What is Baptism?
Baptism is one of the principal ‘sacraments’ of the Church. A sacrament is the visible expression of a spiritual reality, an outward action which symbolises the working of God’s grace. The other principal Sacrament is Holy Communion.
Each year, more than a quarter of all babies born in England are brought to their parish churches to be baptised or, in modern usage, ‘Christened’. Many adults seek Baptism, too. Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan and told his friends to baptise others. Thus, Baptism has always been a sign of and a way of becoming a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.
Baptism (or “Christening” as it’s also known) is God’s free gift to us and assures us of His love. Every child who lives in the parish of St John’s has the right to be baptised at the church, following proper preparation of the parents. 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 bringing your child for baptism you make certain promises to bring him or her up in the Christian faith. At St John’s we’d like to do everything we can to help you fulfil those promises, and as part of that we expect to see the children and parents in church on a regular basis.
Can anyone have their children baptised at St Johns?
If you live outside the parish it may be possible for your child to be baptised, but you will have to talk to the Rector 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 Holy Communion or Eucharist, the other Gospel sacrament.
What happens in a Baptism?
The central act of the service is always the same.
- Parents and godparents gather round the font with the baby.
- 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 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 its forehead. Using its Christian names, the priest declares: “I baptize 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.
- 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, a lighted candle is presented to the family to remind them that ‘Christ is the light of the world’ and that the newly baptised, too, should shine as a light in the world to the glory of God.
- Sometimes, the specially-blessed oils of Chrism are used to anoint the child.
- Declaring that the child has been received into the Church, the priest and congregation then welcome it into membership. The ceremony is suitably adjusted for adult baptisms.
What arrangements have to be made?
Baptisms at St John’s usually happen during the 10.30am main Family Mass on the last Sunday of the month.
What preparation is required?
Before making any plans about times or dates or the choice of godparents for a baby’s christening, or any christening, the parents should consult with the Rector, and also fill out an application form to give us the basic details. Preparation usually involves a couple of sessions with one of the ministry team from St John’s 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 (sometimes called sponsors). Adults being baptised can make the promises for themselves and, so, do not need godparents.
Godparents are friends 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, you need to have two of the same sex as the child and one opposite; but you can have more if you’d prefer. However the godparents – who promise to set a Christian example, pray for the child and nurture him or her in the faith – MUST be baptised themselves (and preferably Confirmed too).
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 these words: “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 St John’s is 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 here today. If you would like to make a contribution towards the upkeep of St John’s 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 Rector and have a chat. The minister will be able to talk to you a bit more about the baptism of your child, and hopefully answer any questions you may have. Inevitably there is some paperwork to fill in – you can start this right away by downloading the following form.
We offer you our best wishes for your child’s Baptism. If there is anything we can do to help – perhaps to give information or answer questions or just listen, please do get in touch.