THINKING ABOUT BAPTISM?
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
We wish you a warm welcome as you dip into this leaflet designed to answer some basic questions about the importance of baptism. If something you read here sparks an interest and you would like to know more, please do get in touch. It’s ok to ask questions!
WHAT IS BAPTISM?
Baptism is sometimes known as a Christening; it means washing. It is a key service in most if not all Christian traditions and is known as an initiation service – which means it is a point of entry into the Christian faith.
The church is like a huge extended family and much of the language of baptism is about joining the ‘family’ of God. That is why ideally it is best to have a baptism during the main Sunday service when other members of the church family are present to welcome the newly baptised.
WHY IS BAPTISM IMPORTANT?
Christians try always to follow the example of Jesus Christ as revealed in Scripture. In the Gospels we learn that Jesus was baptised. We also learn that before he ascended to heaven Jesus told his followers to go and baptise in the ‘name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’.
As well as being clearly an act of obedience to Jesus, baptism is a sacrament. That means, simply, it is sign and symbol of God’s love for us. It is an act of grace to be freely given to all who seek it.
There are key bits in a baptism service to look out for:
Water – a person is always baptised in water whether that is by a sprinkling of water on the head or by full immersion. Either way, going ‘under’ the water is symbolic of death and rebirth and of being washed clean ready for a new beginning in Christ!
Candle – a baptised person is always given a candle lighted from the pascal candle. The pascal candle is the big candle at the front of the church near the altar, and it represents Jesus ‘the light of the world’. Being given a candle lit from that reminds us that, as a newly baptised Christians, we now have a job to do - to go out into the world and share the light and love of Jesus to all whom we meet.
Anointing – the soon to be baptised person is anointed with oil blessed at the cathedral by the Bishop. The sign of the cross is made on their forehead. The Cross of course is the fundamental sign and symbol of Christian love. It is the ‘badge’ of our faith.
Vows – vows, which is a theological word for promises, are made at a baptism. The candidate or, if he or she is too young, the godparents make very serious promises to renounce evil and follow Christ.
CAN ANYONE BE BAPTISED?
Yes. Different traditions have different views on this but the position of the Church of England is that it is a gift from God - an act of his grace - and it is not about ‘intellectual’ understanding. Jesus also said little children were, in some profound way, closer to God than adults. For these reasons we will baptise any person regardless of age – you cannot be too young or too old.
WHAT COMES NEXT?
Understandably some worry that babies cannot freely choose to be baptised. It is important to remember baptism is only the start of the journey of faith. When a person is older, or later in their faith journey, they can choose to ‘confirm’ the vows made at baptism at a special service called a confirmation. The most important thing to remember is that in baptism God is calling us into his light, to begin our journey of faith with him. It is exciting and challenging – but we’re not on our own. We’re now part of the family of Christians world-wide.