What is baptism?
Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan. This was a turning point in his life (the story of Jesus’ baptism is in the first chapter of Mark’s gospel).
Jesus told his followers to baptise others as a sign that they had turned away from their old life and begun a new life as Christ’s disciples. Baptisms often took place in a river: new Christians were dipped under water, marking an end to their old way of life and being lifted up again as a sign of their new life.
Today, baptism happens in a font (a large basin on a pedestal containing water for baptism), where water is poured on the child’s head.
In baptism, you as parents are:
- thanking God for his gift of life;
- affirming your own Christian commitment;
- beginning your child’s life as a Christian;
- asking for the Church’s support.
Godparents are people chosen by you, the parents, to pray for the child and set them a good example of Christian living. They can be relatives or friends, but they must be willing to make the promises set out in the service.
What will happen in the baptism service?
It is preferable to hold baptisms within the main Sunday service of the church. This is because your child is joining the family of the Church and will be welcomed into membership. In turn, the Church promises to support and pray for you and your child.
It is possible to hold a baptism service at a different time (or day), by arrangement with the priest.
(Image of a baptism at Wood Norton church, taken by Revd Canon Andrew Beane and used with the kind permission of the family).
During the baptism itself, parents and godparents will be asked to gather first at the front of the church and then around the font.
Parents and godparents will be asked to make promises on behalf of the child.
A baptism is a very important occasion, involving serious decisions. You will have to say that you will help the child ’walk in the way of Christ’ and take their place within the life and worship of Christ’s Church. You will be asked to answer questions on your child’s behalf:
- Do you turn to Christ?
- Do you repent of your sins? Do you renounce evil?
- Do you believe and trust in God..?
A number of important symbols are used during the baptism service:
The Sign of the Cross. The priest will make the sign of the cross on your child’s forehead. This is like the invisible badge to show that Christians are united with Christ and not ashamed to stand up for their faith in him. The sign of the cross is made in oil which has been specially blessed. This is called anointing and is a reminder of the gift of God’s Holy Spirit.
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, our old life is buried in the waters and we are raised to new life with Christ.
Candles. Jesus is sometimes called the light of the world. A large candle is lit in church throughout the service. Your child will be given a candle at the end of the service as a reminder of the light which has come into their life.
Welcome. The church congregation will say some formal words of welcome to acknowledge that your child has joined the Church and to show how pleased they are to have you among them.
Celebration! Above all, baptism is a celebration and we hope that your child’s baptism will be a wonderful and memorable occasion that will mark the beginning of a long and happy association with the Church.
Some frequently asked questions and answers about baptism
Q: What’s the difference between a baptism and a christening?
A: None - they’re different names for the same thing.
Q: Can my child be baptised anywhere?
A: Baptism normally only takes place in the parish where you live, unless you regularly attend church elsewhere.
Q: How much does it cost?
A: Baptism is free, but you, your family and friends are welcome to make a donation to the church.
Q: Can anybody be a godparent?
A: Godparents must themselves be baptised and at least 17 years old.
Q: Can someone be baptised in order to be a godparent?
A. Unfortunately not. It is common practice for adults to be baptised, but only if they wish to make a public declaration of their faith.
Q: How many should my child have?
A: At least two but not more than four.