ, who feeds us at this table. Just as the font must be visible to express its meaning, so will the Lord’s Table be allowed to function as a symbol. Be sensitive to what the presence of other things on the Lord’s Table says about the meaning of the meal.