The birth of a child is always a wonderful event and it makes us aware of the huge responsibilities we face as parents. We want to ensure the child is brought up in the best possible way and has the best chances in life. As part of this, Baptism can be a very important event.
However, It is important to think about why you would like your child Baptised - what does it mean and what does it mean to you?
Some parents want to mark the birth of their new child in a special way, thanking God for the new life and asking for His protection on the child but are not ready or sufficiently sure of their own faith to be able to honestly make the vows and commitments that parents and godparents make as a key part of the Baptism Service. A new baby makes us all especially conscious of the miracle of new birth and it is very natural to want to express our thanks to God and ask for his blessing on the child. So another option to consider is a service of Thanksgiving for a Child.
Living in another parish?
Occasionally we are asked to baptise a child who doesn't live within the parishes of St Paul's or Christ Church. This is possible although ideally a child will be baptised into the church community where they live. If you really want to have your child baptised with us, our vicar will need to seek the goodwill of your local vicar before proceeding.
The following gives you more information but please do contact John, the vicar to talk it through - especially before you make any arrangements!
The Meaning of Baptism
First a word about what Baptism is not:
• It’s not a magical ceremony whereby the child is instantly transformed into a model of obedience - unfortunately!
• It’s also not simply a social event with a chance to get the family together to celebrate the birth of the child - although that is a perfectly fine aspect of it.
• It’s not a means of ensuring the child is brought up in a Christian way, although both Parents and Godparents make promises to do that in the future as part of the service.
• It doesn’t make the child a Christian. Many people who have been baptised would not admit to being a Christian and similarly many who are not baptised would claim they are Christians.
What Baptism is:
• The Church of England describes it as ‘An outward and visible sign of an inward work of grace’. In other words it is symbolic, pointing to what God does in the heart of a person but it is a symbol, not the reality itself. Baptism symbolises the inner washing (forgiveness) and new life that Jesus offers to all of us.
• It is a service where Parents and Godparents make very specific and significant declarations about their own faith and belief. These are declarations that many can feel unable to make honestly.
• It’s also an opportunity for the church congregation to give thanks for the new life and welcome the child publicly into the family of the church. It is not just a family occasion since the promises and statements involve the church community as a whole. That is why we hold baptisms within church services and not separately.
For these reasons we make some stipulations for Baptism services.
Baptisms take place within the main Sunday Morning Service.
This makes it easier for the whole family to take part and other children to join in. It also means that the whole church can be involved in the service and welcome.
We ask that parents attend at least two service before their child is baptised so that they can get the feel of the services but also feel a part of the church itself.
It’s usual to have 3 Godparents - 2 of the same sex as the baby and one of the opposite - but this is not obligatory, you can have less or even more.
It is a basic requirement that godparents have been baptised - not necessarily in the Church of England - because of the very special role they have in supporting the child’s faith journey.
There are four aspects to the role of Godparents:
• To be there for the child to talk to about the bigger questions of life.
• Praying for the child through the ups and downs of their faith journey.
• Showing them how to make good choices in life, for themselves and for others.
• Helping them to learn more about the Christian faith, through their church and in other ways.
Since the Godparents also have to make very clear and direct promises, it is important that they know what these are and are comfortable making them. Please ensure they are well briefed and are happy to abide by this.
Both Parents and Godparents before committing to make the public declarations in a Baptism service should consider the following questions:
• Are you prepared to the best of your ability to give the child a Christian upbringing within the family of Christ’s Church?
• Will you help the child to be regular in public worship and in prayer, not only by your teaching but also by your example and your prayers?
• Will you encourage the child in due time to come to Confirmation and Communion?
Should you feel that either you are not in a position to make the Baptism Promises or you would prefer to have a Thanksgiving Service and allow the child to decide if it wishes to be baptised when it is older and able to make the promises for themselves then this is an ideal alternative.
It offers the opportunity to give thanks to God for the baby and to ask God’s blessing on him or her. This can be held either within a main church service or arranged separately, to fit in with your wishes.
It consists of prayers of blessing and thanks, a short bible passage and explanation.
It's just the start
The child’s experience of church should not end at the Baptism or Thanksgiving. Indeed the promises made by Parents and Godparents, at least in the Baptism service, state that they will seek to bring the child up in the Christian faith.
We want to do all that we can to help parents in the task of raising children. We believe that the best foundation any child can have is the one offered by the Christian faith. Baptism or Thanksgiving can be a key part of that journey.