O level Notes : FRS - Religious rituals in Christianity - Adult rites

There are a number of rituals which are done and performed by adults. These rituals include calendrical and transitional rituals.

Adult rites

There are a number of rituals which are done and performed by adults. These rituals include calendrical and transitional rituals.

(a) Baptism ritual

Baptism is a ceremony in which someone is touched or covered with water to initiate them into the Christian religion. It is a Christian ritual of initiation and a cleansing  ritual done in Christianity. Baptism was used to initiate non-Jews into Judaism and John the Baptist used this ritual as a sign of repentance of his followers. When Jesus came, he set an example by being baptised and later instructed his followers to baptise others.


Baptism is generally done through immersion in water while other contemporary Christians have adopted sprinkling of the head with water as a symbol of immersion. It represents the death to sin and resurrection as a new sinless creation ready to take up the Lord’s work. The believer is made to have an encounter of the death of Jesus. The most important thing before baptism is repentance. The apostolic sects also baptise in water for example, the African Apostolic Church, (Mwazha).


When one realises his or her mistakes and sinfulness then baptism can be done (Matthew 3:2). Water is viewed by Christians as having a purification effect. Baptism is done in the name of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit. In some Christian denominations, children are also baptised. They believe that every child is born with sin and need to be baptised, to be cleansed from the natural sin. It is done on the offspring of Christian parents.


However, some Christian denominations  like The Seventh Day Adventist do not baptise children before twelve  years.  It is usually  done  in  public  as a full acknowledgement  and  testimony  to others in  the community. It symbolises the cleansing of sins and the union of the believer with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. There is child baptism in the Roman Catholic Church.


Importance of the baptism ritual

The baptism ritual is important because it ensures that:

  • One becomes a member of the Christian community. Baptism makes one to be part of the Christian community because before baptism one is not part of that community. One cannot partake in the Holy Communion or have a religious responsibility because he or she is not part of that Christian community. However, through  baptism  one becomes  the member  of the Christian  community which makes one participate in Christian community activities like the Eucharist as well as holding religious offices.
  • Sins are forgiven through the baptismal ritual. For example, in the Roman Catholic Church, children are baptised to remove the sins of their forefathers Adam and Eve. This is because one is believed to be born a sinner because of the sin of inheritance committed by the first created human beings. These sins can only be forgiven through baptism.
  • It is a way of acceptance into a new denomination. One is accepted as a member of a particular church because of baptism. For example, when one shifts from the Reformed Church in Zimbabwe to the Zion Christian Church one needs to be baptised in a Zion Christian church for him or her to be recognised as a member of the Zion Christian church. Acceptance into a church is necessitated by baptism.
  • The baptised become sons and daughters of the heavenly Father and have a chance of inheriting the Kingdom of God. Baptism is a ritual which enables people to inherit the kingdom of God because it is an initial ritual which makes one a son of God with all the rights to partake in the kingdom of God.
  • It proves commitment to a special relationship with God. Baptism bridges the relationship between God and human beings thereby creating a special relationship between the two. Sin strained the relationship between human beings and God but baptism creates a new relationship between the two. The initiative by a Christian to be baptised shows a commitment in reconciling with God as well as in having a special relationship with God.

(b) Marriage ritual

In Christianity marriage is of great significance. It is viewed as the relationship that is holy. It is referred to as the holy matrimony. This is when two people, the man and woman decide to stay together. It is believed that after marriage no divorce should be done.

The Christian holy book is of the view that God does not approve of divorce. It can only be done in case of infidelity. Marriage is the union between two people who love each other. The couple come before a priest or a church marriage officer who will officiate their marriage. This is done for example in the Jehovha’s Witnesses Church. Those from ZAOGA  first visit the pastor and his wife to introduce each other to the pastor and for prayers. Then a mother and a father of the couple are given the responsibility to mentor them  into  this  holy  matrimony. Engagement   and marriage ceremony will later be arranged.

It is usually done in a church with witnesses who can be parents, relatives or friends of the couple. During the ritual the couple  is blessed  by the priest. The couple is encouraged to be and to remain faithful to one another. In this ritual the man is given the role of a leader and the woman is told to honour, obey and respect the husband.

Importance of the ritual

  • It marks the end of youth life and beginning of adult life. Marriage is a ritual which shows that one has passed a youth stage into adulthood life. This is because marriage is not for the young but for adults in Christianity. So, marriage is a ritual which is important in announcing the end of the youth life and commencement of adult life.
  • New titles and names are given from that day onwards, the women will become mother and the man will become father showing that they are now attached to someone.
  • Gives new responsibilities to the couple, woman care for the home and family, the man provide for the needs of the family. Marriage rituals come with new responsibilities in a Christian community. One behaves responsibly in performing tasks which makes him or her a Christian mother or father.
  • It joins the newly weds and protects them from evil spirits.
  • Blessing the couple. Marriage rituals necessitate the blessing of the couple by God. Christian marriage is blessed by God through offsprings.