Universalists have used a number of ceremonies to welcome children. Some early Universalists started out as Baptists, and so were probably wary of infant baptism. Other early Universalists worked on the frontier of Euro-American settlement of North America, and were more flexible about the ceremony they used to welcome children; in fact, some early Universalists also practice adult baptism. Universalist views changed over the years; baptism was less popular in the early 19th C., almost universal in the late 19th C., and waned again in the 20th C. An excellent overview of Universalist views on baptism may be found in “Baptism on the Universalist Frontier,” by Lewis Perry, Journal of Unitarian Universalist History, vol. XXIX, 2003, pp. 3-18.
John Murray, arguably the central figure in the founding of institutionalized Universalism in North America, did not approve of infant baptism since, he said, it had no scriptural warrant. Upon his arrival in North America in 1770, some of his early converts to Universalism asked for baptisms; instead, he developed a ceremony which called “dedication,” in which he named the child, and dedicated her or him to God. The following documents describe early child dedications from the late 18th C. to the mid-19th C.