Drop-in baptism sign of increased individualism, Norwegian pastor says


Northern Europe


Photo AFP, Soeren Bidstrup

Drop-in baptisms: you just show up at church, sign a form, have a conversation with the pastor and be baptised. A Norwegian pastor conducted research into the new phenomenon.

Stein Ellinggard (62) has been a pastor for many years, and one of the first in Norway to introduce drop-in baptism writes Norwegian newspaper Dagen who spoke to him. In 2015, Ellinggard heard about the Church of Sweden’s experience with drop-in baptisms. At home in the Lademoen congregation in Trondheim, he experienced a decline in baptism and wanted to try something new.

With drop-in baptisms, you just show up at church, sign a form, have a conversation with the priest and get baptised. You can come alone or have someone with you. The congregation will provide a godparent if necessary. The only thing you need to bring is valid identification.

In the last year, Ellinggard studied the phenomenon in more detail after being awarded a scholarship for a critical examination of the new baptismal practice. The project “Saved in one sweep !?” interviewed baptismal parents of young and old children and adults who have stopped by the church to be baptised. He also spoke to pastors who practised drop-in baptism. A 90-page report on the project has been handed over to the Episcopal Conference of the Church of Norway.

Consumer thinking

The personal motivation to be baptised has become stronger, says Ellinggard, as a result of his research. “Baptism is a choice made for its own sake, and this is true both of baptismal parents and baptised adults. In this sense, you can say that drop-in baptism reflects the time we live in. We have become more individualistic. It is a turning point for adherence to tradition and Christian values.”

The study also shows that the understanding of baptism in the broad layer of the church has changed. According to Ellinggard, baptism has changed from a rite of passage to a rite of initiation. “The rite of passage is the classical Lutheran baptismal theology: the baptised go from death to life. One is saved from sin and the devil and to eternal life. Baptism understood as an initiation rite means that one is taken into a community during this time,” the pastor says.

Ellinggard believes that a clear market and consumer thinking is on the rise in the church. “Drop-in baptism is a clear example of the fact that more and more people are designing a church that is very much on the service side”, the researcher believes.



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