Beginning the journey of faith
What is Baptism?
In baptism, you as parents are: thanking God for his gift of life, deciding to start your 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 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 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.
What happens during the service?
Your child’s baptism can either take place during a private service at 12:00 pm or the main Sunday service at 11.00am.
If you arrange the baptism during the main service, this means your child can be seen to be joining the family of the Church and be welcomed into its membership. In turn the Church will promise to support and pray for you and your child.
Prior to your child’s baptism, you will be contacted by either the parish priest, a Lay Minister or Pastoral Assistant, who will arrange a visit to talk to you about baptism, the service, 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 only.
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 priest will ask the parents and godparents to make declarations on behalf of the child.
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 put the christening robe on the child and anoint him or her with oil. This is a sign of the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit. The oil we use at St Augustine’s is blessed by the Bishop at the Chrism Mass held in Bristol Cathedral on Maundy Thursday (the day before Good Friday).
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 may be lit in the church and you may 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. 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 must be baptised themselves. If they are not baptised, it is possible for them to be baptised at the same 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 ad the child is blessed. You do not make the same promises as in the Baptism service.
If you choose to have a Thanksgiving, you may also have a Baptism service for your child at a later date.
Frequently asked questions
What’s the difference between a baptism and a christening?
None, they are just different words for the same thing.
What is the right age for baptism?
Baptism can happen at any age – in fact, adult baptisms are becoming more common. What matters is that those concerned believe it is right to ask for baptism.
Teenagers and adults may also be baptised. This is celebrated with confirmation by the Bishop. You can only be baptised once, but there are ways of renewing your commitment publicly as an adult – your priest will be able to advise.
I’m not a regular churchgoer. Can I still have my child baptised?
Yes. The Church believes that God’s love is available to all, regardless of their background. Your 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 are encouraged to attend at least two Sunday services prior to the baptism service: All Age Worship or Family Communion on the first and fourth Sunday’s of the month are very family friendly and more informal.
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.
What does it cost?
The Baptism service is free. There may be a small charge for a certificate or administration fee. At the end of the service, there is a plate to receiving any donations towards the upkeep of the church.