More about baptism

What is baptism?

Jesus told his disciples to become people who ‘fish for people’. Originally, baptism was for adults who had been ‘hooked’ by Christ. The images of fishing and being ‘hooked’ are good descriptions of the followers of Jesus. The first disciples were fishermen. Jesus ‘fed the 5000’ with a miraculous meal of loaves and fishes. The secret sign of the early church was the shape of a fish scratched in the sand outside a house to signify where a gathering of Christians was taking place.

No doubt there was a strong reminder of the imagery of fish when people saw new Christians being baptised and submerged under water and then coming up gasping and spluttering for air. Being submerged was for adults a new birth, the turning over of a new leaf.

Baptism helped lift people’s eyes from old, self‐centred ways and, instead, focus on Christ and the coming of God’s kingdom on earth.

The prayers and rites of the baptism service used today have been handed down over 2000 years.

Because baptism is about birth into a new life with God, it became the custom for babies and children to be baptised too. A shell was often used to pour the water as they were used by pilgrims as simple drinking cups. In this way, shells remind us that following Christ is a journey, both the journey of a lifetime and a journey that lasts a lifetime ‐ and beyond.

The seasonal cycle of the church year continues the idea of a journey.

It starts with expectant hope in the season of Advent during December. Then expectancy becomes reality with the birth of Jesus at Christmas. There then follows the story of his life, suffering, death and the new life of the resurrection. The church year ends in the month of November when, with the festivals of All Saints, All Souls and Remembrance Sunday, we remember how death comes to all of us but is not the end. Embarking on the journey of faith is an act of trust and we need a guide. Jesus said ‘I am the light of the world’ and for this reason a candle symbolises Christ as that light leading the way.

Each one of us is known and loved individually by God. There is a lovely passage in the Book of Isaiah where God says ‘I will never forget you my people, I have carved your name on the palm of my hand.’ The baptism candidate is named and so marked by God as water is poured over the head in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The newly baptised is not only named and held in prayer by God but is also anointed with oil as a sign of all the good things that God has given us. Oil is also a promise that we will all share in the kingdom of heaven.

The Day of the Baptism

Most baptisms take place after the main Sunday morning service. Can a video or photographs be taken during the service?

Sorry, but no. However, you are very welcome to take photographs of your family and friends around the font after the service.

What happens after the baptism?

Immediately after the baptism we hope you have a jolly good party!

We suggest you light your or your child’s baptism candle on the anniversary each year and explain the pictures on the candle as a way of teaching them about the special day when they became a member of the church.

How much should be given as a thank offering?

There are no fees for baptisms but you are invited to make a donation. Some people ask for guidance on how much to give. Of course it should be no more than you can afford but the upkeep of St Andrew’s is entirely dependent on the generosity and efforts of the congregation – we get no grants. But we do not want funds just to maintain buildings and salaries; we also want to do much more in our local community, for the schools in the parish and for God’s mission in the world.

But whatever you give as a thank offering – thank you very much!

Please use the Gift Aid envelopes, available at church, so that we can supplement any donation of yours by reclaiming the tax.

Are there any rules for choosing godparents?

Those you choose to be godparents must be people you trust to be a good friend and mentor to your child in the years to come, people who will take an interest and keep in touch with them and who will be able to give support when needed. Godparents must have been baptised (christened) and, if possible, confirmed. They will be saying the same baptism promises on behalf of the children as you do.

Godparents are asked to pray for their godchildren, give them a good example to follow and encourage them to play a full part in the Christian community. Godparents should be chosen with the needs of the child in mind not simply to satisfy the wishes and desires of the adults. A godparent is not a legal guardian. If that is what you want your godparents to be you will need to have a separate discussion with them about this.

The traditional number of godparents is three: two women and one man for a girl and two men and one woman for a boy. What if a godparent is not baptised?

Those who are not baptised, but whom you wish to act in a godparent role, are called sponsors. Sponsors are asked to care for the child and support him or her in their journey of faith.

Being a Godparent

Congratulations! It is very exciting to be invited to be a godparent, but it can also feel quite daunting as you are being asked to have a very special role in a child’s upbringing, which is more than being a favourite aunty or uncle. As a godparent you have a very particular task, you have a spiritual role as well as a caring role.

Are there any rules for being godparents?

Those chosen to be godparents should be those who can be trusted to be a good friend and mentor to the child in the years to come, those who will take an interest and keep in touch with the child and to give support when needed.

Godparents must have been baptised (christened) and, if possible, confirmed. As a godparent you are asked to pray for your godchildren, give them a good example to follow and generally encourage them to play a full part in the Christian community.

What if a godparent is not confirmed?

You will be making the same baptism promises on behalf of your godchild as were made for you by your godparents at your baptism. If you have not been confirmed then maybe this is the right time for you to think about your own faith journey and perhaps to be confirmed yourself.

What if a godparent is not baptised?

Those who are not baptised but who are invited to act in a godparent role, are called sponsors. Sponsors are asked to care for the child and support him or her in their chosen journey of faith.

Does being a godparent involve being a legal guardian as well?

No. A godparent is not a legal guardian but the parents may be thinking of you in this role should anything happen to them. You may like to discuss this with them

What exactly is a godparent promising?

Although it is God who enables faith to grow, what we do or do not do can help or hinder the process. The parents and godparents are therefore asked two questions:

Will you pray for the children, draw them by your example into the community of faith and walk with them in the way of Christ? and

In baptism these children begin their journey in faith. You speak for them today. Will you care for them and help them to take their place within the life and worship of Christ’s church?

The first question is asking you to make a commitment to the child and the second question is asking you to make a commitment to help them grow in the Christian faith. In answer to both these questions you reply: ‘With the help of God we will’.

A Blessing for those considering Baptism

A Blessing, The Lion Book of Best‐Loved Prayers, 2006

Wherever you go
; May God the Father be with you.
Wherever you go; May God the Son be with you.
Wherever you go
; May God the Spirit be with you.
May the road rise to meet you;
 May the wind be always at your back;
May the sun shine warm upon your face, The rains fall soft upon the
fields and, Until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
The Lord bless you and keep you,
may his face shine upon you
and
grant you his peace this day and evermore.
Amen