“I just wanted to say thank you very much for yesterday. The service was lovely and everyone else said how lovely the service and you were too. It really meant a lot to us so thank you very much.”
We are delighted that you are thinking of getting your child in one of our beautiful churches.
The Church of England has a great website to help you make your plans – www.churchofenglandchristenings.org
In the first instance enquiries should be made of the Rector via the Contact Us tab and form. He will be able to give you all the information you need.
This is a brief account of the meaning of baptism (sometimes referred to as christening), adapted from an article by Rev Anthony Cane, now Canon at Chichester Cathedral.
One of Jesus’ last commands to his followers was ‘Go and baptise’ and ever since then infant baptism has been the way of entering into the Christian ‘family’. It is a service full of signs and symbols; amongst them the giving of a lighted candle and the threefold pouring of water as the priest says:
‘I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.’ So it is that the child’s name is spoken in the same breath as the name of God.
There are many reasons why people bring children for baptism, ranging from a wish to give thanks for a safe birth and a new life, to ‘granny thinks we ought to’, to a hard-to-explain feeling that it is simply the right thing to do. The church takes these and other reasons seriously and respects them, whilst wishing also to affirm its views of baptism as a ‘new birth’ into a new relationship with God.
Baptism (literally ‘washing’) requires faith (trust in God as shown in Jesus) and a commitment to try and lead a Christian life. When an infant is baptised, promises of this faith and commitment are made on behalf of the baby by the parents and godparents. In this way they are a living sign of the Christian belief that God loves us before we love God.
We are all used to water as something vital to life; both to quench thirst and to wash in. These meanings are experienced in fresh ways in the baptism service when set alongside the Biblical understanding of water.
This is true also of ‘light’, another essential for life and growth, but also having the meaning of living well by following the ‘light of the world’ Jesus Christ.
Everyone lives within the boundary of a Church of England parish, and it is the task of the local parish priest to help parents bring their children for baptism and to conduct the service. The theory behind this is that the parents and godparents (who must see that the children learn the Christian faith and grow up to come to Confirmation) will need the help of the local Church to help them in their task of preparing their children for adult commitment. The only exception (at the discretion of the parish priest) is when a family has a long-standing connection with the parish church. Baptism takes place within the main Sunday communion service of the church, when the local community can be there to welcome the child. Children over the age of ten are normally expected to be baptised at the same time as they are confirmed if they have not been baptised in infancy. (‘Confirmation’ is a special service for adults and young adults, conducted by the bishop, where the participants confirm for themselves the faith commitments made on their behalf by the godparents and parents when they were baptised.)
Frequently Asked Questions
What happens during the service?
Your child’s Baptism will take place during the main Sunday communion service (usually in the morning). This is so that your child can be seen to be joining the family of the Church and be welcomed into membership. In turn the Church will promise to support and pray for you and your child. You are very welcome to come to a service before the baptism so that you are more familiar with what we do. The welcomers will make sure you know where to sit and when you need to move. Some parts of the service will be for everyone to join in with, some will be for you and the godparents. Part of the service will take place at the front of the church, but for the Baptism itself, parents and godparents will be asked by the priest to gather around the font. (The font is a large basin on a pedestal, containing the water for baptism.) The priest will ask the parents and godparents to make declarations on behalf of the child
Making decisions and promises
When you bring your child for Baptism, you will be asked to declare publicly on behalf of your child that you believe in God and that you will bring your child up to follow Jesus. You will be asked to answer, on your child’s behalf, that you have decided to turn away from everything which is evil and instead to turn towards Christ. The declarations made by you and the child’s godparents will be made in front of the church congregation; the local Christian community will promise to support you and pray for you and your child.
Symbols and actions used during the service
A number of important symbols and actions will be used during the service itself:
• The sign of the cross – the priest will make the sign of the cross on your child’s forehead. This is like an invisible badge to show that Christians are united with Christ and must not be ashamed to stand up for their faith in him.
• Water – the priest will pour water on your child’s head. Water is a sign of washing and cleansing. In baptism it is a sign of being washed free from sin and beginning a new life with God. Water is a sign of life, but also a symbol of death. When we are baptised, it is as though our old life is buried in the waters and we are raised to new life with Christ.
• Anointing – after baptism in water, the minister may anoint him or her with oil. This is a sign of the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit.
• The welcome – the church congregation will say some formal words of welcome to acknowledge that you child has joined the Church and to show how pleased they are to have you among them.
• Candles – Jesus is the Light of the World. A large candle may be lit in the church and you may also be given a lighted candle at the end of the service as a reminder of the light which has come into your child’s life.
Photos from recent baptisms at St. John’s: