The birth of a child is a time of great excitement, and the church delights to celebrate this event by giving thanks to God for the gift of life.
In the past, almost all children were baptised into the church (also known as ‘Christening’), because almost all parents were regular church-goers.
This is no longer the case. Many people are unsure about what they believe, but still feel a strong desire to give thanks for the birth of their child.
In recognition of this, the Church of England also offers an alternative Service of Thanksgiving for the Birth of a Child. This provides an opportunity for parents to express their sense of gratitude for their child, and to recognise that there is a spiritual side of life, which they want their child to experience and understand as it grows into maturity. But the service does not mean the child becomes a member of the church. It is not the same as Baptism.
The traditional service of Baptism, not only marks the entry of a child into the world, but also into the family of God, our heavenly Father. In our churches, the font, where the baby is baptised, stands near the main door, as a sign that Baptism means entry into the church. Parents who wish to have their baby baptised make a promise to bring up their child within the church. They also make their own profession of faith in God. In other words, parents (and godparents) say that they are Christians and want their children to grow up as Christians too.
If you are a resident within one of the three parishes you can request a Baptism in your own parish.
If you live outside the three parishes you would need to contact Reverend Janet to discuss the options.
More information about Baptism can be found on the following pages:
What is Baptism?
In baptism, parents are thanking God for his gift of life, deciding to start their child on the journey of faith and asking for the Church’s support.
For your child, baptism marks the start of a journey of faith, which involves turning away from the darkness of self-centredness, turning towards Christ and becoming a member of the local and worldwide Christian family.
Baptism is a ‘sacrament’: a visible sign of God’s love.
In baptism, we are thanking God for his gift of life and publicly acknowledging his love. We are acknowledging that we all need to turn away from the darkness of evil and to make a new start with God.
Making Decisions & 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 or sinful and to turn instead towards Christ.
The declarations made by you and the child’s godparents will be made in front of the church congregation. The Christian community will promise to support you and pray for you and your child. Is it not essential for the parents of the child to be baptised but any Godparents chosen by you must be baptised.
During the service, you will be asked to make the following declarations:
- Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God? Parents and godparents: I reject them.
- Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil? Parents and godparents: I renounce them.
- Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour? Parents and godparents: I repent of them.
- Do you turn to Christ as Saviour? Parents and godparents: I turn to Christ.
- Do you submit to Christ as Lord? Parents and godparents: I submit to Christ.
- Do you come to Christ, the way, the truth and the life? Parents and godparents: I come to Christ.
What happened during the service?
Your child’s baptism will normally take place in a separate service at 12:30 on a Sunday.
The priest will make sure you know where to sit and when you need to move. Some parts of the service will be for the whole congregation to join, some will be for you and the godparents.
For the baptism itself, parents and godparents will be asked by the priest to gather either at the front of the church or around the font. (The font is a large basin on a pedestal, containing the water for baptism.)
A number of important symbols 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.
- The priest says: ‘Christ claims you for his own. Receive the sign of his cross, do not be ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified.’
- The priest may invite you and the godparents to sign the cross on the child’s forehead after he or she has done so.
- 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 (like drowning) 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 priest says: ‘May God, who has received you by baptism into his Church, pour upon you the riches of his grace, that within the company of Christ’s pilgrim people you may daily be renewed by his anointing Spirit, and come to the inheritance of the saints in glory.’
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 called the light of the world. A large candle will be lit in the church and a Godparent will be given a lighted candle as a reminder of the light which has come into your child’s life. At the end of the service you will be given the candle to take home with you. It is up to you, the child’s godparents and the church community to help your child reject the world of darkness and follow a way of life that reflects goodness and light and shares this light with others.
The role of godparents
Godparents make the same promises on behalf of the child being baptised as parents. Godparents promise to pray and support the child and to help the parents to bring up the child in the Christian faith. It is an important and responsible role.
You should have at least three godparents: two of the same sex as the child and one of the opposite sex. Godparents can be family members or friends. However, it is important that you choose people who will take an interest in your child’s spiritual welfare and who will pray for you and your child. They should be baptised themselves.
The Thanksgiving Service
You may wish to ask your parish priest about having a service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child. In this service, you thank God for the gift of your child and the child is blessed. You do not make the same promises as in the Baptism service.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. What’s the difference between a baptism and a christening?
A. None, they are just different words for the same thing.
Q. Can we have a baptism as part of the main service?
A. Baptisms usually take place separate from the church’s main service, because of time constraints on our clergy who have to take services at another of our 3 churches.
Despite this it may be possible for the minister to make arrangements for another member of clergy to take the other service, discuss the options with the parish priest and together you can decide on the best option.
Q. What is the right age for baptism?
A. Baptism can happen at any age. What matters is that those concerned believe it is right to ask for baptism.
Teenagers and adults may also be baptised. This may also be followed with confirmation by the Bishop.
You can only be baptised once, but there are ways of renewing your commitment publicly as an adult – the priest will be able to advise.
Q. I’m not a regular churchgoer. Can I still have my child baptised?
A. Yes. The Church believes that God’s love is available to all, regardless of their background. The parish priest can talk you through the options: you may prefer to have a Thanksgiving service first and then consider baptism when you have had time to talk through what is being asked of you.
You may also wish to find out more about the Christian faith and what joining the Church involves before you make a decision about baptism. Again, your parish priest can give you guidance.
Q. What does it cost?
A. The Baptism service is free. There may be a small charge for a certificate or administration fee. Ask the parish priest.