Baptism Fact Sheet
Holy Baptism in the Church of England
In baptism, you as parents are thanking God for his gift of life, deciding to start your child on the journey of faith and asking for the Church’s support. For your child, baptism marks the start of a journey of faith, which involves turning away from the darkness of self-centredness, turning towards Christ and becoming a member of the local and worldwide Christian family. Baptism is a ‘sacrament’: a visible sign of God’s love. In baptism, we are thanking God for His gift of life and publicly acknowledging his love.
We are acknowledging that we all need to turn away from the darkness of evil and to make a new start with God.
Shouldn’t our children make their own decisions?
Some people worry that they are imposing views on their children; but from the moment they are born, you make choices on their behalf. You don’t wait until they are old enough to ask for milk before you feed them and in the same way it is right to give them spiritual nourishment and teach them about the love of God from an early age. When they are old enough they may choose to be confirmed and to make an adult affirmation of faith.
However, you may wish to talk over any doubts and concerns you have with the priest at St. Francis who will be happy to help.
When did baptism start?
Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan. This was a turning point in his life (you can read the story in the Bible: at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel in the New Testament). Jesus told his followers to baptise others as a sign that they had turned away from their old life, and begun a new life as Christ’s disciples, members of his body, having been assured of God’s forgiveness.
Baptisms often took place in a river: New Christians were dipped under the water, marking their death to an old way of life, and lifted up again as a sign of new birth. Some churches still follow the practice of full immersion in water today. At St Francis Church we use the Font in the church.
What happens in the Baptism service?
Your child’s baptism will normally take place during the main Sunday service at 11.00 a.m. This is so that your child can be seen to be joining the family of the Church and be welcomed into membership. In turn, the Church will promise to support and pray for you and your child.
There will be room for all your family and friends to join you on your child’s special day. Some parts of the service will be for the whole congregation to join in, some will be for you and the godparents.
For the baptism itself, parents and godparents will be asked to make declarations on behalf of the child.
A number of important symbols will be used during the service itself:
The sign of the cross: The priest will make the sign of the cross on your child’s forehead. This is like an invisible badge to show that Christians are united with Christ and must not be ashamed to stand up for their faith in him.
Water: The priest will pour water on your child’s head. Water is a sign of washing and cleansing. In baptism it is a sign of being washed free from sin and beginning a new life with God. Water is a sign of life, but also a symbol of death. When we are baptised our old life is buried in the waters and we are raised to new life with Christ.
Anointing: After baptism in water, the child is anointed with oil. This is a sign of the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit.
Candles: Jesus is called the light of the world. A large candle will be lit in the church and you will be given a lighted candle at the end of the service as a reminder of the light which has come into your child’s life. It is up to you, the child’s godparents and the church community to help your child reject the world of darkness and follow a way of life that reflects goodness and light, and shares this light with others.
What’s the difference between a baptism and a christening?
None, they are just different words for the same thing.
Can we have a private service of baptism?
Baptisms usually take place in the church’s main service, because they are a public declaration that your child has become part of the church family. It is important that the church congregation is there to support you and welcome your child. However, if personal circumstances make this difficult, talk to your parish priest.
What is the right age for baptism?
Baptism can happen at any age. What matters is that those concerned believe it is right to ask for baptism. Teenagers and adults may also be baptised – speak to the priest about this. When this happens baptism is celebrated with confirmation by the Bishop. You can only be baptised once, but there are ways of renewing your commitment publicly as an adult – the priest will be happy to discuss this with you.
I’m not a regular churchgoer. Can I still have my child baptised?
Yes. The Church believes that God’s love is available to all, regardless of their background.
You may also wish to find out more about the Christian faith and what joining the Church involves before you make a decision about baptism. Again, the priest can talk with you about this.
What does it cost?
The Baptism service is free.
Can I offer a financial thanksgiving for the Baptism?
Yes of course. If you wish to make a financial offering for the baptism, this will help to cover the costs of keeping the church in good repair. This will also help to keep the building open for when your grandchildren are brought for baptism. Ideally this offering should be Gift Aided in one of the special blue envelopes for this purpose at the back of the church. Ask the priest for an envelope if you haven’t already got one.
What is a Godparent?
Godparents make the same promises on behalf of the child being baptised as parents. Godparents promise to pray and support the child and to help the parents to bring up the child in the Christian faith. It is an important and responsible role.
How many Godparents should I have?
Normally you should have at least three: two of the same sex as the child and one of the opposite sex. Parents can also be godparents. It is possible to have more than three Godparents.
Who should I choose to be a Godparent?
Godparents can be family members or friends. However, it is important that you choose people who will take an interest in your child’s spiritual welfare and who will pray for you and your child. They should be baptised themselves. It is a good thing if you can find Godparents that have a Church connection.
How do I book a Baptism?
The Church of St. Francis keeps a diary of future services. Please contact the parish priest in the first instance to arrange a time when you can meet with him/her to arrange a date for the service and discuss details (Telephone 020 8568 9098).
What happens after the baptism?
Baptism marks a new start for your child, as a member of the worldwide Christian community. In turn, the Church welcomes you and your child and promises to support you in bringing the child up in the faith. Most churches have services where children are welcome and special groups and activities for them. It is our policy at St. Francis to invite the baptised and their family to any special events that are taking place at Church.
We hope your baby’s baptism will be a wonderful and memorable occasion and that it will mark the beginning of a long and happy association with St. Francis Church.
Our thanks to St. Hilda’s Church, Ashford, whose fact sheet we have adapted.