What is Baptism?
Baptism is a sacrament revealed in the Bible as the way of entering the Christian faith and becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.
Each year, more than a quarter of all babies born in England are brought to their parish churches to be baptised or ‘Christened’. Many adults seek baptism, too. Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan and told his friends to baptise others. So Baptism has always been a sign of, and a way of becoming a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.
Baptism or Christening is God’s free gift to us and assures us of his love. Every child who lives in the Fosse Team has the right to be baptised at the church in the parish in which they live or at one of the other churches in the Team.
Baptism is not a “naming” ceremony – it’s a “joining” ceremony – the baptised person starts their journey in the Christian faith within the fellowship of the Church. In coming for baptism yourself you will make promises to follow the way of Jesus Christ. By bringing your child for baptism, you make promises to bring him or her up in the Christian faith. The churches in the Fosse Team would like to do everything we can to help you fulfill those promises.
Can anyone have their children baptised at a church in the Fosse Team?
If you live outside the parishes in the Fosse Team it may be possible for your child to be baptised, but you will have to talk to the priest in charge of the church at which you would like your child to be baptised before any arrangements are made.
At what age is it usual for children to be baptised?
There is no “right” age at which to be baptised. Child or adult, God loves each one of us and welcomes us into the Church at any age. If you decide to be baptised as a teenager or adult, your preparation will probably lead you to both Baptism and Confirmation, after which you can participate fully in the life of the church and also receive Holy Communion or Eucharist, the other Gospel sacrament.
What happens in a Baptism?
The central act of the service is always the same.
When a child is baptised, parents and godparents gather round the font with the child.
The priest or other minister asks them if, on behalf of the baby and of themselves, they turn to Christ, repent of their sins and renounce evil.
The priest makes the sign of the Cross on the child’s forehead to show that it should ‘not be afraid to confess the faith of Christ crucified’. Sometimes, the specially blessed oils of Chrism are used to anoint the child at this point.
The parents and godparents are asked if they believe in God the Father who made the world, in God the Son who redeemed mankind and in God the Holy Spirit who gives life to the people of God. They reply: “I believe and trust in him.”
Holding the child, the priest pours water over her or his forehead. Using Christian names, the priest declares: “I baptise you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
Pouring the water (a reminder of those original Baptisms in a river) gives the sacrament its name of Baptism, from the Greek word for dipping or plunging in water. It symbolises Christ washing new Christians free from sin and uniting them with his death and resurrection.
A lighted candle is presented to the child (often by handing it to one of the godparents) to remind them that ‘Christ is the light of the world’ and that the newly baptized should also shine as a light in the world to the glory of God.
Declaring that the child has been received into the Church, the priest and congregation then welcome him or her into membership. The ceremony is suitably adjusted for adult baptisms.
What arrangements have to be made?
Baptisms at churches in the Fosse Team take place at times that are arranged by those churches in consultation with the person being baptised or, in the case of a child, with his or her parents.
What preparation is required?
Before making any plans about times or dates or the choice of godparents for a baby’s baptism, or any baptism, the parents should consult with the priest who is responsible for the church at which you would like the baptism to take place. There is some preparation which usually involves a couple of meetings with the priest who will take the service or lay people who will seek to explain a bit more about Baptism.
How many godparents should our child have?
Babies cannot express their own wishes about being baptised, nor can they make the promises to follow Christ that are required at Baptism. Each child has the promises made on his or her behalf by parents and godparents. Adults being baptised can make the promises for themselves and, so, do not need godparents.
Godparents are friends or relatives chosen by the parents to help bring up children in the Christian faith until they can make the promises for themselves at the service of confirmation.
In terms of godparents, it is tradition to have two of the same sex as the child and one opposite; but you can have more (or less) if you prefer.
Godparents have been chosen in the past for their wealth or their ability to look after the child in the event of the parents’ death. Today, it is more about the spiritual needs of the child and asking parents to choose godparents who can make the required promises with integrity.
Parents and godparents are reminded of their duties in this question which is asked in the service: “The children whom you have brought for Baptism depend chiefly on you for the help and encouragement they need. Are you willing to give it to them by your prayers, by your example and by your teaching?”
What does it cost?
Baptism is free – it reflects God’s free gift of love and grace to us, and so we don’t charge for Baptism. However the reason that the churches in the Fosse Team are here for you to have a Baptism today is because of the generosity of the people who used the building in the past and those who still worship today. If you would like to make a contribution towards the upkeep of the church at which the baptism takes place, it means that the church will still be here for the people who come later.
What about the paperwork?
The best thing to do initially is to contact the priest who looks after the church at which you would like your or your child’s baptism to take place and have a chat. They will be able to talk to you a bit more about the baptism, and hopefully answer any questions you may have. Inevitably there is some paperwork to fill in – and that will follow later on.
You can find out more about Baptism / Christening in the Church of England by visiting the Christenings website.