The following is a liturgy for a Service of Re-naming and Reaffirmation of Baptism. It has been shared graciously with us by the author, Jess Cook, who is the Programs and Communications Manager for More Light Presbyterians. You can find Jess’ full bio below.
This liturgy is for people who wish to change their name to align with their gender identity and wish to make a public proclamation and receive support from a community. Functioning also as a reaffirmation of baptism, it should take place by the baptismal font with water. The presider may wish to use oil to anoint the head of the candidate. (Note: The singular they is used as a placeholder throughout this liturgy. When using it in a worship service, use the pronouns the person uses for his/her/themself.)
At this time, would N please join me by the baptismal font?
[to the congregation]
In the Presbyterian Church, many of us were baptized as infants. We baptize infants as a visible sign that God’s grace is extended to us even when we do not have the ability to ask for it. That grace covers us through every transition of our lives.
Today we remember our own baptism and reaffirm with N their baptism as they publicly claim their new name within this faith community.
N, as your church family, we rejoice with you in this decision to take the next step in living into the person God has created you to be.
Profession of Faith (Adapted from the Book of Common Worship, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2018.)
Questions for the candidate:
N, what is your full name?
My name is [candidate states their full name]. (The experience of claiming one’s name is very powerful for a trans person. Use the name the person is now using, not the name they were assigned at birth.)
Trusting in the grace, mercy, and abundance of God,
do you recognize the pervasive and systemic nature of sin,
and do you desire to turn from its ways,
and renounce evil and its power in the world?
Do you believe the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, even unto his death,
offers a way to understand your own salvation?
Will you be Christ’s faithful disciple,
following his example of living as a testament to transformational love?
I will, with God’s help.
Questions for the community:
When we baptize people into the community, we promise to nurture and teach them in the faith and to celebrate their uniqueness as a part of the collective body of Christ, of which we are all a part.
Will you, as members of this community of faith, continue walking this path with N, listening to them as they assert who they are, and to being living reminders that they are not alone on this journey?
Will you commit to using N’s name and pronouns?
Will you commit to examining the ways in which your own assumptions about gender may be a stumbling block to living into the fullness of your knowledge of God’s creation?
N, we see you and we honor you in the fullness of your identity, and we are on this journey with you.
The people may stand and profess their faith using the Apostles’ Creed. (By using the Apostle’s Creed as a Statement of Faith, we are acknowledging the Church is bound by neither time, nor space, nor denominational affiliation, undergirded by the belief that the Spirit is always moving among us, always reforming us.)
God of our baptism,
We thank you for the ways you claim us as your own,
for weaving your Spirit through each of us individually
and through this community as a whole.
We thank you for the ways you continue to draw us towards
a fuller vision of the church you have called us to be.
God, we thank you that before N was born, you knew what you had in store for them.
You knew as you knit them in their parent’s womb,
all of the challenges and celebrations that would come in their life.
You knew there would be a time when they would
answer the call to share this part of their identity with this community.
We thank you for N’s desire and willingness to invite us along
this exciting part of their journey, and we celebrate with them today.
Remind N always that they are seen by this community
and remind us all of the ways we are knit together as your people.
Continue opening our eyes and our hearts to one another.
Keep us always grounded in the promise that
we are loved beyond measure by a God of infinite abundance.
Offering of Gifts
“Honoring the breadth and variety of our gender identities and expressions is one of the ways we can come to an even deeper understanding of who we are created to be in relationship to God and each other.
The image of God expansively and specifically includes people of all gender identities including transgender, cis-gender, non-binary people, and people of all gender expressions.
Scripture affirms that all people are created in the image of God. In God’s creation, we see and experience God’s image expressed across a broad and life-giving expression of gender.” (From Overture 11-12: Affirming And Celebrating The Full Dignity And Humanity Of People Of All Gender Identities, Approved by the 223rd General Assembly of the PC(USA), 2018.)
Just as the body is one and has many members, we were all baptized into one body, and were all made to drink of one Spirit. (6 1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
Each of us brings a particular set of gifts, creating a more complete image of the body.
N, Will you commit yourself to participate
in the church’s teaching and fellowship,
to sharing meals, to showing up.
Will you bring your own gifts and share in the abundant
gifts offered by the community?
I will, with God’s help.
N, as part of this community,
What gifts will you bring to participate in the life and ministry of this church?
I will bring [candidate offers the particular gifts they offer the congregation].
We cannot be the body of Christ without community.
There will be days when things are hard,
when each of us will suffer, or struggle to keep our footing.
As a body, we are called to care for and be cared for by one another,
to feed one another and to be fed by this community.
N, in what ways will you let yourself be fed by this community?
I will [candidate will share the ways they will ask for help, or where they will lean into vulnerable spaces].
Laying on of Hands and Anointing
The candidate may kneel. If it is so desired, people from the congregation can come forward and lay their hands on the candidate’s head.
N, like Sarah, Abraham, Israel, Paul, and so many of our ancestors, you have been called to live into a name different than the one you were given at birth. Like those prophets and parents in the faith, your journey has brought with it many unexpected twists and turns, yet you have listened to the voice of love and life that has called you and held you and led you here. We are grateful to be part of the journey with you and we rejoice with you today.
The presider may make the sign of the cross on the forehead of the candidate:
N, beloved child of God, we see you, and we love you.
God delights in your identity, and we do, too.
This community is richer because you are in it.
Remember your baptism, and be grateful.
All: Thanks be to God!
Written by Jess Cook - Copyright: More Light Presbyterians, 2019
Gender pronouns: they/them/theirs
Jess Cook is the Programs and Communication Manager for More Light Presbyterians. Jess is also a candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA). A native of East Texas and lifelong Presbyterian, Jess holds a Master of Divinity from Union Presbyterian Seminary, a Master of Fine Arts in Photography from the University of North Texas, and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art from Baylor.
Prior to joining MLP, Jess was the Youth Programs Director at Side by Side, an organization in Richmond, VA serving LGBTQIA+ youth. While at Side by Side, Jess worked with hundreds of young people through support groups, a leadership program, and various programs in the community. They created a parent support group and a meals program, and trained a wide variety of faith community leaders and service providers on best practices for working with LGBTQIA+ youth.
Jess’s call is to help facilitate spaces where reconciliation is possible, with the acknowledgement that reconciliation is only possible if we are able to be honest with ourselves and one another about the ways in which we are broken. True reconciliation requires relationships, and relationships require trust and vulnerability. Jess sees their role as helping make spaces where that vulnerability is celebrated and trust can be built.
Jess loves poetry, liturgy, sharing meals, and pretty much any conversation about the ways we see the Spirit come to life in the world. They live in Richmond, VA with their lively toddler and dog.