We are delighted that you are thinking about what the Bible calls baptism (often called “christening” in England, from the sign of the cross that is made on the child’s forehead, a sign of our prayer that the child’s life might become like that of Jesus Christ).
We see baptism as something that was given by Jesus Christ for all who want to follow him.
In the Church of England we baptise both children and adults. We do baptism by the sprinkling of water and also by full immersion.
This page is for parents who are thinking about having their children baptised. However, if you are an adult and have never been baptised but call yourself a Christian, we’d be delighted to talk with you and arrange for your baptism.
Why baptise your baby?
Let’s just mention a few things that baptism is not:
- Baptism is not a spiritual inoculation or insurance payment
- Baptism does not mean that God will treat our children better
- Baptism is not a naming ceremony
- Baptism does not guarantee that the child will grow up as a Christian
So what is baptism all about?
Baptism stands for forgiveness
It is a symbolic washing with water – a spiritual cleansing. None of us is perfect. We all need God’s forgiveness. No-one has to be taught to do wrong – you may have discovered already that your child quite naturally knows how to be naughty! We were all born like this. As we grow up we become more clever at covering things up but we do not necessarily grow better. One day God is going to judge us all.
So we all need God’s forgiveness. We can only find it through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross for us. The Bible tells us that Jesus bore our sins on the cross. Jesus calls us to admit our need of forgiveness and to receive it from him. When we baptise a baby, we acknowledge that we all need forgiveness, and express our faith that one day the baby will take the step of asking for Jesus’ forgiveness himself or herself.
Baptism stands for a new birth
Coming out of the water symbolises a new start: a new birth to a new life, a life with the Holy Spirit living in us. It begins when we come to Jesus Christ as our Lord acknowledging that not only did he die for our sins but he was raised from the dead as the true Lord of all. It’s wonderful to discover that God’s Son is a real person and to learn how he can change our lives if we let him. Again, when we baptise the baby, we express our faith in God that He will do this in the baby’s life in years to come.
Why baptise a child?
Because the parents (or at least one of them) would love their baby in due course to know forgiveness and new life as they themselves have experienced it in Jesus Christ.
It was probably not many years after our Lord’s life on earth that children began to be baptised. In the Bible we read on more than one occasion of whole households being baptised when the head of the family believed in Christ.
To find forgiveness and new life in the Lord Jesus, a child needs to be both taught about him and to see what Christian faith means in action – especially in their parents’ and godparents’ lives. Christianity is taught and caught!
All baptism services contain declarations about Christian belief and practice which parents and godparents promise to do. So it is important that these promises are understood and that they are made honestly. In order to be able to live up to their promises, the godparents need to be believing Christians themselves. For these reasons and as a sign of their commitment, we ask that at least one of the parents should have been baptised, and that all of the godparents have also been baptised.
We would expect that children brought for baptism would have at least one parent who is a believer in Christ and that both parents agree that the child would receive a Christian upbringing. This would mean, for instance, that one or both parents are coming along to our services on a fairly regular basis, and bringing their child with them, so that he or she can learn to join in the experience of worshipping God together.
If you have questions about this, then we’d be delighted to talk with you about it.
Please phone the Reverend John Lenton on 01256 880570 in order to set up a meeting; he’ll be glad to come and see you to discuss your baby’s baptism.