Congratulations! After all the waiting, you are now a parent – and (when time permits) you may be looking at this precious baby with a sense of wonder. It’s just then when the word ‘baptism’ comes into your mind.
The idea may come out of your own intuitive feeling that a baby should be baptised – a feeling based on your spiritual background (or that of your partner). Alternatively other family members might have suggested the idea to you. But chances are that you will know little about what baptism actually involves. So the following points are simply to answer basic questions, so that you can make the right decision as to whether/how to proceed – a decision which is both true to your own integrity and that of the Christian community.
What is baptism?
- Baptism (or Christening – same thing) is a service of initiation into the Christian Church. In the official words of the Church of England, “it marks the beginning of a journey with God which continues for the rest of our lives”. When you bring a baby to baptism, you are asking God to walk alongside that child for the rest of their spiritual journey – all the ups and downs of life. As the minister pours water onto the child’s head, so they are asking God to pour their love, mercy and grace into their soul. God touches that child with his love, and promises to be with them always, through the presence of his Holy Spirit
Where do my own beliefs fit in?
- No child will start out on a spiritual journey without the encouragement of parents also. Children don’t suddenly reach out to God on their own! So parents have to make their own public promises to God as part of the baptism service. In the Church of England, we baptise young children on the clear understanding that parents will “draw (the child) by your example into the community of faith ..and help them to take their place within the life and worship of Christ’s Church”. Our policy at St. John’s is that we would not expect you, as a parent, to have your own Christian faith fully ‘sussed’ before baptising your baby, but we would expect you to make a commitment to start exploring it afterwards – by becoming part of a Church (ideally St. John’s!) – and making every effort to encourage your child to become a Christian in their own right in due course.
I feel uncomfortable in making promises to God; is there anything you can offer instead?
- If you do feel uncomfortable with baptism promises, then you do need to think again….after all, nothing is worse than agreeing to something publicly which makes you wince privately, particularly when that promise is to God. The good news is that there is an alternative – namely a Thanksgiving service. This service of celebration is a way of thanking God for your child without the ongoing promises and commitment of baptism.
- To find out more about Christening “Nuts of Bolts”