Baptism marks the beginning of a journey with God which continues for the rest of our lives. It is part of our response to God’s love. For everyone involved – especially the candidates but also parents, godparents and sponsors – it is a time for rejoicing in what God has done for us in Christ, as well as for making serious promises and declaring our faith.
The service paints many vivid pictures of what is involved in following Jesus. There is the sign of the cross, the badge of faith in the Christian journey, which reminds us of Christ’s death for us. Our ‘drowning’ in the water of Baptism, where we believe we die to sin and are raised to new life, unites us to Christ’s dying and rising, a picture that can be brought home vividly by the way the Baptism is administered. Water is also a sign of new life, as we are born again by water and the Spirit. This reminds us of Jesus’ Baptism. And as a sign of that new life, there is a lighted candle, a picture of the light of Christ conquering the darkness of evil. Everyone who is baptised is to walk in that light for the rest of their lives.
When a young child is baptised, their parents and Godparents make promises on the child’s behalf and declare their own commitment to bring that child up within the Christian family. It is therefore something with great spiritual significance and involves making serious promises before God.
If you are reading this, you are most likely interested in arranging a Baptism either for yourself or a new family member. To help you understand what is involved, we have prepared answers to some of the common questions that we are frequently asked to get you started.
Q: What is Baptism ?
A. Baptism is the start of a lifetime’s journey with God. It is a practice used to represent one’s commitment to Jesus. Adults and young people can declare their own faith and commitment. For young children not yet able to speak for themselves, there is a commitment on the part of their parents and Godparents to bring them up within the Christian family. It is therefore a practice with great spiritual significance and a wonderful way of introducing someone into the Christian community.
Q: Is Baptism the same as Christening ?
A: Yes. Baptism is the word Jesus uses, and which we therefore prefer. He was baptised himself. “Christening” as a name came along a lot later and picks up the aspect of Baptism about God’s people becoming like Jesus.
Q: At what age are you baptised ?
A: People can be baptised at any age. Often children born into Christian families are baptised a few weeks after birth. For adults, their Baptism is often combined with Confirmation within the same service.
Q: What is involved in baptism ?
A: At the start of the Baptism Service, there are important promised that the Baptism party and the congregation make about choosing to follow Jesus and living life His way. The promises talk about turning away from sin and evil and towards Jesus as the one who will rule our lives from now on. The service then moves onto a ceremonial cleansing. Most often, baptism involves sprinkling the candidate with water. The water is a sign of God’s washing us clean. Baptism is actually from the Greek word for “dipping”. Someone is baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit which means they are “dipped” into the life and love of God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. At the end of the Baptism service there is a “Welcome”, where the baptised person is welcomed into the family of the Church. That is what the Church is, not a building or a place for a service. The Church family takes its responsibility for its members very seriously and so the congregation will want to be able to fulfil the promises that they make to those being baptised. Because of the seriousness of the promises involved in Baptism, we want to make sure that you understand them and are ready to commit yourselves to keep them. To do this, we always offer a Baptism preparation session. This usually takes place in your home.
Q: Can I/my child be baptised at St Peters, Forsbrook ?
A: Someone can be baptised at St Peters if they: are a regular attender of our church and are on our membership list (Electoral Roll) or live in our parish If you are unsure as to whether you live within the parish, in the first instance contact the Rector, David.
Q: Do the parents/Godparents have to be baptised or confirmed ?
A: When baptising a child, both parents should be baptised as should the Godparents. Preferably at least one parent and Godparent should also be confirmed. This is because you are making a commitment to raise your child within the Christian Church, and so you are expected to have made this commitment yourself. If you are being baptised as an adult, you are able to make this commitment and the associated promises for yourself . If you have not been baptised and wish your child to be baptised, you should discuss how you wish to proceed with a member of the clergy. If you are uncomfortable making the baptism promises, you may want to consider a Service of Thanksgiving as a first step. You will still have a special service and a celebration, but you won’t say things which you are not certain about. When you are ready to make the promises in the Baptism service, you can then go on to that as the next step.
Q: Do I/we have to regularly attend church ?
A: To be able to keep the promises that you will make in the Baptism service you will need to be part of a worshipping community of other people who are also following Jesus. This will involve meeting regularly with them for worship and to help each other along in our journey with God. The Church community also makes promises to the people being baptised as part of the Baptism service. These are to welcome the person being baptised and to help them grow in the Christian faith. They can only keep those promises if those who are being baptised make sure that they come to regularly worship with them. Some people feel a bit apprehensive about bringing small children to church – what if they make a noise? Don’t worry, we are used to it! Our church provides special activities for children of all ages on Sunday mornings, including monthly services designed for people of all ages to worship together.
Q: How do I/we arrange it ?
A: The first thing to do is to speak to the minister after one of the services, or telephone the Rector. The minister will explain the process to you, and arrange for appropriate preparation for you and (if appropriate) your child. Q: When would it happen? A: Infant Baptisms take place during the 10:00 am service on the first Sunday of the month. Adult baptism can take place at any of our morning and some evening services.
Q: What does baptism cost ?
A: Nothing. Baptism is a sign of God’s total love, which comes free.
Q: Is there a rehearsal or practice ?
A: Not normally, but there will be some preparation which will include explanation of what happens when during the service and what you will need to do. This will be covered as part of the baptism visit to your home.
Q: Can I/we choose songs or hymns ?
A: Baptisms take place as part of our regular Sunday service, but we would be glad to try and include a song or hymn in the service that is particularly meaningful to you. Be sure to discuss your ideas during the baptismal visit.
Q: Where can I / we find more information ?
A. For more information you can visit the Church of England website.
Q: How do I/we choose Godparents ?
A: This is the advice offered by the church on your selection:
Each infant or child who comes to be baptised needs to have at least three Godparents. Two of the must be the same gender as the child, and there must be one of the opposite gender. The child’s own parents can count as Godparents. However, most often Godparents are family members or friends. However, it is important that they are people who will take an interest in the child’s spiritual welfare and who will pray for the child and its parents.
It is a requirement that all Godparents are baptised. It is important that they are good Christian examples to their Godchild, and hence they are normally confirmed or full members of a Christian church. All the Christians gathered round the font together represent the Church of Christ, into whose fellowship the children are received when they are baptised. But the Godparents also represent the children, promising on their behalf to renounce what is evil, to believe what is true and to do what is right, according to Christ’s teaching and example.
Being a Godparent is like being a second father or mother to the child. With the father and mother, the Godparent will see to the child’s Christian upbringing and, if anything were to happen to the parents, should be prepared to assume full responsibility for this. So a Godparent should love their Godchild as if he or she were their own child. That means far more than giving the child presents.
Godparents must pray regularly for their Godchildren. When the children are handed back after the baptism, they are entrusted to the Godparents’ care as well as to that of their father and mother. And immediately afterwards everyone prays that they may lead the rest of their lives according to this holy beginning. So, even if they live far away, Godparents should often think of their Godchildren and pray that God’s grace may be with them and lead them through good and ill.